Betty Jotanovic, the new president of Chrysler Capital and Auto Relationships at Santander Consumer USA, is utilizing her range of experience in the automotive and finance industries — including the assembly line, collections, treasury, sales and operations — to continue building on partnerships for the lender.
Jotanovic’s love for the automotive industry began early in her career when she worked midnights on the assembly line for a year at Chrysler Motors in 1994 while attending law school.
She then spent nearly 13 years at Chrysler Financial in several positions before being promoted to manage recovery strategy at the lender in 2008. Jotanovic went on to serve in leadership positions at Bank of America, GE Capital before returning to auto.
“What intrigued me with Santander is I love auto,” Jotanovic told Auto Finance News. “I left it for four-and a half years, and I missed it. When I told my GE Capital leadership I was going back to auto, they were kind of sad. It was bittersweet, but I remember my leader saying, ‘I could see the sparkle in your eye when you talk about auto.’ I just love it … I’m really looking forward to what the future holds for us.”
A major focus for Jotanovic in her new position with SCUSA is to continue building partnerships in credit and funding and dealer management while making a name for SCUSA as a full-spectrum lender, she said.
Auto Finance Excellence spoke with Jotanovic 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 Excellence: In roughly 10 words, what are your company goals?
Betty Jotanovic: Deliver a premier dealer and customer experience across the full lending spectrum.
AFE: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
BJ: The adoption of digital. We saw a lot of movement during COVID. This is a very paper-intense industry, and I think I saw more movement during COVID than I did in my entire career. But we have a way to go in terms of digital adoption.
AFE: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice ever received?
BJ: It’s that every day is an interview. A lot of folks focus on preparing for a job or an interview when they see their job posted. My advice to folks looking to move up is every day is an interview. You don’t know who you’ll come across: Your peers may be your manager someday; your direct reports may be your manager someday; somebody you did a project for may be hiring. That is your best way to make a connection and get your next role is to treat every day like an interview.
AFE: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
BJ: I would say my parents. I have first-generation immigrant parents. They were extremely tough but also very supportive and nurturing.
AFE: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
BJ: I think a lot of people didn’t know that I started on an assembly line. A lot of times we look at leaders and we think they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths or they were given advantages. I’ll be honest, it was something I was embarrassed [about]. I don’t want to say embarrassed but, in a way, I wasn’t proud. It was a means to an end. It was a job when jobs were tough to come by. I had the flexibility to be able to go to school, [receive] tuition reimbursement. It was a very humbling experience and one that I maybe wasn’t proud of, but now I’m extremely proud of it because I think it sets an example that if I can go from the assembly line to president of Chrysler Capital, what’s stopping anyone?
–Additional reporting by Joey Pizzolato
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