Auto lenders and executives set the bar for excellence high during the past year by supporting their communities and team members while the COVID-19 pandemic continued to shape the dynamic of the industry.
Auto finance executives were challenged to lead their teams from home and adapt to inventory woes, all while continuing to support the communities where they live and work. The Auto Finance News team recognized these efforts with the 2021 Auto Finance Excellence Awards, presented as part of the 2021 Auto Finance Summit in Las Vegas.
Toyota Financial Services increases employee volunteer engagement
Toyota Financial Services’ Toyota for Good volunteer app increased overall employee volunteerism in 2021 as volunteer efforts took place on and off the screen.
Originally designed to encourage employees to volunteer virtually as the company made the shift to working from home during the height of the pandemic, the app allows employees to sign up for and view volunteer opportunities in their communities.
TFS’ efforts to continue employee volunteer work amid the pandemic, both online and in-person, has earned the lender a 2021 Auto Finance Excellence Award in Community Service.
Since the Toyota for Good app launched in March 2020, overall employee participation has seen a steady increase, National Manager of Corporate Communications Vincent Bray told Auto Finance News. Volunteerism at the lender increased by 16%, and the program had more than 7,500 employee participants in the past year.
At the beginning of the current school year, TFS launched the Toyota Leadership Academy, a new volunteer opportunity on the app designed to improve equity by boosting educational opportunities for K-12 students.
“The Toyota Leadership Academy is a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning experiences that supplement the regular school curriculum,” Bray said. The program is live at the Lancaster Independent School District in northern Texas, where TFS employees can volunteer in person or online. TFS is also donating materials and resources to further support the school.
Although Toyota for Good is moving toward offering in-person volunteer efforts as the country reopens, virtual options will remain on the app, Bray said, noting “these virtual opportunities are a way for employees to get involved and help from the convenience of their own home.”
Other volunteer opportunities on the app include career mentoring for young children, and underscoring the importance of education and financial literacy through TFS’ relationships with the Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement, and the Boys and Girls Club of America, Bray said.
In addition to volunteering time, TFS has allocated monetary donations to support diversity and inclusion efforts through the organizations it serves. This year the captive granted Historically Black Colleges and Universities $110,000 with the intended use to create infrastructure that allows students to tour campuses virtually.
“We found that community service is an important part of [Toyota Financial Services’] culture and an excellent way to keep our employees engaged even during the pandemic,” Bray said in October when he accepted the award at the Auto Finance Summit.
Toyota Financial Services was the top-ranked auto lender at the end of 2020, with $101.4 billion of loans and leases outstanding, according to the 2021 Big Wheels Auto Finance Data Report.
NextGear Capital invests in dealer success
NextGear Capital has strategically invested in its independent dealer partners over the past year through new programs that optimize cash flow and prioritize dealer success.
The dealer financing provider’s newest products — First Gear and Flex Pricing — have penetrated nearly 10% of NextGear’s 20,000 independent dealer contracts, SVP of Lending John Wick told Auto Finance News.
First Gear launched at the end of 2020 and was designed for dealers who have been in business six months or less, Wick said. The program offers guidance, support and capital, with approved lines of credit up to $100,000 without the submission of bank statements.
Following First Gear was NextGear’s new Flex Pricing floorplan tool, which allows dealers to free up cash flow, acquire new inventory and invest in technology. Flex Pricing offers a 0.01% principal reduction payment period allowing dealers to have flexible access to cash and maximize their floorplan lines.
The dealer financing provider, which has approximately $3 billion out in the market, has further supported their dealer partners during the pandemic through a dealer relief package, Wick said. The relief package offered deferred curtailment, payment extensions for eligible floor plan advances and the elimination of late fees.
“We needed to make sure that we understood the pressure points that our clients were facing and make sure that we brought suitable solutions and support to the dealer base in a way that provided a balance for everybody,” Wick said.
NextGear’s commitment to its dealer partners through new program launches and ongoing dealer relief offerings landed NextGear Capital a 2021 Auto Finance Excellence Award for Operations. “This one really represents the independent dealer, the backbone of our industry,” NextGear President Scott Maybee said as he accepted the award at the Auto Finance Summit.
In addition to the dealer support programs, NextGear internally launched an operational excellence department designed to “look into every corner of our business making sure that client experience is very smooth as you pass through applications, underwriting, activation and servicing,” Wick said.
NextGear plans to continue enhancing First Gear and Flex Pricing in collaboration with dealers to create a product that meets dealer needs, he said.
Bank of America streamlines EV financing
Bank of America’s streamlined electric (EV) and hybrid vehicle financing options have proven successful this year as loan originations in the segment soared.
The bank’s online EV lending platform offers vehicle loans and refinancing capabilities through direct and indirect dealer channels, according to the bank’s website.
“We can tell you that interest in the segment is increasing, and we continue to invest in ways to meet consumer and dealer demand for electric vehicle financing,” Fabien Thierry, head of consumer and small business vehicle lending product, told Auto Finance News.
Through the platform, which launched in 2019, Bank of America increased loan originations in the EV segment by 81% YoY in the first half of 2021. In the past two years, EV lending accounted for $1.2 billion of the bank’s total originations, according to a spokesperson.
Bank of America’s portfolio growth — along with the company’s continued efforts to improve accessibility to EVs and encourage consumers to reduce their carbon footprint — earned the bank a 2021 Auto Finance Excellence Award for Operations.
Bank of America’s Vehicle Lending Business Development Manager Rob Watson accepted the award at the 2021 Auto Finance Summit, saying “We will continue to be a leader in the electric vehicle and sustainable financing space because it is a critical time for us.”
Meanwhile, Bank of America this year strategically partnered with manufacturers to supplement its online financing, Thierry said. The bank’s program with Volvo’s EV performance brand Polestar, for example, offers federal EV tax credits on leased electric Volvos.
The bank also provides educational materials to customers interested in learning more about electric cars, Thierry added. “Our digital solutions have become essential tools for consumers who are in the market for an EV vehicle,” he said.
To further educate customers, Bank of America virtually hosted 20,000 participants during its Drive Electric: Virtual Vehicle Show. The online event offered live-streamed executive discussions and showcased electric vehicles from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, Polestar, Tesla and Volkswagen.
Since 2007, the bank has deployed $200 billion toward its sustainability efforts and set a goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while assisting its auto clients in making the shift to reduce carbon emissions, according to the bank’s website.
GM Financial’s Dan Berce leads by example
Thirty years of experience has shaped GM Financial Chief Executive Dan Berce into a leader who is invested in the success of the company, its employees and the communities it serves.
Berce started his tenure as chief executive at AmeriCredit Corp. in 2005 before making the transition as the head of GM Financial in 2010, when General Motors acquired the subprime lender.
Year after year, Berce continues to not exceed the captive’s set targets. During the past ten years, he has been instrumental in growing the company from $10 billion to $100 billion in assets, expanding its global outreach and reaching the coverage of approximately 90% of GM’s worldwide sales, according to a GM Financial spokesperson.
Berce’s leadership is evidenced by GM Financial’s performance in the past year, with the lender posting record earnings before taxes of $1.6 billion and increasing origination volume by 85.7% year over year to $5.2 billion in the second quarter of 2021, according to GM Financial’s earnings report.
GM Financial further supported General Motors by stopping end-of-lease purchases for non-GM dealers earlier this year.
Berce’s experience, leadership abilities, attention to employee success, commitment to financial education and philanthropic heart has earned him the 2021 Auto Finance Excellence Award in Leadership.
“Our industry has navigated tremendous change and growth,” President of North American Operations Kyle Birch said on behalf of Berce when accepting the award at the Auto Finance Summit. “I’m proud of the many ways in which GM Financial’s innovative workforce has helped make the [finance and insurance] process more personal, more efficient and more successful for our customers and our dealers, opening the door to digitize products and services that improve both the customer and dealer experience,” Birch said.
Berce’s success as a leader goes beyond the balance sheet. His ongoing investment in the captive’s employees includes efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). In 2015, Berce launched a program to enact DE&I councils, employee resource groups and DE&I online training. After five years, he changed the course of the program to directly report to him in order to show his employees, customers and company that he considers the efforts a top priority.
As part of the company’s DE&I efforts, Berce in 2016 created a mentorship program designed to help employees flourish in their careers through the exposure of diversity of thought, background and perspective. More specifically, the program encourages the development of women and people of color in the workplace.
In 2017, Berce launched another program called “KEYS by GM Financial” to educate consumers, employees and community members on credit, budgeting and basic financial literacy.
Berce is an active volunteer within his community, where he gives back and encourages his employees to do the same. He serves on the board of directors for the United Way of Tarrant County and is a trustee at his alma mater, Regis University, as well as the Lena Pope Foundation, which aims to improve the well-being of children in Tarrant County. Berce is also the past president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of Cook Children’s Health Care System.
“I’ve worked for Dan for almost 25 years and he’s a great guy if you don’t know him, and I’m honored to be his partner at GM Financial,” Birch said.
SCUSA’s Sandra Broderick recognized for 25 years as an industry leader
Industry veteran Sandra Broderick was awarded the Auto Finance Excellence Award for Leadership in recognition of a career defined by senior executive roles, employee support initiatives and board leadership positions.
Broderick held executive titles at GE Capital, Bank One, JPMorgan and U.S. Bank before she taking on the role of senior executive vice president and head of operations at Santander Consumer USA in 2017. She will stay until her retirement in early 2022, and be succeeded by Marc Womack, who started in the position Oct. 18.
Since starting in auto finance after college, Broderick has worked her way to the top, paving the way for women to advance into positions of power within the industry and have a seat at the executive table.
“What was once an industry where all the jobs were reserved for men has evolved to an industry where women hold top positions leading auto manufacturers and auto finance companies,” Broderick said when she received her award at the Auto Finance Summit.
Broderick’s contributions to the industry go beyond her role as an executive; earlier this year she was appointed to chair the vehicle finance division of the American Financial Services Association.
Beyond her day-to-day responsibilities, Broderick is also an avid and visible supporter of the positive resource groups at SCUSA. She actively discusses and shares on her LinkedIn the importance of SCUSA’s resource group networks, including the Veteran Resource Group, which offers networking, mentorship and professional development; Operation HOPE, an initiative to help employees with financial wellness; and The EMBRACE Network, an LGBT+ community that increases visibility, promotes inclusion and strengthens development, according to the lender’s website.
“It is great to see that the prioritization of employee well-being is becoming non-negotiable in many organizations as a result of the pandemic,” Broderick said in a LinkedIn post.
Along with prioritizing internal company initiatives, Broderick is also invested in the education of consumers. She encourages the use of the bank’s Learning Center — which was revamped earlier this year — to help consumers combat fraud, apply for loans, budget and make the right decisions in their financing journey, according to SCUSA’s Learning Center webpage.
“Among her many accomplishments during her tenure … [Broderick] led key transformative projections in our operations areas, and modernized and matured the operations organization,” Santander Consumer USA President and Chief Executive Mahesh Aditya said in a statement.