SAN FRANCISCO — Auto finance is increasing efforts to diversify an industry that is largely dominated by a single demographic.
“The number of meetings I’m in with one female and 10 men that are all middle-aged is very frequent, and that has to continue to change,” Chase Auto Finance Chief Executive Mark O’Donovan said during a panel discussion at the American Financial Services Association’s Vehicle Finance Conference last month.
Chief executives from BMW Financial Services, Chase Auto, and Ford Motor Credit — whose books of business range from $36 billion to $81 billion — noted that missing out on the opportunities a diverse workforce provides is a costly mistake.
“If everyone looks like me, thinks like me, and acts like me — that’s not good,” said Ian Smith, chief executive BMW Financial’s USA & Americas region. “Bringing people from different perspectives is making better business decisions, and recruitment is a key topic.”
BMW Financial, for one, is working to attract the millennial demographic to the auto finance business. “We have to make our business exciting and attractive,” he said. “We can do that by exploring new technologies, looking at robotics, and looking at new ways of thinking.”
Ford Credit’s Chief Executive David McClelland concurred. “Younger people in our more junior positions come up with the most fantastic ideas, and they’re changing the business,” he said.
For lenders to beef up diversity and inclusion plans, they must approach the issue from the top-down and vice versa, O’Donovan said. “It has to start with hiring and coaching,” he said. “But also — we’ve been working on this for a while — we put full-time senior executives on this [diversity] agenda.”
Chase Auto has executives dedicated to developing diverse leaders within the bank’s operations. “One full-time leader is dedicated to advancing leaders of different ethnicities, one person drives the women agenda, and one person drives the military agenda,” O’Donovan said.
As a result, Chase Auto employees are accustomed to diversity and inclusion efforts as a part of its regular operating structure. “It’s starting to get pushed into our business routine, and that’s a key point,” O’Donovan added. “Whether you’re a bank or a captive — you have to build this into your daily routines. That means not being afraid, and being frank and direct with each other.”
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