Santander, SMU share an artistic vision spanning three continents


It is a shared ideal in world-class education, business and art. Less common is a vision that literally links the three – across three continents.

But such a thing now connects Southern Methodist University, Santander Consumer USA of Dallas and art institutions such as SMU’s Meadows Museum and the Prado Museum in Spain.

Photo: SMU’s Meadows Museum with sculpture by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava.

SMU’s Meadows Museum with sculpture by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava.

We at Santander Consumer USA are proud to have played a role in helping SMU and Santander Bank make the connection that has resulted in a study-abroad opportunity for graduate-level SMU art history students in which the bank will provide scholarships to study in Spain or Latin America.

Santander Bank, which is based in Boston, MA, and Santander Consumer USA both are business units of global banking giant Banco Santander, which has a very strong worldwide universities program.

As a graduate of SMU, I can attest to the rewarding educational experience and the wonderful opportunities that students can participate in at the university. Study abroad programs give students the opportunity to discover themselves, while experiencing different styles of education. They also learn about new cultures and countries that broaden their perspective of the world.

The funding will support classes such as those taught by Dr. Beatriz Balanta which recently included a trip to Brazil to visit galleries, museums, art studios and artists gatherings.

Photo: Signing ceremony in Jones Great Hall at SMU’s Meadows Museum.

Signing ceremony in Jones Great Hall at SMU’s Meadows Museum.

Southern Methodist University is the optimal place for Santander to establish a universities program in Texas with its renowned art history program and the stunning Meadows Museum, which houses the most extensive collection of Spanish art outside of Spain, and its location in a city which is known for its culture of philanthropy and financial support for the arts.

Likewise, Santander has long valued the important role that art and creativity play in our collective history and culture. Indeed, the Santander global headquarters outside Madrid houses its own museum – The Santander Collection – with more than 1,000 works of art.

Given that SMU was an early leader in understanding the importance of Spanish art history, I have no doubt that the partnership between SMU and Santander is destined for success.

Such a shared vision deserves nothing less.

Customer satisfaction at the heart of ‘virtuous circle’ at Santander

060515 TD Customer satisfaction at the heart of virtuous circle at Santander_1The virtuous circle.

That is how Ana Botín, Banco Santander executive chairman, has described the four steps of driving business forward and generating “sustainable growth.”

It is an idea worth sharing with businesses large and small and considering further in some detail.

That virtuous circle, according to Botín, comprises the relationships Banco Santander – and its business units, including Santander Consumer USA of Dallas and Santander Bank, NA, headquartered in Boston – has with “our team, our customers, our shareholders and the communities that we serve.”

060515 TD Customer satisfaction at the heart of virtuous circle at

Ana Botín, executive chairman, believes in a ‘virtuous circle’ at Santander.

“If our team feels motivated, engaged and rewarded, they will go the extra mile for customers,” Botín said. “If our customers get excellent service, and feel we are on their side, they will use our services more and buy more products. If that happens, our profits and returns will rise, shareholders will stick with us – and hopefully invest more in us. [And] this will help us do more to support our local communities, which will strengthen our team’s pride in the business.”

“And then the virtuous circle begins again,” she said, emphasizing the ongoing process.

That sounds a lot like SCUSA’s mission statement and objective “to be recognized as a highly respected originator and servicer that delivers specialized solutions to consumers across the full credit spectrum while providing exceptional service, responsibly managing risk and fulfilling our responsibilities to stakeholders: associates, customers, investors and shareholders.”

There is more. Our website describes SCUSA’s commitments to our people, respect, excellence, service to customers and community, performance, fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurial spirit.

We at SCUSA are always seeking ways to motivate, engage and reward our associates so they will go the extra mile for their customers – external and internal – because we know that a satisfied customer means the relationship is likely to flourish over the long term. That philosophy has enabled us to grow from a startup to a leading U.S. consumer lender during almost 20 years in business.

It is the embodiment of the virtuous circle described by Botín.

Santander Consumer USA aspiring to create brand-loyal customers


Toyota top auto brand.

Strong customer brand loyalty is the holy grail of marketing.

Some companies have it figured out. Others are, well, still working on it. Indeed, even those that have high brand loyalty must continue to work on it – or run the risk of becoming yesterday’s news.

Because Santander Consumer USA is a big company – and a business unit of global banking leader Banco Santander of Spain – we notice things like customer loyalty to top brands. That includes brands such as Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft, which boast the strongest loyalty worldwide, according to Interbrand global marketing consultants’ annual list of the 100 most valuable brands.

And because we are primarily an auto lender, we particularly notice brand loyalty in the automotive industry, such as No. 8 on this year’s list, Toyota, the highest ranking automobile manufacturer.

Other companies from the auto industry and their rankings are: Mercedes-Benz (10), BMW (11), Honda (20), Volkswagen (31), Ford (39), Hyundai (40), Audi (45), Nissan (56), Porsche (60), Kia (74), Chevrolet (82) and Land Rover (91), all of which, except Honda, improved their rankings from 2013.

(Meanwhile, our parent company, Santander, came in No. 75 in Interbrand’s worldwide ranking.)

And how does Toyota inspire brand loyalty among its customers?

“By balancing passion for performance with a love for the planet – and by treating customers like guests,” said Jack Hollis, Toyota Motor Sales’ vice president of marketing, in an Interbrand interview. “Brand leadership is a measure of relationship and loyalty between a company and its guest. How you build that personal relationship and how strong it is determines customer loyalty.”

An example of what drives Toyota’s brand loyalty is a ranking of 15 new car models that are both reliable and affordable, which appear on our SCUSA corporate blog. Two thirds of those almost worry-free vehicles, 10 in all, are Toyota products, which includes Lexus. Three others are products of Honda, which held fast at No. 20 in the Interbrand rankings.

Of course, Santander Consumer USA cannot aspire to the global rankings because we are not global.

But, as part of a company that does make the top 100, we aspire to nothing less than creating loyal customers for our indirect Santander Auto Finance and direct RoadLoans auto finance brands.

“We will do what is necessary to achieve more-stable, more-lasting relationships with the customer,” Ana Botín, chairwoman of Banco Santander said recently, then added, “The best measure of success is when, in every country where we are present, our customers recommend us.”

That’s an aspiration and a measure of success that every company can have – large or small.

Elon Musk, Tesla making auto industry think about its business model

TeslaLove him or not, Elon Musk continues to give everyone in the auto industry reason to think about the way they do business.

Hardly a week goes by without some development related to Musk’s car company, Tesla Motors. And that’s two years after the first deliveries of Tesla’s revolutionary electric vehicle, the Model S.

The founder and CEO of Tesla, Musk “is exerting an inordinate influence over the auto industry,” according to Automotive News. His cars have altered the perception of electric vehicles, and sales success in the premium segment is “reshaping the conversation about the customer experience.”

“But he is creating the biggest waves in the area of factory-dealer relations,” reported Automotive News a few days ago in a story headlined, “Musk makes auto industry rethink basic assumptions.”

AutoTrader suggested simply, “Tesla is turning the car sales model on its head.”

In state after state, said the Automotive News article, Tesla’s attempt to sell cars from its factory-owned stores and online directly to consumers has generated debate over the merits of the dealer franchise system and the laws that protect dealers from automakers.

Two recent examples are Tesla’s victory in New York State that allows it to continue selling from its five stores there, and the turning tide in New Jersey, where Tesla wants to open stores.

But dealerships also are coming to understand the new sales environment in which customer experience and service are at or near the top of vehicle purchaser’s priorities when choosing where to buy.

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) approached the discussion head on with results of a recent study suggesting several benefits franchised auto dealers deliver:

Fiercely competing for shoppers’ business and drive consumer prices down.

Taking the side of consumers in warranty and safety recalls.

Creating good-paying local jobs and significant tax revenue for communities in which they’re located.

Simplifying the complex car-buying experience for shoppers.

Of course, Santander Consumer USA and our brands Santander Auto Finance and RoadLoans have an interest in any significant development in the vehicle sales arena, because the ripples could affect our business with around 14,000 auto dealerships nationwide.

But the main lesson from Tesla’s activities is that the automotive industry – any industry, really – cannot afford to stand still in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

And, right or wrong, thinking such as Musk’s is notable for pushing the envelope.

Car shoppers’ mistaken perceptions getting in the way of business?

car shoppersWhat car shoppers think about the car-buying process is important to both dealerships and finance companies such as Santander Consumer USA.

That is especially true if those car shoppers have misperceptions that could hurt business.

What is abundantly clear in the 2014 TrueCar Buyer Study commissioned by TrueCar Inc., the negotiation-free, buying-and-selling platform, is that dealerships suffer from a “trust gap” with respect to the amount of profit they earn on vehicle sales. In other words, car shoppers think dealerships make a lot more money than they actually do on the sale of each vehicle – about five times more.

What’s also interesting about the study findings is that car shoppers apparently would be willing to pay more than dealers currently are making in profit if shoppers’ perceptions matched reality.

The study says consumers believe dealers make about 20 percent profit ($6,000) on the sale of a $30,000 new car when, in reality, new car profit margins were only about 3.8 percent ($1,140) in 2013, down from 5.5 percent a decade earlier, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

That profit margin is a lot less than the 10-12 percent consumers would consider fair.

Consumers actually would be willing to “tip” dealers around 8 percent ($2,400) – double what they are profiting currently – if the dealership made nothing on a transaction, according to the TrueCar study.

“The TrueCar Buyer Study results show that fear and mistrust have a cost in the car-buying process,” said Scott Painter, TrueCar founder and CEO, in assessing the survey results.

“The survey showed that roughly 26 percent of car buyers feel that they overpaid for their purchase and that 32 percent stated that they would not return to the same dealership due to low customer satisfaction with the purchase process,” reported TrueCar.

This data is of interest to Santander Consumer USA, as the company has relationships with nearly 14,000 dealerships nationally.

Fortunately, there is the possibility of changing perception, as noted by TrueCar’s Painter.

“If consumers believed that they were getting information that they could trust as part of a more transparent process, they would be willing to pay dealers more,” said Painter. “These survey results are consistent with the idea that increased transparency in the car-buying process can result in higher margins for dealers and greater consumer satisfaction – everyone wins.”

The study surveyed more than 3,000 consumers across the country.

SCUSA Summer Internship Program Offers Valuable Experience

Tom DundonReal world business experience.

It’s the thing many college students lack when they graduate – the thing that, for prospective employers such as Santander Consumer USA (SCUSA), sets apart those who have experience.

Especially when employers are as large as SCUSA (with about 4,000 associates in several locations).

Santander Consumer USA recognizes the value of college students getting that experience. The company is in its second year of providing a robust summer internship program experience to a select group of students, who have the opportunity to demonstrate their value as possible future employees of our company and others in Dallas and beyond.

The 2014 SCUSA summer intern program is comprised of 42 students from 11 schools. Some interns come from campuses as near as SMU, the University of Texas at Dallas and University of North Texas and as far away as the universities of Arizona, Illinois and DePaul (in Chicago). That’s more than three times as many students as participated last year, some of which were hired at SCUSA after they graduated.

The interns, who began their 12 weeks of paid work experience in May, are working hard on assignments in more than a dozen departments from information technology and decision science to human resources, marketing and corporate engagement.

And, as one intern said, the work is challenging.

“If there’s one thing that’s surprised me so far in my SCUSA internship experience, it’s how quickly I’ve been able to produce meaningful work,” said that student, a marketing/communications intern.

Students interested in next summer’s opportunity should review our Career Center website, Division of Opportunities, which provides a description of the experience:

“In a fast-paced environment like ours, anything is possible and the expectations are high. But if you’re the type of person who sees possibilities where others see obstacles, your potential for success is almost endless. Build your career at SCUSA and do more with your talent than you ever thought possible.”

Taking inspiration from soccer’s World Cup in Brazil

World Cup Trophy - Tom Dundon

Players hold aloft the FIFA World Cup trophy.

The whole world is watching.

No more popular – or competitive – sport exists on the planet than soccer, and the peak of that competition and achievement is the World Cup.

Known as “the beautiful game,” soccer, or fútbol, is an inspiration to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Whether you play the game or watch it on television or couldn’t care less, soccer’s premier event can teach us a lot about the singular focus it takes to be world class.

It’s a lot like one of my favorite sports, basketball, which, at its best, also can command the world stage.

A dozen matches already have occurred in Brazil, host nation of this year’s World Cup, but today the U.S. men’s national team faces its first challenge, Ghana, in Estádio das Dunas in Natal.

The United States isn’t expected to go very far in a “Group of Death” that also comprises European powers Portugal and Germany – the latter is considered by many to be a potential winner of the tournament – but that didn’t stop the 23 members of the squad from fighting hard for their spots. And how they finish the tournament doesn’t diminish their world-class status as players.

That’s what this blog post really is about: dedicating oneself to working hard, regardless of the odds, for something in which you believe in order to achieve a world-class level of team performance.

We at Santander Consumer USA have a good perspective on what it takes to perform at a high level.

Our parent company, Santander Group, is based in Spain, home of the defending World Cup champions, and it does business in some 40 countries, including host nation Brazil. More than half the teams in the tournament represent countries in which Santander Group operates.

Members of the 32 national teams must function at the highest level over four-plus weeks to achieve the pinnacle of the world’s game, the World Cup final on Sunday, July 13, at the fabled Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro. And then fight once more to take home the familiar gold World Cup trophy.

Is it really so different in aspects of your own life – whether that’s as a parent, a professional, an amateur athlete or weekend warrior? The ultimate achievement may not be the Maracanã, but each day provides another opportunity to strive to be the best.

The whole world may not be watching, but that doesn’t make the effort less worthwhile.

The lessons we’ve relearned from this year’s auto recalls

recallAs the chief executive of an auto finance company, Santander Consumer USA, I took notice when I heard about the recall of millions of General Motors vehicles.

But GM is not alone.

Toyota has recalled about three million vehicles, and other major automakers have elected to recall vehicles as well. In fact, “the auto industry has already recalled almost as many vehicles as it did in all of last year and is on track to break the 30.8-million record set in 2004,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Interestingly, the spate of recalls has not stopped shoppers from buying more new vehicles than they have in years, with sales on track to top 16 million for the year.

Everyone in the auto industry and beyond can learn from the automakers and create a positive outcome.

Here are some insights from the recent wave of recalls:

–          No detail of product or service can be overlooked – Recalls this year have involved issues from faulty ignition switches that are only 1.6 millimeters less “springy” than they should be to faulty seat belts, gearshift cables and generator fasteners.

–          The quicker you deal with a major business issue, the sooner you can move on.

–          Accepting anything but excellence is not a good idea – Failing to achieve high standards can affect businesses where it hurts the most, the bottom line.

–          The customer comes first, even if you have a lot of them – Business is based on relationships, whether that involves one or millions of customers.

Our mission at Santander Consumer USA is to provide best-in-class service to our customers, which means we strive daily to embrace such principles, whether that’s in our direct-to-consumer finance program – RoadLoans – or indirectly through our Santander Auto Finance and Chrysler Capital brands.

We may never be perfect, but we will always strive to achieve that standard.


Topgolf has successful opening in The Colony


Topgolf opening in The Colony.

Six months ago the Topgolf entertainment center had its grand opening in The Colony, TX. That location has experienced great success.

Nearly 200,000 people have enjoyed hitting off the tee boxes and socializing in other parts of the facility, exceeding performance expectations for the entertainment center. The company, which also operates Dallas and Allen locations, will open its 13th center by mid-June.

Here are some other interesting facts about the Topgolf location in The Colony as of mid-May:

  • The system includes about a quarter-million golf balls.
  • Visitors have struck approximately 11 million balls.
  • Nearly 700,000 games have been played.
  • Repeat customers represent about 60 percent of visitors.
  • There are 450 associates, among 3,400 worldwide.

“If God is a golfer,” wrote Alan Peppard on The Dallas Morning News GuideLive blog after the opening, “then the new Topgolf facility in The Colony is his megachurch.”

“The massive complex features 102 climate-controlled hitting bays on three floors, a restaurant and bar, 225 flat screens and a rooftop terrace with a stage,” wrote Peppard. Golfers hit their computer-tagged balls at large target areas. The electronic system tracks scores digitally and sends back real-time results, even to a phone app, for seven different games with names such as TopScramble, TopShot and TopPressure.

Topgolf also has gotten a lot of media coverage.

If you want to read more of Peppard’s coverage, which includes people such as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, professional golfer Hunter Mahan and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, you still can find it online. And you can read my previous post, “Golf Digest, D Magazine, PGA recognize Topgolf,” on the blog (

The location in The Colony also has generated positive reviews on online sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, with results in the 4- to 5-star range (out of five) and great comments.

“I’ve been here a couple times and regardless of my ‘lack of game,’ I always have a blast here,” wrote a typical Yelp reviewer who conceded he wasn’t “into the golf part of Topgolf.”

“If I could copy and paste [The Colony location] all over the country, I’d do it,” said Zach Shor, Topgolf’s real estate director. “I’m in 40 markets, and they are atypical.”


We Are Santander week embraces spirit of success


Shooting the Santander week video.

The first week of June is always a big deal around Santander Consumer USA.

Previously known as “Santander Is You” week, this year’s “We Are Santander” events, scheduled June 2-6, are five days during which we will celebrate our ties with thousands of associates around the world.

The week’s events are organized around themes that make Santander Group, headquartered in Santander, Spain, and Santander Consumer USA Inc. of Dallas great places to work – learning and knowledge, commitment to community, recognition as a leading company, an international business profile, and work/life balance for associates.

Those themes lend themselves to a wide range of possibilities for our associates and our company.

Those possibilities include associates approaching their jobs with purpose and an attitude of ownership and professionalism as suggested by guest speaker Michael Hoffman. Those are ideas we should embrace as we strive to deliver best-in-class products and services to our customers.

“We Are Santander” week also will give associates an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to the community by contributing to Blue Jeans Go Green, which turns unwanted denim it into insulation.

And we’ll represent Santander’s international profile by creating, appropriately, a Spanish village with fútbol (soccer) and flamenco dance demonstrations, tapas, and a tomato toss in honor of the La Tomatina Festival – tomato battle – held annually in Buñol, Valencia, Spain.

The SCUSA Source, an internal website, captured the essence of the “We Are Santander” week’s meaning: “Through this event, we support, promote and unite in the success of a global financial group’s unsurpassed achievements. We recognize the importance of our corporate advantages as a key contributor to our success and encourage our associates to celebrate them as well.”

Consistent with that Santander spirit is an enthusiastic video created by our own team for the week.

Like the associates appearing in that video, let’s all make sure that when we look back we’ll remember the first week of June as the one that WAS representative of all things possible at Santander.