Ajit Nalla, chief risk officer at Chase Auto, surrounds himself with a team he can learn from daily.
Nalla took on the chief risk officer role of the bank’s auto arm in September 2021, just as the lender was experiencing near record-high origination volume in the third quarter. For full year 2021, Chase Auto’s origination volume increased 14% year over year to $43.6 billion.
Along with high origination volume, the lender posted low net charge-offs in Q4 2021, clocking in 0.12%, an increase of 10 basis points (bps) sequentially but down 3 bps YoY.
Auto Finance News spoke with Nalla, who will sit down for a fireside chat at the Auto Finance Risk Summit on Tuesday, April 26, about his transition as chief risk officer after more than 15 years at JPMorgan Chase, his greatest influences and foreseeable changes in the auto lending space amid the changing economic landscape.
Auto Finance Excellence: What are your company goals in about 10 words or less?
Ajit Nalla: Help people access vehicles and support the dealers and manufacturers who provide them.
AFE: What is your favorite piece of leadership advice you’ve received?
AN: Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. It is about getting comfortable with your own self and not worrying about being outsmarted by a team member. It’s important to hire talented people and lead them through empowerment and with empathy.
AFE: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
AN: People closest to me have all been a constant influence in helping shape my career, be it my parents, family, teachers, friends, colleagues and managers. It is healthy to have influences, but at the end what matters most is how you take their advice and turn it into something important and applicable to you. Outside of those close to me, Sachin Tendulkar, a retired Indian cricketer, has been influential for me. He is extremely talented but super humble, and constantly strove to evolve and take things to the next level without getting distracted from his chosen path. I admire that about him.
AFE: What do you think is the most underrated lending trend?
AN: Recently, the global pandemic and more people working from home has resulted in a lesser need for families to own multiple cars. Also, the slowdown of new car manufacturing due to chip shortages resulted in increased prices for used cars, further incentivizing consumers to sell one of their cars. These changes could reset the auto lending landscape going forward and will require the industry to recalibrate.
AFE: What’s something your employees would be surprised to learn about you?
AN: I have spent a significant portion of my career in consumer risk management and people get very surprised to hear that I bought my first car on eBay. When I was a research assistant in my graduate school, I had enough savings to buy my first car. I researched eBay listings, found a car that I liked, bid on it and ended up buying it. It ended up being a good experience as I had the car for eight years.
Auto Finance Risk Summit, the premier event for risk and compliance management in auto finance, returns April 25-26 in San Diego. This event is the central resource for education and networking focused on best practices in risk management and will prepare your team for the dynamics of the evolving auto finance market. To learn more about the 2022 event and register, visit www.AutoFinanceRiskSummit.com.