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Highlights from the National Automotive Finance (NAF) Association’s 28th Annual Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference

Epic. Innovative. Mind-blowing. Remarkable. Fun.

These are just a few words attendees used to describe the recent Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference, the premier annual event for non-prime auto finance community.
The 28th Annual Conference provided a wealth of insights and updates on industry trends, regulatory changes, and technological innovations, captivating participants with its thought-provoking presentations and dynamic networking opportunities. Held at the Renaissance Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth, TX, June 5-7, 2024, the event brought together industry leaders, experts, and practitioners for a series of informative sessions and networking opportunities.

Various Networking Opportunities
The mission of the NAF Association is to connect and educate the non-prime auto finance industry, and the agenda perfectly reflected that commitment. A special session for first-time attendees and new members of the association welcomed and informed newcomers to the NAF community. Executive committee members were on hand to provide insights on member benefits, conference tips, and an overview of what to expect during the event.
Conference attendees participated in Roundtables & Deep Dives, engaging in informal discussions about innovative solutions and industry challenges with a group of peers. An extension of the NAF Networks member-benefit program, participants were organized into four distinct groups, each facilitated by industry leaders:

  • Leadership Development Network: Led by George Fussell (CEO, SAFCO) and Paul Gillespie (SVP Dealer Services, GM Financial), this group discussed fostering a strong organizational culture, talent recruitment and retention, and affordability challenges.
  • Risk Network: Facilitated by Brian Hopper (VP Risk, AutoNation Finance) and Sang O’Neill (Chief Credit Officer, First Help), this group focused on risk mitigation tactics and adapting to changing methodologies.
  • Operations Network: Kim Gershon (Chief Operating Officer, AutoNation Finance) and Chris Mitcham (Head of Corporate Development & Service for Others, Santander Consumer USA) led discussions on enhancing cross-departmental collaboration, optimizing operational efficiency, and leveraging digital tools.
  • Collections Network: Dan Baggett (SVP Compliance & Loan Servicing, SAFCO) and Lee-Madeline Dowls (Managing Director, Operational Compliance and Remediation, Stellantis Financial Services) shared strategies for minimizing delinquencies, improving collection rates, and maintaining positive customer relationships.

The Power Hour, featuring libations and several rounds of small group speed networking, was facilitated by Rick Sly, Publisher/Editor of Non-Prime Times Magazine. This session was designed for making quick and meaningful professional connections to help maximize time spent growing participant’s professional networks.

“This year’s conference highlighted the dynamic nature of the non-prime auto financing market. Our exceptional speakers delivered insightful sessions, addressing both challenges and opportunities, and providing valuable content that will guide us in navigating and thriving in this unique sector. I am especially proud that this year’s conference showcased the power of collaboration and innovation, leaving attendees inspired and equipped to drive the industry forward.”
— Claudia Plascencia, Senior Vice President, Resolvion | President, NAF Association

Innovative Solution Showcase
In an era where face-to-face interactions remain invaluable despite the digital transformation of networking, NAF conference organizers are continuously seeking innovative ways to enhance engagement among attendees. The shift to an all-kiosk exhibit hall, strategically located in the heart of the conference action, was designed to create a more integrated and accessible environment.

By breaking down physical barriers and creating more organic opportunities for interaction, this innovative format enhanced the overall value of conferences, paving the way for more dynamic and fruitful professional relationships. The new layout fostered increased interaction between financing source representatives and solution providers, ultimately enriching the conference experience for all participants.

Stellar Lineup of Speakers and Sessions
The conference offered attendees a variety of excellent speakers and insightful sessions, covering a wide range of critical topics. From industry titans delivering lessons in leadership to a plethora of issues relating to affordability, attendees had ample opportunity to learn about the latest market trends from subject matter experts.

On the main stage, the Opening Keynote featured a fireside chat with GM Financials’ Kyle Birch, President of North America Operations. The session included a brief yet fascinating history lesson of key moments for the industry, as well as personal anecdotes and market insights. Jonathan Smoke from Cox Automotive then shared the latest economic data framed the challenge of affordability issues facing the industry, and then moderated an encore affordability round-up panel presentation later in the day.

The General Session also featured legal luminaries Michael Benoit and Julia Whitelock from Hudson Cook and Jason Bichsel of McGlinchey Stafford, moderated by Hudson Cook’s Eric Johnson. The panel discussed the CFPB’s two new registries, information collection notice, and revised supervisory appeals process; the FTC’s CARS Rule and proposed Unfair or Deceptive Fees Trade Regulation Rule; privacy and other state emerging issues and trends; and recent litigation and cases of interest to the industry.

The executive panel session was especially enlightening, as industry leaders Jim Landy (Car Capital Technologies), Cyrus Bozorgi (Veros Credit) and Jeff Butler (AutoNation Finance) delved into the dynamic landscape of the non-prime market. Moderated by Anderson Brothers Banks’ Micky Watts, this diverse group offered unique perspectives as they discussed untapped opportunities, pressing challenges, and the evolving future of mobility.

Amy Martin, S&P Global Ratings’ Asset-Backed Securities, took the stage to address the question: Are Higher Subprime Auto Losses In Our Rear-View Mirror? Always a favorite at the NAF Conference, Amy shared the latest in-depth performance statistics and highlighted issuance volume in the sector and their outlook for the rest of the year.

Fraud Friday topics delivered by Point Predictive’s Frank McKenna and Director of Auriemma Roundtables Troy Huth had attendees both fascinated and terrified by the latest fraud trends. At a time when the breadth of fraud and deception has never been higher, these sessions provided some of the approaches and tools industry leaders use to detect fraudulent applications and prevent losses driven by increases in fraud activity.

The Business Theatre and the Compliance Theatre breakouts delivered a wealth of knowledge and practical strategies for attendees from session ranging in legal and compliance topics, the shift to quantitative analysis, survey data insights, and approaches for driving down costs while ensuring financial stability. As the industry continues to evolve, the insights gained from this conference will undoubtedly help shape its future, fostering innovation and resilience in the face of new challenges and opportunities.

“The true measure of a successful conference is not just in the knowledge shared, but in the connections made, the inspiration sparked, and the recognition of those who have excelled. Many attendees expressed that they felt welcomed and found their conference experience to be valuable, educational, comfortable, and enjoyable. This is exactly what we strive to achieve every year.”
—Jennifer Martin, Executive Director, NAF Association

Celebrating an Industry Icon
The conference was marked by a particularly special and emotional moment this year when Jim Bass (Agora Data) was presented with the prestigious Jack Tracey Pinnacle Award. This award is given to professionals who have made remarkable contributions to the benefit of the non-prime auto finance industry, celebrating their dedication and impact.

What made the occasion even more significant was the presence of last year’s inaugural winner, Tom Hudson (Hudson Cook), who had the honor of presenting the award to Jim. This continuity underscored the tradition and prestige of the award, linking past and present honorees in a meaningful way. Tom’s heartfelt presentation highlighted the camaraderie and mutual respect within the industry, making the moment even more touching.

As Jim received the award, there was a palpable sense of emotion in the room, as the audience reflected on Jim’s substantial contributions and unwavering commitment to improving and advancing the industry.

Making Memories at the Social Events
The recent non-prime auto finance conference was not only a hub of professional insights and industry advancements but also a celebration of community and connection through a series of vibrant social events. Attendees had the chance to unwind, network, and create lasting memories, making the conference an unforgettable experience.

Kicking off the conference activities was the highly anticipated golf tournament, offering a perfect blend of sport and networking. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Rockwood golf course, this event attracted both seasoned golfers and enthusiastic beginners, all eager to engage in friendly competition and camaraderie.

The Networking “NAF”ter Dark Rooftop Dessert Reception was a highlight of the conference, blending professional networking with a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Held on the stunning rooftop of the conference venue, this evening event provided gorgeous views of the Sundance Square skyline, setting the perfect backdrop for engaging conversations and new connections. Adding a unique twist to the reception, glow in the dark yard games were scattered throughout the rooftop space. Attendees enjoyed games like cornhole, giant Jenga, and Connect Four, all illuminated by vibrant neon lights. The playful ambiance encouraged friendly competition and light-hearted interaction, helping break the ice among participants.

As the conference drew to a close, the grand finale was the Closing Celebration at the iconic Flying Saucer. This event was designed to let attendees relax, have fun, and celebrate the successful conclusion of the conference. The highlight of the evening was the live band karaoke, where attendees could live out their rock star dreams. Backed by a professional live band, participants had the chance to take the stage and perform their favorite songs. This interactive and entertaining activity brought out the hidden talents of many, with some impressive performances that wowed the crowd.

The social events were more than just entertainment—they were integral to the overall conference experience. By combining networking opportunities with fun and engaging activities, these events helped create a sense of community and camaraderie among attendees.

Save the Date: Next Year’s Conference & New Signature Events!
29th Annual Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference | June 4 – 6, 2025 | Plano, TX

Mark your calendars now and save the date for next year’s highly anticipated 29th Annual Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference. This annual event will return on June 4 – 6, 2025 in Plano, TX, promising another exceptional gathering of industry leaders, innovators, and experts.

But that’s not all! In addition to the renowned conference program you know and love, the NAF Association is introducing two new signature events designed to enhance your experience and provide even more value for you and your team.

C-Suite Retreat | September 10 – 12, 2024 | San Antonio, TX

This inaugural C-Suite Retreat, hosted at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, will be the industry’s top event for auto finance company CEOs, executives, and senior staff to come together for candid conversations about the non-prime market. Attendees will exchange ideas, solve common challenges with their peers, and gain fresh insights from industry professionals. Participants can expect to discuss cutting-edge practices, policies, initiatives, technologies, and more that are shaping the future of the auto finance industry. The topics are created by attendees with an agenda that features facilitated small group discussions and invaluable networking.

Learn More

Compliance Champions Workshop | October 28 – 29, 2024 | Irving, TX
The Compliance Workshop is a live event dedicated to providing attendees with essential insights and updates on compliance and regulatory issues in the auto finance industry. This event is designed for individuals working directly in the auto finance industry including but not limited to Loan Officers, Compliance Officers, Risk Managers, Underwriters, Collections Specialists, Legal and General Counsel, Financial Institution Executives, Consultants and Advisors, Technology Providers, and professionals who want to stay compliant, mitigate risks, and succeed in today’s highly regulated business environment.

Learn More

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