Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007, 07:00 PM UPDATED 11:59 AMBy Nick Zulovich
SALT LAKE CITY — After more than a decade of growth and strong portfolio results as a regional niche auto lender, Prestige Financial Services announced it is going national. The company said it specializes in high non-prime through the deep subprime lending spectrum.
In the last six months alone, the company said it has signed with franchised stores in North and South Carolina, in addition to Florida and Georgia. Other major markets, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Minnesota, are slated to be included this year.
Based in Salt Lake City, the company was founded in 1994 as an affiliate of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. It achieved initial success in the Western U.S., primarily in markets where Miller dealerships are based. During this time frame, executives said the company was best known for providing loans to consumers with active Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.
"We built an entire department around Prestige's open seven program," explained Rick Totten, special finance manager for Carr Chevrolet in Beaverton, Ore. "And it's been exciting through the years to grow our business with them, as they've broadened their buying to cover a full range of specialty credit."
By 2004, Prestige said it had completed extensive preparation throughout all areas of its business operations and was ready to pull the trigger and enter Texas. This effectively doubled the customer and dealership base of the company's existing lender territory.
A year later, the company decided it was ready to move east of Mississippi and signed on a large dealership group based in Maryland and Virginia.
"Texas was a turning point for us," pointed out Robert Avery, Prestige's chief operating officer.
"Of course, we were always confident that our programs and service were adding real value for our dealerships, but the reception that we received in that fiercely competitive state, from dealers with zero prior knowledge of us, really solidified our sense that, yes, we could do this on a national level and do it successfully," he continued.
While dealers continue to depend on Prestige to open Chapter 7, open Chapter 13 and double bankruptcy financing, the company said it's been gaining momentum throughout the entire subprime spectrum by removing minimum credit scores and down payment requirements from the equation.
Prestige said it also achieved success by offering generous advances, in addition to extended terms and discounted rates on certain SUVs, trucks and imports. The company's Rate Reduction Program, which automatically drops the APR every three months on loans that perform well, also helps dealers to sell more to more rate-sensitive customers with credit challenges.
While the company has kept a low profile in the auto industry, executives said Prestige has caught Wall Street's eye, receiving the highest available ratings from agencies such as Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service.
"In the last several years, investors have become increasingly aware of the Prestige brand name and strong portfolio performance," said John Cho, a managing director with J.P. Morgan Securities.
"Going forward, we see Prestige Financial being regarded as one of the benchmark players in the subprime auto sector," he added.
Avery noted, "From ownership to the capital markets to our mailroom, our entire organization and support structure is energized and ready for this next phase. We're going to help a lot of people get into great cars, with loans that are going to work really well for them. And, we're going to help a lot of dealerships grow their business in the process."
Prestige Arranges $250 Million Paper Warehouse
In late 2006, Prestige announced it arranged a $250 million asset-backed commercial paper warehouse financing facility through J.P. Morgan Securities. Executives said this transaction provides a substantial source of capital to fund the company's growing portfolio of loans, in addition to allowing for expansion.
"Structure and pricing both improved over Prestige's previous financing arrangements," company executives pointed out. "We attribute the favorable terms of this transaction, the largest of its kind in Prestige's 12-year history, to outstanding asset quality and a proven track record in portfolio management."
Moreover, in the summer of 2006, the company added Scot Seagrave as senior vice president of loan origination to lead its national expansion. Seagrave was put in charge of directing marketing and loan product efforts as more states are added.
Seagrave came to Prestige from DriversSelect, which is a dealership group in Texas. As co-founder and executive vice president of this company, he managed all finance operations and lender relationships, increasing the company's employees to 200 and surpassing annual sales of $50 million in less than three years, Prestige executives highlighted.
"Anybody in the industry who has worked with Scot knows that he's an extraordinary leader," Avery said when the announcement was made. "In terms of sheer population, we're poised to double our market base during the next 12 months, and Scot has accepted our challenge to help us get there successfully."
More on Prestige:
—Gross revenue grew 53.9 percent in 2005
—The states it currently does business in includes Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming
—Prestige employees 253
—For more info, visit
—Dealers are invited to call (800) 984-6737 to learn more