SunTrust, Westlake Financial execs offer career advice

The executives of two of the top 30 auto financiers in the U.S. offered up guidance to industry veterans and those just entering the business. Auto Finance Excellence spoke with Westlake Financial Services President Ian Anderson and SunTrust Banks’ head of indirect lending, Chuck Jones, who, together, carry 60 years of industry experience.

Advice for new hires:

Entering the highly competitive and complex trade of auto finance can be a daunting experience. Anderson’s advice to those fresh in the industry is simple: “Show up 15 minutes early and stay 15 minutes late.”

Additionally, he advises new hires to be well-versed in data and to be active in technical applications, such as Microsoft Excel. In fact, Westlake’s ability to analyze data and make decisions quickly is one of the main reasons why the lender has grown its portfolio 40% year over year, Anderson said. The management team — starting at the director level up to company Founder and Chairman Don Hankey — know how to use Excel from an analysis perspective, he said.

SunTrust’s Jones, on the other hand, advises reinventing yourself every few years. “Take on new opportunities, and don’t be uncomfortable with what you’re doing,” he said.

In his 38-year tenure, Jones has had 22 career moves. For example, he served as a correctional officer at the Texas Department of Corrections and as an compliance officer — to name a few roles. “Try to find something else to continue to learn and grow because you get greater opportunities that way,” he said.

Advice to industry leaders:

For those familiar with the industry, the advice from Anderson and Jones is straightforward but sometimes overlooked.

“This is a commoditized industry, and because of that, you have to constantly be looking at the bottom line by controlling your costs and losses,” Anderson said. You have to have the ability to pay your banks back. I know it sounds pretty basic, but I don’t think many people look at it as basic as it needs to be,” he added.

For Jones, the advice involves self-awareness: “Really stress your business. Be willing to walk away from segments that are performing poorly,” he said. Also, remember quality outshines quantity and never get too “focused on just the volume that you’re doing…make sure you have the right risk rewards in it,” he explained.

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