TD Auto Finance President and Chief Executive Andrew Stuart is using his vast auto industry experience to guide his team through an evolving macroeconomic environment.
Stuart’s love of cars drove him to a career in the auto industry, where he landed in a variety of roles.
“There’s been a lot of different things that I’ve done within the auto industry,” Stuart told Auto Finance News. “I often say to people, ‘I’m an inch deep and a mile wide in terms of my experience,’ but I think that gives you great background, context and perspective as a senior leader to lean on some of those experiences as you’re making decisions going forward.”
Stuart started his career in sales during college at a dealership in Nova Scotia, Canada, before becoming the finance and insurance manager. He went on to serve as chief executive of Bentley Motors, Inc.; chief operating officer at Ron Tonkin Dealerships; and president, chief executive, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Volkswagen Credit.
Stuart joined TD Auto in August 2014 as president and chief executive for more than six years before serving as head of corporate operations for TD Bank Group for one year. He returned as president and chief executive of TD Auto in December 2021 while also filling the duties as executive vice president at TD Bank.
“There are so many nuances to our business that keeps it very interesting,” Stuart told AFN. “It’s really an exciting place to be and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love this industry.”
Auto Finance Excellence spoke with Stuart 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 Excellence: What are your company goals in about 10 words or less?
Andrew Stuart: I can’t list all our goals in 10 words or less, so I’ll share with you our vision and our purpose. We have an agreed-upon vision that we want to become a top-five auto finance lender delivering best-in-class customer service. Our purpose is to enrich the lives of our customers, colleagues and communities.
AFE: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
AS: We’ve been in an environment with a tremendous amount of change recently, but one of the most underrated lending trends is probably e-contracting and digital payment solutions. Everybody kind of pays lip service to e-contracting and the opportunities around digital payments. Integration into our day to day to get it so that [e-contracting] is 100% of how we do business would make a tremendous impact for lending institutions, consumers and OEMs, but we’re still not quite there.
We’re making progress every day, but there’s really a tremendous opportunity to get to 100% e-contracting right across the board with digital deal jackets. And get to a digital payments environment where payments are flying back and forth between dealers and financial institutions in real time.
We’ve made some progress with real-time payments this year, and that has become our primary way of reimbursing dealers for funding packages. It happens in real time; they don’t have to wait for 24 hours, improving a dealer’s cash flow. I know there are some institutions out there that are still taking multiple days to pay their dealers on a funding package. We should really lean into getting more technology embedded in our day-to-day processes so we reap the benefits both from a customer point of view and from a financial institution point of view.
AFE: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice ever received?
AS: I had a leader one time … they weren’t shy to ask questions if they didn’t understand something. I took that as a piece of leadership advice: to not be afraid to ask questions and seek to understand. That’s applicable to understanding the people in your organization or understanding the people that you lead. And leading with empathy and understanding and wanting to know people.
My curiosity has served me well over the years, both in terms of how to get to know the people in your organization or your customers and people that you’re working with, but also to understand your business really well and to learn every day a little bit more about the environment and the specific nuances of the work that you’re doing.
AFE: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
AS: I’ve had a very broad career, and there’s been various people that have been influential to me at different stages. I picked three. The first is Paul Regan, who owned the dealer group that I worked for when I was in college. He really took an interest in me, got me enthusiastic about the business and was willing to give me opportunities in leadership within his organization at a very young age. That gave me a great grounding in the retail side of our business, but it also gave me a sense of self –confidence that I could do more, and that I could be a leader even at a young age.
The second person was Clive Warrilow, president of Volkswagen Canada at the time and then subsequently the president of Volkswagen of America. He had a great influence on me for similar reasons.
The last person that had the most influence on me would be my mentor at Volkswagen Credit, the former president and CEO of that company, Kevin Kelly. Those three individuals made me the business leader that I am today.
AFE: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
AS: I don’t think there’s very much that my employees would find surprising about me. They’ve worked with me for the last eight years or so. I try to be a very transparent and inclusive leader with all of my employees, and after eight years at the helm, there isn’t much they don’t know about me. I can honestly say that I’m very much an open book to our employees.
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