Channel | Meet the Executive

An Interview with Matt Croak

Wise F&I’s president Matt Croak shares his insights and advice on current challenges facing the automotive finance and insurance industry.
An Interview with Matt Croak

AE Magazine had the opportunity to interview Matt Croak, president of Wise F&I, about the history and developments of his company. Wise F&I is an automotive finance and insurance company located in St. Louis, Missouri.

1. Tell me a little bit about your company and its place in the industry?

Wise F&I has been in the industry for over 25 years. We began as a company that sold a single product, which was GAP, and through this process we developed great relationships with agents across the country. Because our prices were competitive, we met state requirements nationally and gave excellent customer service; our clients began requesting that we expand our product offering. We responded to our clients’ suggestions, and today we are one of the primary providers of automotive ancillary products in the marketplace. Our customers include agencies, national lenders and OEMs. Our intention is to always serve our clients by providing them exceptional customer service, innovative technology solutions and industry leadership in order to improve their position in the market.

2. Are there any recent or future developments within your company that you would like to tell us about?

I feel our changes in technology have streamlined our process. We offer online resources through ONWise, our contract administration platform, which includes eContracting, eRemitting and reporting. Through this technology clients have real time access to electronic contract production, remitting payments and additional online resources.

ONWise brings efficiency and accuracy to the contracting process, and through DMS and menu integration we are able to offer our products to more clients.

One of our new products we introduced was WiseCARE, a chemical free appearance care vehicle service contract program. This program is 100% compliant in every state and the coverage benefits include repairs for: paintless dents, cosmetic alloy wheels, windshield and interior and exterior surfaces. Coverage benefits also include emergency roadside assistance with tire road hazard and key replacement.

At Wise F&I, we make the best use of technology to aid in compliance. Our clients are able to manage business transactions in real time, rather than having paper contracts, it is more efficient for them to manage and is more accurate.

Our business is to serve agents, dealers, lenders and OEMs. We do this to the best of our ability and are always looking for ways to better serve our customers. It is our mission to continually strengthen our relationships and be the F&I provider of choice.

3. How did you (personally) get started? What caused you to choose this career path?

My grandfather was the president of American Bankers in the early Seventies (He also served as President of the CCIA). In 1977, he started a business here in St. Louis to be closer to his growing family. At that time, credit insurance was the focus of the business. Later, with a change in company structure, the focus of the business changed to offering GAP to the automotive industry.

When I was in high school, I did internships here in the family business. After college, I worked in automotive sales for dealerships and in the F&I office. I eventually went to the finance side of business with wholesale lending.

Sometime after my grandfather passed away, I learned that my uncle was selling the business. Legacy is very important to me, so in early 2007 I matched an offer to purchase the company and became owner of Wise F&I.

I knew I always belonged in the automotive business. Since becoming the owner of Wise F&I it has been challenging, but also very rewarding. I am excited to see the continued growth and look forward to the years ahead.

4. What are your outside interests/what do you like to do on your days off? What activities/sports are you passionate about?

My family is my top priority. I have a seven-year-old son and an eleven-year-old daughter; both are very involved in sports. As a family, we also enjoy going to Lake of the Ozarks. It is about a two-hour drive from our home. While we are there, we enjoy powerboating, skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, and various events that are held there.

I also enjoy playing golf, however at this stage in my life I don’t have much time to play.

5. What are the biggest issues you see facing the industry today and in the future?

There are a number of issues facing the industry. One of the primary challenges is regulation, and not just on the state level, but on a federal level too. The CFPB continues to be a challenge to the automotive finance and insurance industry, and anticipating their next move is difficult.

Through our memberships with SCIC, GAPA and MVAPA we stay at the forefront of regulatory and legislative issues. These associations have a proactive role in the industry and by the growing membership count, they are equally important to many other companies in our space.

From an industry perspective, diligence relative to compliance for every party involved in the transaction is paramount. The reality is that if we can be diligent in our compliance practices as an industry, it is less likely that additional regulation will come our way

6. What advice would you give to someone new to this industry?

This is a tremendous industry with ample opportunity. Good character goes a long way, and I think the people in this industry are typically competent judges of good character. Though our industry is nationwide, it is a small industry to some degree. Everyone knows everyone. My advice to someone new in this industry would be to be honest, be transparent, do the right thing and success will follow.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add?

 In this business you have the ability to create great partnerships not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level. Today I can say that some of my best friends are spread across the country and our friendships started out as business relationships. Treat people well and you will be rewarded personally and in business.

 

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