CU Direct appointed Ron Frey as chief strategy officer, a new position for CU Direct.
Frey, 51, assumed his role Oct. 1, the company said last week.
He will oversee automotive solutions for the CUDL lending platform, which links 13,000 dealerships and 1,100 credit unions, and AutoSMART, the company’s online vehicle-shopping program.
Frey has been president of AutoNation Direct, chief strategy officer of AutoNation, COO and partner of TrueCar.com and CEO of Autoland, which connects car buyers and credit unions.
The position at CU Direct “hit a sweet spot for me,” Frey said. “It leverages what I think are three of my core competencies: the automotive space, technology and credit unions. To flex all three of those muscles is very exciting.”
Frey will work for CU Direct out of his home office in Portland, Ore. He spoke by phone this week with Staff Reporter Hannah Lutz.
Over almost the past decade, you were with AutoNation, first as president of AutoNation Direct and then as chief strategy officer for AutoNation. What skills from your time there will you bring to CU Direct?
I gained a deep understanding of the automotive industry, a good insight of directionally where it’s going. I played a very big role in helping AutoNation think through how to bridge the online digital experience into the in-store operations, and I helped guide the transactional, digital and directional experience of AutoNation.
What are your primary responsibilities at CU Direct?
I head up strategy as it relates to automotive solutions. In an ever-changing market, CU Direct continues to play a dominant role and a larger role in bringing opportunities to dealer partners and bridging the gap between dealer and credit union partners.
The industry is at an inflection point. We want to make sure that we, too, are changing and growing. No one can afford to sit still in this market.
What are your goals for 2017?
Because we have a dominant position in the marketplace, my goals will be: How do I maximize those opportunities, create new opportunities and grow the business to dealer partners and credit union partners and their members? Success will be accomplishing that.
It has to be a value proposition that adds tremendous value to all three: How can I do that in a way that continues to advance the business and continues to advance value to all constituents we serve?
What challenges do you expect to face?
As we enter into more and more of this digital age, with AutoSMART, the challenges will be how to provide our services in a way that supports our dealer partners’ brands and supports their digital efforts on their sites. In other words: How can we bring opportunities to our dealer partners that are seamless in the way that dealer partners also want to serve their customers? Our dealer partners are providing more and more functionality in their sites. How do we support the experience, not create disconnects in there?
I think that really becomes the new bar. We’ve got to look for ways to add value that support the strategy of our dealer partners but also leverages the power of the credit union strength behind us.
On the lending side, the challenge is: What do we do to provide as broad lending resources as possible and make our systems as intuitive and fast as possible to help our dealer partners do their jobs and sell more cars?
We strive to be best in class in the marketplace. That will certainly be my goal and my challenge.
Why is it important that you touch the dealer side and the credit union side of the auto-lending business?
We can bring things to the table that will help support and advance the automotive movement and credit union movement, bridging the gap. I view myself loyal to both industries. We have the unique opportunity to unlock new capabilities that haven’t been tried before.
Credit unions as a whole accounted for 25 percent of the total auto-origination volume in the first quarter, flat compared with the 2015 period. What do you expect credit unions’ auto loan portfolios to look like in the next few years?
Auto lending has always been a core to credit unions. Their members purchase vehicles and it’s indicative of the credit unions to meet needs of their members.
I expect that’s a share that they can take more of. We continue to be very zealous around automotive lending within the credit unions we serve and support.
CU Direct serves 1,100 credit unions. Our core business is using our proprietary CUDL platform that serves credit union partners and dealer partners. Those deep credit union relationships that we have are something nobody in the marketplace has today or can leverage.
With access to 50 million credit union members, the trust that we have and earn and need to maintain is our differentiator.