Pat Doran cheerfully admits he flunked retirement. Doran, 58, retired from Bank of America last August as president of the Bank of America Auto Group, one of the nation's largest bank-based auto lenders. In March, he popped up again at the Consumer Bankers Association auto finance convention in Orlando, Fla., to drum up interest in dealerAccess Inc., a Toronto company that specializes in online auto finance contracts in Canada. Three big Canadian lenders own the firm. Doran, of Jacksonville, Fla., is president of U.S. operations. DealerAccess wants to export its online approach to U.S. auto dealers and lenders - something its competitors say will be easier said than done.
Staff Reporter Jim Henry interviewed Doran in Orlando in March and again by phone on July 3.
How did you end up at dealerAccess?
I retired in August of last year. I stayed retired about 90 days or so. Frankly, I was pretty bored. I thought I would play golf four days a week and hang around. Then these guys called me from Canada. They had a digital process for handling all parts of loans or leases - which is what I wanted to install at Bank of America.
Is it a startup, a dot-com second career kind of thing?
No. It's a small company, but it has these really big corporate roots. DealerAccess is entrepreneurial, able to move with a lot of speed. Our shareholders are the CIT Group, Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank Financial Group. The company has been in business in Canada for almost four years with FinanciaLinx, a digital leasing company. They've processed over $1 billion in lease transactions for more than 1,100 dealers (in Canada).
Do you do only leases?
FinanciaLinx is owned by Bank of Montreal and CIT Financial. FinancialLinx will still just be leasing. But Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank of Canada will offer loans and balloon programs, with an Oct. 1 launch in Canada.
We also have plans to offer nonprime soon, and we are having discussions with extended service contract companies and credit insurance suppliers.
Are you signing up dealers yet in the United States?
First, we need to sign up lenders. I'm talking to most of the large players, banks as well as finance companies. We're trying to build a critical mass; we'd like to have three or four banks signed up.
Are you going to start out with a pilot program and then roll it out nationally?
We have targeted 10 states. Ten U.S. states do 65 percent of the car sales. Florida is one of them. We need a total of about five lenders (each) in the Southeast, Northwest and Midwest. In Canada, we are known for developing the multilender, multiproduct portal. We have to provide the dealer with lots of reasons why they would want to use our system.
When is your U.S. launch?
By the first quarter of 2002 we should be operational with three to four lenders in the Southeast part of the U.S.
Do you miss the bank?
No, I don't. I'm not worrying about things I used to be worried about. I'm passionate about this; I think it can change the industry for the better. The Internet, I think, is going to be a phenomenal thing. It just has to be more practical. Why use it? I'll tell you why. It'll save you a lot of money.