- Auto loans a staple since credit union’s 1961 founding.
- New structure opens up more capital investment opportunities.
- Autoland plans to expand beyond West Coast.
An auto loan portfolio worth $463 million and vehicle lending as a core product for more than 50 years were factors that put Mission Federal Credit Union ahead of the pack during the bidding process for Autoland Inc.
The $2.3 billion credit union in San Diego, which has offered auto loans since its founding in 1961, covers a wide swath, serving more than 160,000 members through 23 branches, making it the second largest cooperative in the county.
Its Golden State roots were probably also an ideal characteristic when bids were placed on the table to purchase Autoland, an auto buying service CUSO in Chatsworth, Calif., once co-owned by the defunct Telesis Community Credit Union. Proximity-wise, it’s a roughly two and a half hour drive between Autoland and Mission Federal.
When the news came on July 10 that Autoland, which had been operating under the NCUA’s control since last March, had been purchased by Mission Federal, the overall response from the CUSO’s more than 250 credit unions clients was positive.
“We knew from our own experience that Autoland and Mission Fed share a successful history and philosophy,” said Debra Schwartz, president/CEO of Mission Federal. “Our shared focus on member service and very strategic business models position us both for future growth.”
Schwartz said that while the contract prevents her from discussing the bidding process details, she was very pleased with the results. In the end, Mission Federal rose to the top among the CUSO’s bidders submitting the highest and best bid, according to John Fairbanks, NCUA public affairs specialist. However, he said no special accommodations were provided to the credit union regarding the transaction.
“Selling an operating business is a complicated matter, and NCUA worked with Mission during the closing process to make sure all requirements were met,” Fairbanks said, adding the agency had conversations with several interested parties during its tenure as liquidating agent.
Formed in 1971, Autoland became a credit union-owned entity in 2007 through Telesis and two other California cooperatives, the $3.2 billion Kinecta Federal Credit Union in Manhattan Beach, and the $28 million California Agribusiness Credit Union in Buena Park, through CU Vehicles LLC, a holding company owned by the credit unions.
Mission Federal bought the 94% share of CU Vehicles that was once owned by Telesis, said Jeff Martin, president of Autoland. Kinecta and California Agribusiness have the remaining 6% portion. Prior to the recent sale, Telesis purchased Autoland in 2007 and subsequently sold minor interests, retaining a controlling interest, according to the NCUA.
Schwartz said Mission Federal didn’t walk into the bidding arena with blinders on.
“We are always looking for opportunities to serve our members, as do all of us in the credit union movement,” she explained. “We base all of our decisions on what’s best for our membership, and with very thorough and thoughtful research.”
Autoland currently serves credit unions primarily in California, Oregon and Washington, Martin said. Acting as a loan delivery channel to drive loans to the credit unions by helping their members, Autoland’s total sales in 2012 were more than $119.7 million and loans to credit unions surpassed the $98 million mark, according to Martin. More than eight out of 10 members served by the CUSO got their loan at a credit union.
The focus now will be on growth with special attention on enhancing service through Mission Federal’s resources in the technology channel, Schwartz said. Because the credit union and Autoland make positive auto buying experiences a priority, they will continue on that track, she added.
Indeed, Autoland is prepping to expand by going East, Martin said. First on the list is serving credit unions in Arizona and Colorado. Another potential step may involve some capital investments – an area that sort of stalled under Telesis’s management, Martin said.
What won’t change as a result of Mission Federal’s ownership is any shakeups within Autoland’s management or personnel ranks, said Martin who noted that it was an important condition.
“The good news is we’re plug and play. One of the benefits we get from Mission Fed is it will allow us to grow significantly, more so than when we were the NCUA,” Martin said.
Still, Martin emphasized that the relationship with staff from the NCUA’s Asset Management Assistance Center since Telesis was placed in conservatorship in March 2012 was a strong one. Schwartz agreed saying the entire purchase experience was positive.
“From the first day I met with NCUA, they told us it will be ‘business as usual.’ We know that their goal is to manage a business so that is attractive enough not to liquidate,” Martin said.
If the NCUA conserves a credit union, there is typically no change in the relationship between the CUSO and the conserved credit union because regulator’s goal is typically to return the credit union to good standing and return it to its members with no interruption of service, the agency has said. Those services are often provided by CUSOs.
If a credit union liquidates, whatever its interest was with the CUSO becomes part of that credit union’s estate. If the CUSO or others do not buy that liquidated credit union’s shares of the CUSO back, the credit union’s interest in the CUSO goes with the credit union’s other assets to the NCUA’s Asset Management Assistance Center with that credit union’s estate.
Meanwhile, Mission Federal is ready to build on its alliance with Autoland
“This is a first in Mission Federal’s history, and represents a tremendous step forward for both Mission Federal and Autoland,” Schwartz said.