Name a position in the auto finance industry and it’s very likely that Betty Jotanovic has touched it.
Treasury. Collections. Sales. Credit. Funding. Dealer management. Customer service. Remarketing. Recovery. Jotanovic, Santander Consumer USA (SCUSA) president of Chrysler Capital and auto relationships, has done them all.
And it all started on a Chrysler assembly line.
Jotanovic, who was named to her SCUSA post in January, looks to leverage her lifelong love for the auto industry to build bridges among the client-facing divisions of SCUSA’s auto operations and make a name for SCUSA in the market as a full-spectrum lender.
Jotanovic spoke with Auto Finance News about her plans to cement the Dallas-based auto financier as a full-spectrum lender in the marketplace and SCUSA’s private label strategy. What follows is an edited version of the conversation.
AFN: What are your goals in the next six months in your new role?
BJ: I am excited about the continued partnership on the front end between credit and funding and dealer management and sales. I’m looking at continuing to build those bridges.
From an internal perspective, that means creating the career paths for our associates. From an external perspective, using that to deliver a premiere experience and really making a name for ourselves in the market as a full-spectrum lender.
That’s a big focus for us. And that’s going to take some time. If you think of certain badges that weren’t premium at one time and now their reputation has improved and increased — we know that takes some time. It takes consistency and that’s what we’re working on. And we’ll get there through our people and our processes and our technology.
AFN: Are you doing anything on the marketing side to help push your messaging of being a full-spectrum lender?
BJ: Our marketing is on the ground at dealers. This business is still a relationship business. It’s still paper- intense; it’s still a relationship. We can build all the digital tools — I think that will be secondary — but our people are most critical to getting that message out to our dealers.
AFN: You mentioned building bridges between credit and sales. On a day-to-day operational level, are there any processes you’ve implemented to make those two departments more cohesive?
BJ: From a process perspective, we did roll out chat to our dealers about a year-and-a-half to two years ago, and it has received great feedback. If a dealer calls in to one group, they can chat. They don’t have to pick up the phone, wait on hold. They can multitask if they have a customer in the finance and insurance office.
It’s also great because internally the chat team can reach out to … Let’s say, they call funding and funding things like, “Well, that’s a credit question.” They can reach out, get the answer in response.
But, quite frankly, between the sales team and the operation teams, it’s really just communication and shared goals and building a culture of trust and dealer first.
AFN: There are a lot of variables in the market: The Federal Reserve’s plan is a big question mark. Affordability concerns have creeped back with rising car prices. Where are you putting your resources?
BJ: Our resources are client-facing. So, as we look at our organization, we make sure that we have enough underwriters, funders and sales representatives. For us, that’s a key priority. We have an obligation to look for efficiencies, but we’re not going to find that in your frontline associates that are facing off with the dealer.
We’re always looking at efficiency and system upgrades. We have a dealer portal that we recently launched, and we’ve onboarded our Santander dealers, and we’re in process of onboarding our Chrysler Capital dealers. Driving that adoption and driving the utilization of those tools and giving the dealers a better experience and the ability to self-serve after hours if needed is certainly something that we’re investing in.
AFN: There’s likely a lot of similarities between the way you run Santander Consumer and a private-label arrangement. How does the strategy differ between the two, if at all?
BJ: I would say it doesn’t. Certainly, we have our OEM relationships that are very important, and Chrysler is a key partner. But we want to make sure we give all of our dealers that same experience. With the addition of Mitsubishi on the Santander side, there’s not even product differentiation. We previously didn’t do leasing on the Santander side, but now with Mitsubishi, now we do.
Similarly, we’re looking at expanding other channels, such as commercial floorplan and small business commercial, such as a landscape company with five trucks, or a doctor or a lawyer with a practice and they want to purchase a vehicle for business use in their business name.
I don’t believe there should be differentiation — not that any one OEM is not important — but I want every dealer to feel special. The dealer is our customer. That’s one of the things that I’m looking at: making sure that we have the alignment, that we have the consistency.
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