Exec Spotlight: President Jeff Young to Help Grow Yamaha Finance Team

Jeff Young

Yamaha Motor Finance Corp. USA will grow its team to more than 130 employees by the end of 2018 to accommodate the captive’s growth and new programs, Powersports Finance has learned.

The team has — and will continue to be led — by newly promoted President Jeff Young, who has been with the company since its founding in 2015. Young was promoted effective Jan. 1, and his former role of chief operating officer will not be filled, as he maintains many of his previous duties.

“The additional responsibilities I will be picking up are not enough to backfill the COO role,” Young told Powersports Finance.

In the company’s first few years, Young has led the growth of the captive launching several key business lines: a nonprime retail installment program, a retail credit card business, and the current transition of the wholesale finance business to an in-house program launching in late 2018.

In September, Young distributed a note to dealers informing of the company’s decision to take its floorplan financing operations in-house. The new wholesale captive will officially launch in December 2018, and Yamaha is already building out its wholesale team.

Yamaha Finance was “a drawing on a whiteboard” three years ago, Young said in a press release. The growing team at the captive “has accomplished an incredible amount in a short period,” Young said, adding that he is “proud to lead” Yamaha Finance into the next phase of growth.

Powersports Finance spoke with Young about his promotion, Yamaha’s accomplishments since launch, and key goals for 2018. Following are edited excerpts from the interview:

Powersports Finance: What are some key takeaways from your experience launching out this captive and advice you have for other lenders who might enter the space?

Jeff Young: Our organization was an opportunity to create something from a blank sheet of paper, but what wasn’t blank was our vision and what we had in mind for Yamaha Finance into the future. I think just as with any new venture there has to be leadership that has crafted what the outlook is. I think the necessary starting point for anything that someone is building is, ‘What is the blueprint?’ We had a very clear vision for what we wanted Yamaha Finance to be, which is an industry-leading captive finance company that is providing support for the sales of Yamaha products. Our vision then allowed us to execute on that plan.

Lesson two would be through execution of that plan, there are going to be sideroads that you come upon. There are going to be unexpected events that occur that will require you to be nimble and to have flexibility — not in a way that takes you off of your vision, but in a way that requires you to maybe reorder certain steps that you had planned. One very tangible example, at least for Yamaha, would be the unexpected departure of Capital One Financial Corp. as the bank who was providing the credit card program for Yamaha and several others. Yamaha did not, at that time, have plans to change the way we operate our credit card program, and that was thrust upon us unexpectedly. [The bank’s exit] required us — not to move away from our overarching goal and vision for the company — but to change the path we were on in pursuing that vision. This second bit of learning would be to remain flexible because we don’t operate in a static world or environment; things aren’t always predictable.

Yamaha Motor Corp. USA’s booth at the 2016 Progressive International Motorcycle Show in New York. (Photo by William Hoffman)

PF: What do you view as your greatest accomplishment since Yamaha Finance’s launch?

JY: The biggest sense of accomplishment that I’ve had — both personally and professionally — has been developing a team. When I joined, I was employee number two at Yamaha Motor Finance. By the end of 2018, we will have over 130 people within the organization. [It’s great] to see our team come together and to see the culture that we are developing really start to take root. The opportunity … to work in an industry where customers use their discretionary purchasing power to buy your product is a special industry, and when you build a team around that type of customer experience and you start seeing your employees connect with those customer experiences, it’s really neat. That’s the thing I am most proud of, working together with all the other great Yamaha Finance’s employees.

PF: Does Yamaha have any interest in a leasing product?

JY: We don’t generally have an attitude to rule anything out; our attitude is something may not be right for us at the moment and that’s how we characterize leasing. Leasing is not right for us at the moment.

PF: What does Yamaha Finance’s next phase of growth entail?

JY: If you flash back to what has been a fairly brief history for Yamaha Finance — we were one of the only OEMs that had an OEM-supported nonprime program; that was actually our first stepping stone on this path we had mapped out for us. We then proceeded somewhat unexpectedly, but we showed the flexibility of the organization and showed our nimbleness of moving ahead with a different approach to offering our dealers and customers a credit card program unlike what some of our competitors decided to do. As part of our offering, we also made very big emphasis on supporting dealers with used vehicles. We introduced used retail financing as part of that credit card platform, which is always an important part of Yamaha’s sales. Introducing customers to powersports — even a non-Yamaha used purchase — is a way of getting them into our industry, which is an entry point for what could be a future new Yamaha product owner. That’s always been in scope for us.

Photo by Yamaha

Now that we are taking on this next big step with the wholesale transition (though we are not there yet, keep in mind we still have 10 months of work to do in front of us), we will identify areas of growth in each of our products: nonprime, credit card, and now in-house dealer inventory financing. How do we not just launch them but really begin leveraging them and grow the value proposition that Yamaha provides? I think that’s the big key for us.

Dealers are really starting to see for themselves where we are going and the type of value we are creating for them, which really just grows the number of dealers that engage with us. In the foreseeable future, our goal is going to be how to grow off of the building blocks that we put in place over the last couple of years.

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