April 23, 2007 – Industry Leader: Gregory Pierce, GE Money

Gregory Pierce has been at the forefront as GE Money has not only made strides in building a more high profile and deeper OEM portfolio, but also in servicing its dealers.
Pierce, vice president and general manager of the GE Money’s powersports division, made the move to double the division’s inside and outside sales force last year. Part of the reasoning behind adding the additional staff was to allow more one-on-one training at dealerships.
GE Money also has deepened its OEM relationships by signing several high-profile manufacturers last year, including Victory.
Adding to its 2006 highlights was the formation of a dealer advisory group and continued emphasis on technology, bolstering its online program, AdvanceDesk.

What’s the biggest challenge for the industry and what should be done about it?

“We need to change some of the view (that the powersports vehicle) is just a leisure product and a want product, and try to get a little more of the emphasis around the utility component so that in down-cycle economies there is still predictable and sustainable growth. To do that, in my opinion, means to continue to support and emphasize the utility components of the industry. That would be (two-wheelers’) gas consumption vs. automobiles and the utility component around ATVs and side-by-sides, like plowing your driveway. I really think moving a little bit more of the market view from being just sport and leisure — not to compromise that factor but to expand additional utility views of the business — will help in cycles of the economy where discretionary income might not be as robust as it has been historically. We’re here to support that. By no means do we think we’re out in front of that. We’re here to support those types of initiation in any way we can.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your current position, and what you have done to deal with it?

The biggest challenge also is one of our advantages — that we have built a team of enthusiasts. Most of us own the product and as consumers enjoy this space. So the passion that comes with that has been a plus. Having said that, there’s the need to make sure I don’t have our team spending all their time at shows, and ensuring they balance their life, particularly balancing family with work. For me, it’s making sure the passion and the enthusiasm for this sector within my team doesn’t get the best of us in the sense of spending every weekend attending various trade shows and consumer events — Daytona, Sturgis, Myrtle Beach — and making sure we maintain a balance. To do that, I’ve really tried to send a message that when there are slow times, like on Mondays and Tuesdays, people can work from home after doing a weekend at a trade show. Or if you do come in the office, make sure that you rebalance yourselves and have a good balance of work and family. I’m not in a problem state with that, but I have to be very sensitive to it.

What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?

Stay committed. We’re going through a time in the industry where growth in aggregate has not been what it has been historically. What that means is manufacturers, dealers and vendor partners like ourselves are all looking at our businesses and seeing it’s not the same as in years past. In a bull market, you don’t flush out those who are not committed because the market is growing, manufacturers are moving product, dealers are making good margin and vendor profits are supporting them and making their objectives. But in a slower economy, which is kind of driven by the housing market, now is the time for manufacturers, dealers and vendor partners alike to really look each other in the eye and find out who is committed during these cycles. We are committed. We have the scale to weather all types of cycles and be committed as well. We’re committed to this industry because we have a diverse product set of not only consumer financing, but also floor plan financing, franchise financing and warranty services. You see through our recent Lemco franchise finance transaction, our Honda renewal for GE Money and we’re about to announce a major manufacturer, those are putting your money where your mouth is and showing the market that GE is committed to this industry in all types of cycles.

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