Tom Collins, executive vice president and managing director at FreedomRoad Financial, is working to facilitate growth for the powersports lender’s OEM partners with a leadership approach centered on quality of work and attention to detail.
Collins began his career as a branch banker at Comerica Bank before moving to Chicago to run the indirect auto lending program at a community bank. While there, he launched an indirect motorcycle lending program, Collins told Auto Finance News, and later took over Harley Davidson Financial Services’ operations center in Carson City, Nev. In 2007, he helped start FreedomRoad Financial as a division of Evergreen Bank Group.
“My passion has always been motorcycles,” Collins said, noting his enthusiasm is what originally led him to launch the indirect motorcycle lending program in Chicago.
Collins continue to combine his passion and expertise to launch new programs at FreedomRoad. In June, the lender kicked off a financing program with Eugene, Ore.-based electric vehicle manufacturer Arcimoto to finance consumer loans on the manufacturer’s three-wheeled vehicles. Founded in 2007, the manufacturer delivers two, three-wheeled models: the Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV), shipping now, and the Deliverator, available to pre-order.
Auto Finance Excellence spoke with Collins about his career and the current powersports industry landscape. What follows is an edited version of the conversation.
Auto Finance Excellence: What are your company’s goals in about 10 words or less?
Tom Collins: Facilitate growth for our partners in the powersports marketplace.
AFE: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice ever received?
TC: Don’t avoid having the tough conversations. Tackle the issues quickly and with empathy. Harness your anxiety over uncertainty, deadlines and workload as a catalyst to success.
AFE: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
TC: Embrace leveraging nontraditional data in making better credit decisions. Investigate broader payment channel adoption, such as Venmo, Zelle, CashApp and text message interaction. Proceed with caution as the industry pushes to self-directed customer service, basically eliminating customer service as we have traditionally known it. It is fine for other industries but we in the powersports marketplace are in the fun business. Customers like talking to us about their purchase as it is a part of their lifestyle and identity. We genuinely share in their enthusiasm; it’s good for the customers to have these conversations and good for our employees to partake in them. We need to balance self-service with personal service.
AFE: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
TC: Personally, it was my parents who showed me by example the value, satisfaction and rewards of hard work. Professionally, it was a bank branch manager named Patricia Darden. I was one year out of a management training program at Comerica Bank in Detroit. After my training I was assigned to work as a branch banker at an inner-city branch on the west side of Detroit. Ms. Darden taught me the extreme importance of quality and attention to detail, which became the base upon which all other skills and learnings over my career could be layered onto. I didn’t realize until years later how important that was for my development, and never did get a chance to thank her. Thank you, Ms. Darden.
AFE: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
TC: I once stood in line for almost three hours to secure tickets for me and my wife to attend a Clay Aiken concert. This was at the peak of his post-American Idol fame. I was a little out of place amongst all the self-described “Claymates,” but it was a fantastic concert and well worth the wait. What can I say, he has a great voice.
Powersports Finance Summit, a premier event for companies involved in recreational vehicle financing, returns October 25-26 at the Wynn Las Vegas. To learn more about the 2022 event and register, visit www.PowersportsFinance.com.