Mark Chandler, vice president of business development at Credit Union Leasing of America, is motivated by his relationships with team members and his love for the culture of credit unions to build a leasing experience that benefits consumers and CULA’s credit union partners.
Chandler’s enthusiasm for the auto industry began when he was a salesman at the car dealership where he bought his first car, he told Auto Finance News. “I fell in love with the product and the process,” Chandler said.
His love for the industry led him to spend about 40 years working in the automotive business. Chandler joined CULA in March 2017 following tenures as managing principal consultant at CU Dealer Alliance and president at automotive retailer Autoland.
“The journey has been remarkable in the era I’ve been involved,” Chandler said. “From the ‘4 square’ at point of sale, to the latest tools and technologies, this is a very compelling industry that I’m proud to have been a part of for roughly four decades.”
CULA provides credit unions with market insights and lease management technology to originate new auto leases. CULA originated 64,000 leases through its credit union partners in 2022, accounting for $2.7 million in originations, according to the company.
Leasing market share across the industry dropped during the pandemic due to supply chain shortages. OEMs cut back on leasing incentives and those incentives have not returned. Leasing accounted for about 16% of the auto finance market in 2022, down compared with the pre-pandemic norm of about 30%, according to Experian.
AFN spoke with Chandler about his career, his approach to leadership and his thoughts on trends in the auto finance industry. What follows is an edited version of the conversation.
Auto Finance News: What are your company’s goals in about 10 words or less?
Mark Chandler: To be our client’s best business partner: efficient, communicative, value-added.
AFN: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
MC: Auto leasing, of course. There is no product that better checks all the boxes for short-term loans, especially affordability. Many of our lenders are all in with residual-based lending as they are staying away from longer-term, high-dollar lending. Short term, low risk, good yield and quality assets all add up to perhaps the perfect short-term loan. Does anyone really want to own a vehicle anymore? With affordability as the destination, leasing is the pathway.
AFN: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice ever received?
MC: “Never fear the awkward conversation” is my favorite, but I’d like to talk about the big difference between being a boss and being a leader. I’ve worked for and learned from both the good and the bad. Being a boss is easy; you just tell your team what to do. But being a leader takes effort and a well-thought plan. The advice to get here has come from a myriad of moments and pieces of guidance from many mentors over time. In the end, it all comes down to trust and the building blocks for that are being a good listener and always putting your teams’ needs and clients’ needs in front of your own.
AFN: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
MC: My wife, Christine, and entrepreneurial son, Kevin, are at the top. They are both so incredibly impressive and supportive, but I’ve had many mentors. My short list of influencers are Hal Barney, Michael Malamut, Ron Frey and Ken Sopp. Hal Barney will be 94 soon as he was born in 1929 and is the epitome of “attitude is everything.” I still talk to him weekly and hope to reach the level of product ambassador he achieved in his career. Michael Malamut was a mentor in how to make money. I’m nowhere near him in that, though! Ron Frey influenced me in how to position a company for the future, which is always to have your finger on the pulse of the latest trends and technology. Ken Sopp keeps me motivated and on course as we bring leasing to credit unions across the country. There are so many more who have made an impact; the list is too long. To say that I’ve been blessed with great mentors would be a huge understatement.
AFN: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
MC: I am so transparent; nothing would surprise any of them. Perhaps that I’ve officiated many weddings over a dozen or more years with a zero-divorce rate. I take that very seriously and make sure the couples are in it for the right reasons.
Auto Finance Summit East, Auto Finance News’ new spring event, is set for May 10-12 at the JW Marriott Nashville featuring a fireside chat with Peter Muriungi, CEO of Chase Auto. Visit autofinance.live.