Prestige Continues Expansion

SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to strong dealership response to its product offerings, Prestige Financial Services said it is continuing to provide innovate offerings in the non-prime through deep subprime auto finance marketplace.

The company's lending territory also continues to expand, and now includes 20 states throughout virtually all regions of the country, according to executives.

For many years, Prestige was known primarily for its pre-discharge Chapter 7 bankruptcy program. In response to market conditions created by recent changes to the bankruptcy law, the company has introduced one of the country's most aggressive non-recourse lending program for pre-discharge Chapter 13 bankruptcies.

This unique resource lets dealerships sell new and late-model vehicles to Chapter 13 petitioners roughly two to six months after the case has been filed.

"As Chapter 13 filings started to rise under the new BK law, we knew we had to get a piece of that business, but couldn't find the right solution," said Jeff Goldberg, finance director at Mike Calvert Toyota in Houston. "Now we're doing 40 to 50 deals a month with Prestige's new Open 13 program, and my per-unit on these beats just about anything I'm getting done elsewhere, bankruptcy or otherwise."

Prestige recently completed a successful $325 million portfolio securitization in which institutional investors purchased notes backed by Prestige's loan contracts, officials said. The company used the transaction proceeds to facilitate further growth.

Despite challenging conditions in the capital markets due to the subprime mortgage ripple effect, Prestige was able to securitize its entire offering with satisfactory pricing and attracted several new investors in the process, officials explained.

"At about the time we were going to market, several of our competitors were struggling with their portfolio securitizations," said Robert Avery, who served for many years as Prestige's chief operating officer and was recently named its chief executive.

"So we were pleased not only to complete our transaction, but to do so at good terms and with the participation of both repeat investors and some new ones," he added.

Founded in 1994 as an affiliate of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Prestige achieved its initial success in the western U.S., primarily in markets where Miller dealerships existed, the company reported.

In subsequent years, Prestige said it has added several major states including Texas, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois, with about two thirds of its current business coming from dealerships outside the Miller organization.

In addition to its bankruptcy loan products, Prestige has gained market share in recent years by broadening its credit spectrum to compete for non-prime paper in the mid-600 score range. The company said it has no minimum credit score or down payment requirements and offers generous advances and low fees, with certain trucks, SUVs and imports receiving additional loan allowances.

And Prestige's Rate Reduction Program, which automatically drops the APR every three months on loans that perform well, assists dealers in closing loans with rate-sensitive customers, officials explained.

"Success breeding success has certainly applied to Prestige's recent history," said Avery. "It seems that the more we focus on strengthening partnerships in our current markets, the more interest we receive from new dealerships in new markets.

"We've never been a lender to sign up every dealer in the auto mall," he continued, "And have built our company by focusing on dealers who are truly committed to the Prestige way of doing subprime. So sometimes we just have to say, ‘No, thanks,' and move on.

"But when we find the right dealership in the right market at the right time, it's always an enthusiastic ‘Yes!' Then we roll up our sleeves and earn their business. The formula's worked so far, and we see it yielding outstanding results going forward," Avery concluded.

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