As Ally Financial continues its recovery from the financial crisis, longtime Charlotte banker Jeffrey Brown has been tapped for a key role.
Since a promotion in March, Brown, 41, has been heading Ally’s auto finance and insurance business. It’s the first time the head of Ally’s largest segment is based in Charlotte.
Brown, previously the company’s head of finance and corporate planning, will remain based in Charlotte, even though the business he oversees is headquartered in Detroit.
The segment, dealer financial services, made a pretax profit of $413 million in the first quarter, eclipsing the profit of $17 million in its next most profitable segment, mortgage.
Ally is formerly the financing arm of General Motors Corp., which accepted $17.2 billion in a financial crisis bailout. It’s the only auto-related company still in the program. U.S. taxpayers still own about 16 percent of the company’s common shares.
The company’s CEO has said it should be able to exit the bailout by the end of this year. Ally, which went public in April, reports that the Treasury has received a return of about $700 million from its bailout investment in the company.
As it tries to move past crisis-era challenges, Ally has been narrowing its focus in recent years. The company has been cutting expenses, and last year it sold its international operations and exited its mortgage-origination business.
Brown is trying to grow the company’s auto-lending business at a time of intensifying competition in the industry. He is also tasked with helping Ally continue to diversify the manufacturers and dealers with which it does business after Ally’s loss of preferred-lender arrangements with GM and Chrysler within the past year or so.
Such efforts come at a time of increased regulatory scrutiny of the auto-lending industry. Last year, Ally, one of the largest indirect auto lenders in the U.S., agreed to pay $98 million to settle claims that it discriminated against minority borrowers.
Before joining Ally, Brown was treasurer for Bank of America for a year. He served in that role as it bought Merrill Lynch, whose mounting undisclosed losses before the bank’s purchase have been the subject of Bank of America settlements.
Brown, who left in February 2009 to join Ally, had told Bank of America's then chief financial officer that the Merrill losses should have been disclosed before a shareholder vote on the purchase, according to court documents.
Ally employs roughly 800 people in the Charlotte area, where it has had a presence since 2009.
His comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Ballantyne has had a number of our IT, our technology, partners, some compliance folks. And a lot of those people will end up rolling into the uptown (Ally Center) building. We like our corporate centers and the people to be together … where you can have better collaboration.