For anyone who has the privilege of spending time with Steve Amos, president and CEO, Gulf States Financial Services (GSFS), one thing is clear – integrity is the foundation on which the company is built. “We operate with a very, very strong set of values - whether it’s working with each other, working with a potential customer or with all our policy holders. Our focus is doing the right thing in all our transactions.” says Amos, “It’s important to us as we live our values everyday.”
GSFS is a national company and is the exclusive provider for Toyota in the Gulf States region. In addition to Toyota, they do business with Chevrolet, Kia, Nissan, Honda, Ford, Chrysler and other manufacturers across the U.S. They also provide extensive compliance and sales training for their dealers. GSFS’s basic product offerings are vehicle service contracts, tire and wheel, GAP, prepaid maintenance, lease VSCs, key replacement, etch, and environmental protection.
As one of the few companies in the industry that is active in all vehicle service contract participation programs, GSFS offers retroactive dealer commissions, NCFC, dealer obligor, dealer owned warranty company, as well as dealer owned CFC or ARCS. “We want to be able to be able to provide the dealer the program that is right for them – and not be limited by what we sell,” stated Amos, “so we offer them all.”
On the Horizon
Amos shared several new products they are offering in 2014. In response to the resurgence in leasing, GSFS launched a new VSC at the beginning of the year, specifically designed for lease vehicles. Amos says it has been extremely well received. In addition, they have recently launched a new lifetime powertrain warranty that will be available nationwide. GSFS is also revising all of its used car programs and launching a prepaid maintenance service drive program designed to be sold exclusively on the service drive.
With technology rapidly changing, those changes are affecting the way business is done – changes that Amos sees as very positive. “We are rapidly moving all our dealers to a paperless environment. We don’t have to send them contracts and they don’t have to send them back to us. They can access all the information on our products and pricing online.” Amos says this is a trend he sees continuing in the future as technology rapidly advances.
Amos says dealers are looking more and more for web-based solutions for how they sell cars and ultimately how they offer the finance and insurance products to consumers. “Its something we’ve got to stay ahead of because when you think about what’s changed, just technology-wise in the last ten years, it is like night and day. Cars are going to be sold on the Internet and F&I products will be sold there, too. We have to ensure our field teams can teach, train and work with dealers so that it becomes an integral part of their business. The real issues challenging everybody are how to present products online, maintain profitability, maintain customer satisfaction and protect the integrity of the sale.”
Executive by Day, Race Car Driver by Night
When Amos is not working, you won’t find him sitting home watching TV. “On days off, I occasionally play a little golf,” says Amos, “but most of the time I’m not working, I spend at the race track.” Amos, who races cars all over the country, also works as a high speed racing instructor for BMW of America, Porsche of America as well as a private race school based out of Texas. “It keeps me busy, but is a good, relaxing way to spend a weekend and get away from the pressures at work.”
Amos says racing is addictive and he got hooked on racing in high school, while living in Europe. “Sports car racing in Europe is like the NFL is here. I got hooked going to the LeMans races and Nurburgring Races and have been in and out of racing most of my life. Ever since I was a little boy, I have always loved cars.”
Growing up with a father in the Air Force, Amos lived all over the world – Alaska, Germany, and the Mojave Desert to name a few places. He graduated from high school in Germany, and moved back to his birthplace of Texas to attend college. Amos describes being an Air Force kid as a good life. He enjoyed living on Air Force Bases and says that it gave him a complete appreciation for the military.
After college, Amos says he was one of the few college grads who went to work selling cars. “I started out selling Pontiacs in Dallas, Texas, and eventually was promoted up to a general manager/ managing partner of a Toyota dealership.” Then all of a sudden, he found himself married with two young sons and wanting more time with them than the retail business allowed, where he regularly worked nights and weekends. “I went on a mission to solve the family issue and I wound up being very fortunate getting in the insurance business and the service contract industry. It was kind of interesting though - soon I found myself traveling 80% of the time, so I was actually gone more - but I was home on weekends and holidays so I felt like it was a fair trade off.” After being in the insurance business for over 20 years, Amos says he never really minded the travel, but now he does not have to do it nearly as much.
A Look at Tomorrow
As he looks at the future of the industry, Amos says the compliance world is here to stay and GSFS thrives on that fact. “There are a lot of unknowns as to what the CFPB is going to do in the years to come and how they are going to regulate things. That’s why our culture is so important to us.” Amos says that GSFS’s goal is to ensure their dealer clients are well in tune with what they need to be doing to be compliant and ethical. Over the years, he says they have learned that if you do those things, you can be very, very successful. “The consumer recognizes and appreciates integrity the moment you sit down to complete an automobile transaction with them. The CFPB, will make us all better at what we do. It won’t affect the people who are transacting business the right way but it will expose those who don’t.”
Amos says that their competitors are also competing on the highest level of integrity. “It’s just a reminder to keep doing what you have done. I could go on and on about all the stuff the CFPB has done but if you think about it, the fact is, their name is Consumer Financial Protection - their interest is in protecting the consumer! And at GSFS, our philosophy is that we have products that are very easily sold and are very easily bought. They provide customers coverage they need when they really need it – so we are in favor of that.”
What advice would Amos give to someone new to the industry? If you get in the industry, stay in it, because it is exciting! “I think the next ten years are probably going to be the most exciting ten years ever in the car business. It is not going to be just the same old thing year after year. There is going to be constant change and constant innovation. Manufacturers are building the most beautiful, well-manufactured cars that they have ever built. You simply need to work hard, keep learning and above all, maintain the utmost integrity in everything you do.”