New name, growth for Citizens' auto lending channel

RBS Citizens Auto Finance is now Citizens One Auto Finance.

Parent Citizens Financial Group dropped the acronym RBS, for Royal Bank of Scotland, from the name of its growing auto loan channel effective this month.

Citizens, based in Providence, R.I., is also rebranding more than 200 Charter One branch banks in Michigan and Ohio as Citizens Bank by midyear 2015.

Expansion drive

Citizens has been on an auto lending expansion drive since the recession ended in 2009, but growth has really taken off in the past couple of years, Brendan Coughlin, president of Citizens One Auto Finance, told Automotive News in a phone interview last week.

Citizens has about 6,700 dealerships signed up, an increase of about 33 percent since 2013. More than 90 percent of the dealerships are franchised, new-vehicle stores, Coughlin said. “We’ve been adding dealers at a pretty good clip,” he said.

The bank offers auto loans in 43 states, up from 23 states in 2010. “That’s essentially nationwide,” Coughlin said, adding that the bank doesn’t plan to enter more states right now.

Citizens is also sticking to prime loans only, which Coughlin defined as loans for customers with FICO scores of 620 and above.

Bulk purchases

In addition to originating its own loans, Coughlin said, Citizens also purchases auto loans in bulk that are originated by Santander Consumer USA for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ U.S. dealers.

As of Dec. 31, Citizens had $12.7 billion in auto loans outstanding, up 35 percent from $9.4 billion a year earlier.

Royal Bank of Scotland owns 70.5 percent of Citizens. RBS sold a 25 percent ownership stake in an initial public offering in September 2014. RBS plans to divest the rest of its holding by the end of 2016, according to Citizens.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@autonews.com

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