Group Vice President, Toyota Financial Services; Group Vice President, Sales, Product and Marketing, Mazda Financial Services,
Toyota Financial Services
Location: Plano, Texas
Education: B.A., political science, UCLA; MBA, finance and marketing, Pepperdine University
What drew you to the auto industry? I was going to be a lawyer. In the legal field, it’s a lot more about the research and not as much interface. I knew eventually that I would miss that opportunity to have a little bit more in-person collaboration. I quickly went toward more of the marketing side, and then while I was in grad school, I decided I wanted to focus on finance.
First automotive job: Toyota in 1988. We were previously in California. And so as I looked at organizations there, Toyota was a great opportunity to learn the organizational design of a large global company.
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Big break: To extend my responsibility over a new area of our business. We are very focused on transforming our core business as a captive finance organization, supporting our Toyota and Lexus dealers. And equally now, we recently launched our new business. I got to head up a team to launch a new area of our business, which is our private-label business. We are now the captive for Mazda Financial Services.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? It was when we launched our private-label business during a pandemic. We had a lot of areas within our nation that were sheltered in place. Your traditional approach to launching a new business wasn’t going to happen. How do you galvanize the organization to understand that we’re still going to make this happen, and do it in a way that’s thoughtful? As a leader, and especially as a female leader in your organization, [it’s] to convey that we have a North Star. We’re going to get there.
You’ve been in the industry 32 years. What has been the most surprising change you’ve seen? I’m seeing more and more women in the automotive industry. The sales side of our business has predominantly been males. I am seeing many more women in the field partnering with our dealers, as well as at our corporate headquarters. It’s been fantastic.
What work achievement are you most proud of? What makes me proud is my connections to the community, whether it’s as a national trustee board member for the Boys and Girls Club or helping out the women within Toyota. I’m the executive sponsor for our North American Advisory Council for WIIT, which is our Women Influencing and Impacting Toyota Employee Resource Group. That is a critical piece of who I am.
What do you struggle with? Given the current environment, working from home. It’s about how you reframe that and say it’s an opportunity. It’s [being] able to create new ways for us to be innovative. I’ll give you one example. We have an annual North American Women’s Conference at Toyota that I’m executive sponsor for. We talked about, “Should we just cancel it?” I said — and got support from others to say — we cannot cancel it. It’s the most important time to continue to focus on engaging our female leaders. It’s not just that we have to do it; it’s a business imperative. It’s the right thing to do. It might not be as smooth as doing it in person, but we’re going to do it virtually.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? Not to wait. If you continue to focus and do a great job, keep your head down, people assume you’re going to get that recognition. Which can happen, but raise your hand. One time in my career where two very senior folks — who I very much admire and trust — said, “We probably held you back a little longer because it made us successful as an organization.” At the end of the day, it did impact my trajectory. You learn from those exchanges. It’s better to learn those things earlier on.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? It’s critical that we start earlier and earlier in the career spectrum. With the Boys and Girls Club, it’s being able to connect underserved youth [who] are ready to make that next step, helping them to have paths into the automotive space through STEM, dealerships or at our manufacturing plants. On the other side of that is the retention of our female talent. I recognize it is my responsibility as well to ensure that we lead a path with future generations of female leaders in our automotive industry and specifically on the financial services side. Our hope is someday you don’t go into a meeting and be the only female in that room.
— Jackie Charniga