When Anthony Capizzano, senior vice president, head of consumer lending at Axos Bank, returned from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1997, he was interested in two jobs: selling cars and selling coffins. The auto industry drew him in, and he has yet to pull away.
Capizzano has extensive experience in auto finance leadership roles, including as regional relationship manager at Capital One Auto Finance, chief executive and chief operating officer at dealership group Grupo Autofin Mexico, chief sales officer at subprime leasing company Nations First Capital and SVP of consumer lending product strategy and innovation at Bank of the West.
Throughout his 30-year career, Capizzano has leaned on those around him to help him grow as an industry professional.
“No one gets to be successful by themself, it’s always [with the] help of others,” Capizzano said. “There are many people I would thank many times over in little ways — and some in big ways — to help me excel in my career.”
One of the most important of lessons he’s learned is to be unafraid to ask questions, even if it makes you appear uneducated, he said.
“I will ask a simple question, and not be afraid of getting the answer,” Capizzano said. “People may look at you like, ‘You should know that.’ Well … now I do and thank you for that.”
In this podcast episode, Capizzano speaks with AFN Senior Associate Editor Riley Wolfbauer about how he aligns his team, the lessons he has learned during his career and how he carries himself as a leader.
Subscribe to “The Roadmap Podcast” on iTunes or Spotify, or download the episode.
Editor’s note: This transcript has been generated by software and is being presented as is. Some transcription errors may remain.
Riley Wolfbauer 0:09 Hello everyone and welcome to on the job a new series on the roadmap from auto finance news that brings on an executive from the auto finance industry to discuss what they have learned throughout their career, and strategies they employ to be a strong leader within their organization. I’m Riley Wolfbauer, and today I’m joined by senior vice president, head of consumer lending at Axos Bank. Anthony Capizzano. Anthony, thank you for joining me today on the podcast. Anthony Capizzano 0:34 Thank you for having me. Riley Wolfbauer 0:36 Alright, so to get started, I think I want to set some background about you, and how you got into the auto industry. So how did you get into the industry and what has made you stick around? Sure. Anthony Capizzano 0:50 So I started at early age, with my grandfather’s auto parts store in New Hampshire. When I was 14, I started working there, you know, sweeping the floors, doing the paint counter work my way all the way up. And that’s really when I found my love for the mechanical genius, and the variety, beauty of auto. And we did everything we did trucks we did, we did everything. So that really introduced me there. But that’s not where my true sort of story. Really, my story really started taking off later on in the career after the Marine Corps. When my affection for automobiles found a home I was back then when you’re looking for jobs, we looked in the Help Wanted section of a paper, right, so there was no LinkedIn back then. And there was two jobs that I circled. One was for selling coffins, which I thought I could do, and the other one was selling cars. And so I decided to sell cars, to say the least. But that was when I really, really began my my career in auto and auto finding it’s It wasn’t till later that I switched to the banking side, after an opportunity fell through on a franchise with a partner of mine, that I really went to the auto finance side and and joined the bank. Riley Wolfbauer 2:27 Great, and so early on in your career. And I mean, even I mean, everybody learns throughout their entire career, there’s always career development, no matter how deep into your career you are. But what is the lesson or two that you’ve learned throughout your career that you still carry to this day? Anthony Capizzano 2:48 Yeah, I’m going to answer that. But then I want to I want to go back to the other question. We just we just had, so I apologize. Yeah, no wrong, because I left out something, which was why I stick around. I always say that, you know, the auto industry is like being bid by vampire. Once it gets in your blood, you know, you’re a vampire. You can try not to be one. But it just doesn’t work out. Right. So I’ve I’ve had my I’ve had, I’ve tried to leave the auto finance, business industry. And I came back to it. So I think it’s, it’s part of, you know, you pick it and picks you and it just fits. So now let me answer your your, your the question. So there’s, there’s a, there’s really a couple of lessons that I’ve that’s really stuck with me early in my career. Where I’ve benefited. First of all, I will say this as a caveat, and I’ll tell you something you probably already know, which is no one gets to be successful by himself. It’s always help of others around you. And so I put that caveat out there because there are many people I would think many times over in little ways and some big ways to help me, you know, excel in my career. That being said, there were some early things that I learned which was I had an uncanny confidence. You may call it ego, you may call it a lack of knowledge for but I actually was in my early 20s very self aware of my strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to my skill set. But despite my my weaknesses, which was a lot more than I had now, hopefully, I was not afraid to seize opportunities, because I truly believed I could figure out how to be effective and add value pretty quickly. So it didn’t matter if that job I’ve never done it before. I would have no Problem Oh, no fear of jumping in. Because I really am confident in in providing some value. I know I could provide value. The second thing is, which helped me quite a lot was I was not afraid to appear like I was the stupidest person in the room by asking a very simple question, right? I had an old mentor who taught me this, and I grabbed onto it right away in my early 20s. And, you know, I, that’s helped me so much. And today, I will ask questions and be and, and, you know, ask a very simple question. And, and not be afraid of, you know, getting the answer, like, people may look at you like, you should know that. Well, I don’t, and but now I do. And thank you for that. So I’m not afraid to do that. And the last thing I would say, is growing up, I knew that early in my career, you know, I owned a couple of dealerships, and I was very young to be in that position. But I also knew that there were people out there who were, you know, smarter than I was, and more experienced at the time than I did. But I was, I couldn’t control that. Right, I was not afraid of that, because I couldn’t control it. But what I could control was that I could out hustle outwork everyone else. And I was dedicated, I dedicated that made that promise to myself, that I would, you know, put them into time putting in the work to learn whatever it needed to be learned, and to outwork others, if required, right. So that was that was those were my key to success early, early in life. And Riley Wolfbauer 6:46 I can really relate to those as well, because I’m a believer of the only way that you can develop as a person is knowing yourself truly inside and out, and where your strengths and weaknesses are. And then to your second point, as well, especially learning this new beat this, I just got into auto finance, a year and a half ago, I had to ask a bunch of questions that may have seemed simple, but the only way to learn is to ask, so I definitely relate heavily with that. So reflecting further on your career, what would you say has been the best moment of your career or one of the best moments? And how did you grow from that? Anthony Capizzano 7:33 Yeah, it’s tough. But I would say one of them, that sticks out in my mind was, was accepting a position that I had that that was doing the business in a very different way. I thought I had mastered that business. And these newcomers, in my eyes were doing very, very differently. And, you know, I had the opportunity, but then so I, so I accepted the position, regardless. And I quickly found out that the people that I had the honor of leading and managing, were much more educated in the way this business worked. And the way they were going, going about it that I was. And so I was in the precarious situation where I’ll be it I was leading them. I had to find a way where I could add value to them, but also learn from them. And they were gracious. And they were they taught me and, and obviously I got wrapped up in and things went fine. But that was a pivotal moment, for several reasons. One, I had to move cross country. And then the second reason was, I had to I had to humble myself, right? So that humility doesn’t doesn’t come easy. And you have to always check yourself. And make sure what you thought you knew that you’re willing to challenge that. Because it may have been writes, you know, three weeks ago. But you know, you’ve got new information now. And that’s not the way it works now. And so if you’re not willing to accept that, and really take a look at, look at look at that, then you’re not going to grow and that company did. Fantastic. Riley Wolfbauer 9:31 So given that you gave the best moment in your career, let’s flip it and what would you say is a worst moment in your career? Or to put it in other terms? What is the mistake that you made in your career that you have learned from and how have you grown? Anthony Capizzano 9:48 It’s tough because there’s been making mistakes. So I would say I’ll point to one of the most difficult moments was when adding an unfortunate experience of being laid off. And through experience, you know, you have many questions about yourself that creep into your head, along with doubt, right. So, you know, did I do something wrong? That they earned it somehow? You know, did I make a mistake? If I if so is that was was that what caused this? You know, was it someone I worked with? Who didn’t like me? You know, should I be ashamed? Should I reach out to the people I used to work with, you know, was I not adding value that I thought I was going to add all of these things, you know, really plagued you, and they can really spin people into an unhealthy mental state. And so, whether you cause that or not, actually, you can’t change that. So you only have really one choice, which is, you know, really learn from what what happened, right, move forward. And forgive yourself, don’t beat yourself up about it. And if you’re, if you’re able to do that, that will enable you and free yourself to move on. And, you know, it goes back to the same of, I don’t know who said it, but I grabbed on to it was when, you know, if you have $100 Bill, and you drop that $100 bill on the ground, and you stomp on it, and you and you jump on it, and it’s all dirty now everything like that. You leave that $100 Bill, or someone else pick it up? Yeah, they will. Because it’s worth $100. And so I say that to say that, you know, your biggest battle? And in those times really is your self worth? And do you believe in yourself? And and can you forgive yourself? And so you’re still worth it? You know, whether that company saw it or not? You still worth $100? Right? So that is what I learned from that experience. And that is what I carry forward. Riley Wolfbauer 12:15 So given all these learnings that you’ve talked about the past few minutes, how does that shape the way you lead your team today? And how do you really aim to lead your team? Anthony Capizzano 12:30 So, you know, it just depends. It really depends on how I’ll say it this way. I wish I knew back then what I know now. You know, I went through various different leadership types, try them on like shoes, and really settled in one and one of those really is a very beat very being a very collaborative leader, which means I have no problem making a decision, I have no problem, you know, formulating strategy, and figuring out the path forward. But when I’m presenting that idea, to my team, you know, to the Board of Directors CEO. I’m not lucky enough to not change it, meaning I’m willing to change the idea. I don’t care. Who has the best idea. I just care that it’s the best idea. And it’s the best strategy. And that’s what we move forward with. And that’s really played well, in my career. Riley Wolfbauer 13:34 Great, and then managing your team, what strategies do you use to ensure that goals are aligned from top to bottom and make sure that everybody’s on the same page and working towards the same goal? Anthony Capizzano 13:50 Yeah, that’s a two part question. For me, the first I would say, which most people I would say we’ve had our experiences just, you know, over communicate. So set regular frameworks. We have a weekly meeting, I have weekly one on ones, right, with my with my staff, and my supporting staff. So people don’t report to me but but that are important to my business. And, and they could be executives or they could be key people. So I actually have quite a few of those that are set in stone on my calendar every single month. Because I’m constantly checking for understanding, constantly checking I do we all know what the path is and how to go forward, you know what you’re doing. So I’m always constantly checking for that. I’m checking for my understanding. And if I feel like someone is not really grasping their position or what they’re doing or the concept of the strategy, then I’ll have a one on one moment them to Even if they don’t ask that just to check for that understanding. So that’s the first part. The second part which which is coincided with it is, I’m not afraid of conflict. It’s just not in my DNA. And the reason why that is, is because I truly believe that we all get up to do the best that we can do. So on the backside of that conversation about conflict, we’re going to have a resolution. And yeah, that’s, that’s what I believe, every time. And so if there’s an awkwardness or anything like that, I’ll be the first one step into it. And, and approach it with respect and, and gentleness, so that that other person understands that I’m truly they’re trying to work it out together, right? And find a path. Riley Wolfbauer 16:01 Right? And so building on that is, is there a certain way you try to carry yourself or a mindset you try to keep in your approach to the job every day? And how does that really affect your team? Anthony Capizzano 16:15 Yeah, one thing really sticks out, but they’re more than one, obviously. But one thing really sticks out is that I don’t, I don’t really care. If I’m right or wrong. I don’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t plague me, I don’t need to be the biggest guy in the room or the loudest guy in the room. I just want to add value. And so that means, you know, being quiet, and I’ll be quiet. If I have something to add, then I’ll add something. But I think you know, the older you get, the more I learned was that, you know, silence is actually is very golden. And it can be your best friend. Because the moment you are going to interject, if you just wait a little bit longer, the answer was given to you or your understanding became a little bit more clear if the situation and so very slow, to kind of make a command decision. And until I’m very sure of what that decision should be. Right? Riley Wolfbauer 17:32 I mean, people always say the only way that you can listen is if you are being quiet, because if you’re talking you’re you’re not listening, so it goes back to that. Anthony Capizzano 17:42 So active listening, right? It’s really active listening. You know, making sure you’re not your brains not checking out, you know, your body’s still there, but your brain is checked out. It’s really staying focused on that and being completely present. These are all things people know. But in practice, it’s very difficult, you know, unless you have this inner monologue to tell yourself, hey, focus, or which I which I do all the time, because I truly care about what they’re saying more than what my idea is, and respond to what they’re saying. Riley Wolfbauer 18:19 Right. All right, Anthony. That about does it for today’s episode. I really appreciate you joining me today and giving giving some insight in to how you approach the job and insight into your career history as well. So thanks as well to our audience for joining us on the roadmap. We will see you next time and online at Auto Finance News dotnet Thank you