Douglas Duncan leveraged the relationships and expertise gained from two decades in the F&I products business to start a subprime finance company. Two years later, Global Lending Services is on the path to becoming a national player in that segment.
In 2011, Douglas Duncan was at a crossroads. More than two decades earlier, he had founded Safe-Guard Products International LLC. With the help of a dedicated team of executives, including his brother, David Duncan, and a nationwide network of agents and dealers, Atlanta-based Safe-Guard had grown to become an industry leader.
With David at the helm as president, Douglas sold the last of his shares and started looking for a new challenge. At the time, capital was flowing back into the auto finance market after all but grinding to a halt just a few years earlier. He saw an opportunity to start a subprime finance company, and he knew he had a built-in advantage.
“We leveraged the agent channel pretty heavily,” Douglas says. “The agents we do business with have a close relationship with their dealers. In many cases, they’re responsible for the success of the F&I department.”
Two years and several rounds of capitalizations later, Duncan’s new company, Global Lending Services LLC (GLS), has already established itself as a player in the subprime market.
The summer of 2012 brought a series of announcements from the new company. Duncan assembled a team of experienced auto finance executives and formed a partnership with an investment firm. That deal allowed GLS to acquire Resurgent Auto Finance, an established subprime lender with a $38 million portfolio.
Resurgent was only doing business in four Southern states, but Duncan saw great potential in the company’s funding platform. By April of this year, GLS expanded into 15 additional states, and Duncan expects to be in all 50 before long.
“We funded the business with a lot of equity. That allows us to structure significant debt agreements,” he says, noting that the amount of capital now available for subprime loans is mostly based on the performance of those portfolios in the assetbacked securities (ABS) market.
“The smart money’s going to subprime,” Duncan says.
Agents are certified to represent GLS and educate dealers on the intricacies of the com- pany’s program. The initial introduction is followed by a 60-, 90- or 120-day “ramp-up” of applications and funded deals; meanwhile, the agent follows up regularly to check their progress. The company’s roster now includes several hundred dealers in 19 states and hundreds of deals funded each month.
Duncan describes the current subprime lending space as “very competitive” and says some lenders are buying deals they probably shouldn’t. “Our look-to-book ratio is a bit
lower than I probably would like in normal times, but it’s so competitive right now that I’m not bothered,” he says.
Duncan’s roots on the F&I product side are evident at GLS. Every deal is preapproved for a vehicle service contract and GAP insurance; neither is exclusive to SafeGuard’s offering. “The dealer is dependent upon that income,” Duncan says. “It’s just common sense to allow for a VSC.”
As the company continues to expand and enter new states, Duncan says the focus will remain on the dealer. He wants to establish long-lasting relationships between GLS, agents and dealers. To that end, GLS has developed a program called GLS Subprime Retail Strategy. It is designed to develop and train the people manning the dealership’s subprime department. The goal, Duncan says, is to build a relationship that extends beyond the traditional finance source-to- dealer relationship.
Driving the company’s strategy will be Steve Thibodeau, who was hired in May as the company’s new CEO. He comes from Capital One, where he held a number of executive positions since 2000, including managing vice president of the company’s auto finance division servicing operations and its sales and originations business unit.
He was there, Duncan notes, when Capital One purchased Dallas-based Sum- mit Acceptance Corp. and grew its portfolio from $200 million to more than $25 billion. “We have a very experienced and talented executive team, and Steve is going to make us even better.”