AFS 2019: Internal factors, market competition likely to disrupt lender success in 2020 

(L-R): Nicole Casperson, Deputy Editor, Auto Finance News; Ian Anderson, Group President, Westlake Financial; Kyle Birch, Chief Operating Officer, GM Financial; Charles Bradley, President & Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Portfolio Services, Inc.; Rich Porrello, President of Huntington Auto Finance, Huntington National Bank

LAS VEGAS — Half of the audience at the Auto Finance Summit 2019 identified internal factors and market competition as the top challenges that could impede their company’s success in 2020, according to live poll results revealed during the Summit. 

On the heels of the audiences’ response, senior executives from Consumer Portfolio Services, GM Financial, Huntington Auto Finance and Westlake Financial offered differing opinions.

GM Financial Chief Operating Officer Kyle Birch, for one, agreed with the audience’s sentiment around internal factors. “Internal factors mean project management,” Birch said. “Being able to prioritize the investment that you make in your IT infrastructure, your business development infrastructure, prioritizing the things that you need to do — it’s a challenge.”

An industry-wide focus on enhancing the customer experience, too, can create challenges for lenders and their businesses. “Everyone wants to better the customer experience, and consumers want to be able to buy cars faster,” Birch explained. “All of that comes with some level of technology or automation, and the investment in the resources to do that while still operating within your op-ex budget is sometimes tough.” 

CPS President and Chief Executive Charles Bradley identified market competition as the top challenge. “It’s, by far, the most important,” he said. “When you think about an economic downturn, you can’t really know when it’s coming, so you can’t focus on it too much. But competition, there are a lot of strong companies out there, and everyone wants to grow.”

Westlake Financial Group President Ian Anderson concurred. “I just don’t see an economic downturn for 2020 or 2021, as we are back in a lower interest rate environment to keep the economy moving,” he said. “But an increase in competition, especially on the near-prime and subprime side, I see that.” 

Conversely, Huntington Auto Finance’s President Rich Porrello said an economic downturn and decreasing vehicle sales are more problematic to the industry than internal factors and market competition. “There were a lot of small players in 2018 that grew their books,” he said. “But we are seeing that slow down in 2019.” As for competition, “competitors in the super-prime space are rational,” he said.

Below is a look at the results of the exclusive Auto Finance News survey:

(L-R): Nicole Casperson, Deputy Editor, Auto Finance News; Ian Anderson, Group President, Westlake Financial; Kyle Birch, Chief Operating Officer, GM Financial; Charles Bradley, President & Chief Executive, Consumer Portfolio Services; Rich Porrello, President of Huntington Auto Finance, Huntington National Bank
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