CEO: Ally may offer mortgages, credit cards again
Detroit-based auto lender and bank holding company Ally could return to offering home mortgages or credit cards again, according to the company's new chief said. He said the company also plans to expand auto lending to more customers with less-than-perfect credit.
Jeffrey Brown, who became CEO this month — just weeks after the U.S. Treasury completed its exit from the auto lender as part of its $17.2 billion in bailouts — said in a Detroit News interview Thursday that he wanted to boost growth in auto lending and its retail bank.
In addition, he expects to decide in the next 30 to 60 days whether Ally will move its headquarters to the Detroit suburbs.
The company confirmed in January it was considering consolidating its five locations in Metro Detroit to a single location. Ally has about 700 people working in Detroit, along with 300 at the Southfield Town Center and Galleria in addition to employees in Troy and Auburn Hills. Ideally, Ally would be in one space, Brown said.
"Our desire to consolidate is all in the spirit of having our associate base together, where we believe more collaboration, creativity, idea flow, revenue creation can be worked on together," Brown said. "Wherever we are — whether it's downtown, whether it's Southfield, we're going to have a strong commitment to the southeast Michigan area."
If Ally were to leave the Renaissance Center and Detroit, it would not have the high cost of parking and would not have to pay the city's income tax.
Ally — formerly General Motors Co.'s wholly owned captive finance and mortgage unit GMAC — remains based near its former parent at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.
"It's not really at all about getting out of the RenCen and getting away from GM. We've been very transparent with GM. I've been very direct with them on this point," Brown said.
Ally's new CEO said he expected GM will shift its subsidized leasing program for its Chevrolet brand from Ally to its finance arm, GM Financial. Earlier this month, GM shifted similar leases for its Cadillac, GMC and Buick brands from Ally to GM Financial. That decision has been the subject of some friction between Ally and GM. Then-CEO Michael Carpenter said in January he was upset because Ally can't compete for that business with GM Financial. "What pisses us off is when we don't get the chance to compete" fairly, Carpenter said.
Last week, GM North America President Alan Batey declined to confirm the plan to shift the Chevrolet leasing business to GM Financial.
Brown said Thursday, "If the dealer community gets unhappy, they will clearly make noise and elevate that to the manufacturer — and could there be a reconsideration at some point in the future? Who knows? We're not going to hold grudges. We're going to work with them."
He said the Chevrolet business accounts for about $4.1 billion in leasing business, but he said he would look to expand to other areas including more customers with less than perfect credit — non-prime buyers with 580 to 620 credit scores, for example.
"We probably didn't take enough risk the past couple of years," he said. He said Ally didn't want to expand lending to those with the worst credit scores. "We're not going after the deep, deep subprime borrower."
Ally's nonprime lending was about 9 percent of its lending at the end of last year. Brown would eventually like it to grow to 12 to 15 percent of lending.
Ally has 4 million lease and loan auto customers. It services 17,000 auto dealers and has 900,000 deposit holders at its Ally Bank with $48 billion in deposits. Brown says he'd like to look at ways to offer more services — like bank accounts for its customers with auto loans. He said Ally could one day expand banking offerings to home mortgages, credit cards and other personal lending.
"We're open to exploration in the future ... but we're going to stick to our strengths — and our strengths are we do auto lending very well," Brown said.
Ally has the capability to originate mortgages today. "It's basically turned off," Brown said, adding that Ally has been buying some previously issued mortgages to add to its balance sheet.
Brown most recently was president and CEO of Ally's Dealer Financial Services business. He said he was first contacted by Carpenter and two board members a year or so ago, and asked if he was interested in eventually becoming CEO. But he acknowledged that the decision to put him in charge "came together very quickly."
Ally became the last company to face pay restrictions imposed by the Treasury Department for companies that received large bailouts. Those expired when Treasury exited the company in December. Brown said the exit wasn't going to prompt a major rethinking of its pay structure.
Brown says he didn't think the pay restrictions hindered Ally. "I haven't reached out to make any big changes to (compensation) structure," he said.