Leslie Wims Morris, president of private label captive finance at Chase Auto, sees opportunity for growth in Chase’s auto business amid high interest rates, supply chain disruptions and overall macroeconomic uncertainty affecting the current automotive market.
“What’s particularly exciting to me about auto at this particular time, is the complexity of the market and the opportunity,” Wims Morris told Auto Finance News. “While it has been a challenging environment across the board post-pandemic, I think there’s a huge opportunity for us to really continue to grow our business and to develop innovative solutions for all of our partners.”
Wims Morris has been with JPMorgan Chase since June 2018, when she joined the company as head of strategic business development for payments and banking. She made the move to the auto side of Chase last month for what she saw as an opportunity to run “a business in a very dynamic industry,” she told AFN.
Wims Morris will leverage her experience in tech, mergers and acquisitions, banking and business development to manage and grow partnerships in Chase’s auto division.
Auto Finance News spoke with Wims Morris about her career, her approach to leadership and her thoughts on trends in the auto finance industry. What follows is an edited version of the conversation.
Auto Finance News: What are Chase’s goals in about 10 words or less?
Leslie Wims Morris: Our goal is to help our customers purchase cars they can afford, enable our dealers to grow their businesses, and support manufacturers with customized lending solutions.
AFN: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
LWM: Consumer purchasing behavior has changed a lot in the last couple of years, whereby the percentage of customers that are choosing to lease their cars has decreased. I think the underrated approach to lending in auto is leasing in the sense that it remains an incredibly powerful financing tool that benefits our entire ecosystem of customers, partners and dealers.
Customers who lease their vehicles are more likely to purchase another vehicle with the same brand, and because of that relationship, it also provides our partners the ability to continue to communicate with the customers and provide unique experiences, which has also been an increasing trend in the industry.
Cox Automotive noted in a recent survey that 80% of in-market lease customers today are repeat lease customers. As interest rates go up, I think leasing will become more attractive because it’s not going to make a lot of sense to purchase a depreciating asset at a high rate. … The market will return, and inventory levels will return. We want to be able to maintain that deep customer relationship, and the role that leasing plays as a financing mechanism to achieve that is critically important in the industry.
AFN: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
LWM: I would say the one person who has had the biggest influence in my career is my father. He is officially the chairman of the board of my personal board of directors. Professionally, he works with CEOs and boards as an advisor, and I’ve learned both by watching him in action, but also getting direct advice from him, so he has been the person who’s been the greatest influence and also my greatest cheerleader. In fact, I just talked to him last night when I was driving home from meeting with one of our partners down in southern New Jersey. I gave him a buzz on the phone to get his perspective on a leadership issue and how he would handle a situation.
AFN: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice ever received?
LWM: I had a leader once say to me, that people don’t always remember what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel. Really bringing that to the table as a senior leader is so important. Given the complexity of the type of challenging issues that we’re dealing with in the market, having the ability to bring people along, collaborate effectively, and be able to together work on really complex problems in a way where people feel good along the way. It’s some of the best piece of advice that I’ve ever received as a leader that I try to practice in my day to day.
AFN: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
LWM: I think what people would be surprised to know is that I’m a musician at heart. Music was my number one activity as a kid and in high school. I played the flute; I was in numerous orchestras and chamber music ensembles; I even was a member of a handbell choir when I was growing up, and I did music seven days a week. I come from a very musical background, and a very musical upbringing. I think part of that was inspired by my uncle who was a jazz musician — my love of music and all types of music, including jazz really stems from him.
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