New VP of sales distribution takes helm at TD Auto Finance

Howard Thompson

Howard Thompson is the new vice president of sales distribution and OEM relationships for TD Auto Finance, taking over for Gino Cozza, who retired in January 2021.

He brings more than 30 years of industry experience to the job, having covered product and sales distribution from businesses within and outside the banking sector.

“I like being involved with the customers. I like being involved with the markets. And I think what that means the most for me, is we’re here to help dealers sell cars,” said Thompson in an interview with Canadian auto dealer. “Then we want to make sure that both our customers, the dealer and ultimately the consumer, have a good experience with TD through the process.”

In his previous role as senior vice-president of western Ontario region at TD Bank, Thompson said he focused on improving the experience for dealers and plans to continue developing this in his new role. He said a big part of the industry is ensuring that customers receive quick feedback, as this can improve credit-making decisions.

“We get better at developing credit policy, and all of that was in my old role,” said Thompson. “We worked very closely with the sales department to continuously improve how we looked at the market, both from a product and also a process perspective. So I’m going to bring a lot of that learning to the role.”

Thompson also discussed other key areas of focus such as improved use of automation to help with credit decisions.

The model they have been working on for the past five or six years aims to make themselves a full-spectrum lender — everything from super-prime manufacturer programs to used cars and their non-prime business.

If we look at some of the previous crisis cycles the industry has experienced, such as the financial crisis/recession of 2008-2009 or the oil price crash of 2014/2015, they tend to preview what will happen in the non-prime market. Employment is impacted, consumers work to rebuild their credit post-crisis, and there is always a demand for automobiles. In other words, the non-prime business will be a key area of focus.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think it would say we’re probably seeing some reasonable conservatism on the non-prime side right now that will ultimately show up as some growth in the market, down the road,” said Thompson. 

As for what may be coming up in the pipeline, the company launched its consumer-facing TD Wheels mobile app a little more than a year ago and plans to continue evolving the tool.

The TD Wheels app allows car shoppers to get pre-qualified for financing within the app, up to a specific amount and for a specific rate and term, while also helping them connect to local dealers. It also provides customers with an opportunity to shop for cars, and get a better sense of the trade-in value of their vehicle and pre-qualification for financing.

“They could use it to actually interact with the dealership, and we could use it as a way to refer pre-qualified customers to the dealers,” said Thompson. “We were very happy with the number of people that have downloaded it.”

Thompson said the company is also looking at ways to connect with customers, connect them with vehicles, transact the deal, and figure out how to get the vehicle to them in a way that is different than a year ago. They are also exploring the mobile app concept and how to build that functionality onto a desktop and integrate live inventory that will be of value to dealerships to connect with the company.

As for what may be coming up in the pipeline, the company launched its consumer-facing TD Wheels mobile app a little more than a year ago and plans to continue evolving the tool.

And in a move that directly caters to the needs of dealers amid the pandemic, the company rolled out sign-on glass (e-contracting) for dealerships in February (excluding Quebec).

“Until we get regulatory consistency it’s just switching a pen for a tablet,” said Thompson. “But we’d like to be ahead of the curve, where that actually is part and parcel of a fully paperless process that will ultimately make us better on the back end too — for funding packages, documentation in general, security, accuracy, and consistency,” said Thompson.

He said the automotive industry has entered interesting times, as all of the company’s programs revolve around these types of technologies that are necessary for their customers during and post-pandemic — and some of which they have been doing for years.

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