Five Questions With… Renee Horne of USAA

Five Questions With is a monthly Q&A segment on that offers a glimpse of what senior industry executives are thinking about outside the boardroom. Read on to find out.

Renee Horne, vice president of consumer lending at USAA Bank

Renee Horne, vice president of consumer lending at San Antonio, Texas-based USAA Bank since June 2016, leads a team responsible for providing its members’ great customer experiences. Before her current role, Horne held senior leadership roles in enterprise strategy and marketing at USAA. She also served a long tenure as a senior financial analyst at FedEx.

Though Horne has established a successful career as a woman in the finance sector, what her team might not realize is the amount of grit it takes to reach these levels of success.

“My employees and folks that reach out for mentoring, they see me as successful, and I’m humbled and fortunate by the opportunities that I’ve been afforded,” Horne said. “What many of them don’t know is how many failures I’ve had along my journey.”

Fall down seven times, stand up eight — a proverb that Horne is familiar with. “For every ‘yes’ I’ve received, I’ve likely received 7 to 10 ‘no’s,’ whether that’s job offers, whether that’s support for a recommendation or a business plan,” she said. “Success is not a permanent state. There are highs and lows, but, those are the things that make us stronger, keeps us humble.”

Auto Finance Excellence asked Horne five questions to find out what her company goals are, advice that helped her earn top management roles, and a surprising fact that her employees would never suspect.

Auto Finance Excellence: What are your company goals in 10 words or less?

Renee Horne: Can I give it to you in nine? Serve and facilitate the financial security of military families.

AFE: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice you’ve ever received?

RH: This one I cherish and keep deep, deep inside of me no matter where I work, who I worked for, who’s on the team. There’s a seed in me that was planted early in my management career. That was to keep people first and allow my team to shine — this stems from servant leadership, and being taught that servant leadership matters. If I take care of my people, they will take care of everything the business requires.

AFE: What do you think is the most underrated trend in lending practices?

RH: It’s interesting, because if you think about the shift to digital and, in recent years, direct to consumer lending, I believe it seems to be underrated when it comes to auto financing. There’s a tremendous amount of untapped potential there. But despite that, if you think about consumer adoption rates away from traditional channels to online and mobile or just digital in general, auto loans, however, still lag among the other products regarding digital account opening. Javelin Advisory Services published a study back in July, and it was about auto lending. It was about winning the auto lending game and building a digital bridge to borrowers.

In that study, they revealed that only 22% of auto loans are open entirely through digital channels. Now, compare that to checking accounts, 44% of which are opened online and credit cards, 58% of which are opened online. When I think about that, in terms of a general market, for me, given the role and [USAA’s] core mission and focus of being a digital-first bank, that to me says, wow, this is underrated, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

AFE: What person has had the most significant influence on your career?

RH: I’ve worked for so many people, and I’ve had great mentors over my career. I’ve had a lot of supporters throughout my career, and it’s difficult to name just one, but in being truly honest in answering your question, I have to tell you, her name is Cathy Denise Ross, and she is the retired chief financial officer of FedEx Express.

Let me tell you why. As a newly minted MBA coming out of graduate school, I had a few years under my belt in terms of work experience, but I met her in August of 1996 when I was being recruited and ultimately joined FedEx as a financial analyst. She was my first finance director, and I worked under her leadership chain for several years. There are a few attributes that will resonate as to why I chose her. 

She set high standards, and she taught me that details matter and not to be afraid to ask questions and certainly not to make assumptions when it came to numbers. There’s three things that were resounding under her leadership. She always reminded me to keep the main thing [as] the main thing, get the facts, and always focus on building trust and relationships because those were necessary to get things done. I hold these standards today, and if there’s one word I could give you to describe her in all of her brilliance, it would be fortitude.

AFE: What’s something all of your employees would be surprised to learn about you?

RH: On a personal note, I would bet there’s no one on my team that knows this about me, and that is, I have one of the widest ranges of musical genre and appreciation you could ever meet. I grew up with a father who introduced me to music very young, and we would have listening sessions in our home, on vinyl. We’d start the morning with everything from Gershwin, Berlioz, and Beethoven. We’d break down the instruments, and by the end of the week, we would enjoy your more traditional R&B, pop music, and rock and roll. From Michael Jackson, George Michaels, to Patti LaBelle — I’ve got a unique palate, if you will, for music appreciation.

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