A financial partner to help build your dealership’s value

Industry expertise

A Q&A with Jason W. Smith, Head of Truist Dealer Commercial Services.


Smith is a 25-year veteran in the financial services industry, supporting auto dealers across the U.S. with strategic advice and solutions they need to navigate a changing industry landscape and reach their business goals.

How do you want to see Truist work with dealer clients?

Auto retailers need to navigate fluctuations in the economy while staying on top of complex financial and capital structure issues, including financing for their operations and their customers, digital payments, cybersecurity, M&A, and the overlap between their business finances and personal wealth. Auto dealers are a backbone of the economy. They create jobs, are highly philanthropic by nature, and are mainstays of their communities, with many going back across multiple generations. Our Truist Dealer Commercial Services team aims to bring insightful financial and business advice to support their success on all these fronts. 

How do you want your team to create business value for dealers?

We want to deeply engage with our dealer clients and create relationships that are holistic and collaborative rather than sales-driven and transactional. That requires us to start with an extremely thorough understanding of each client and their vision for the business. That’s the grounding we need in order to add real, ongoing value with our team approach and financial advice. And we do so by bringing clients fresh ideas and solutions that anticipate their needs.

Our team shows up on day one seeking a deep understanding of your dealership organization and its strategy, goals, and objectives. We’re highly inquisitive—we ask a lot of questions and explore a number of topics to be sure we understand any challenges you may have and where you want to take the business. Perhaps you want to scale your organization, or maybe it’s time to develop the next generation of your family or managers to run the business. Or maybe you like the size of your business as it stands, and you don't aspire to scale and grow. If that’s the case, we want to help you be as effective as you can, every day. We want to meet dealers where they are and support them there. Above all, we aim to bring a highly customized and personal approach to each of our client relationships. 

How do you assemble a team that effectively supports the unique needs of auto retailers?

At Truist, our purpose is to inspire and build better lives and communities. That’s something that unites us, and we talk about it a lot and live into it as we serve our auto retailer clients—so that you can in turn serve your customers and your communities. Our team starts by aligning with your goals—that’s the foundation of our relationship. That puts us in a position to provide strategic advice, help you solve challenges you’ll invariably face, and be ready when a business opportunity presents itself. And with a bespoke suite of solutions designed for auto retailing, our team has the tools to deliver what you need to be successful.

Our people are the key. Dealership organizations are complicated businesses with complex operations, financing, risk management, and capital markets needs, which must be woven together with the owners’ personal financial plans. Additionally, dealer organizations often employ multiple family members with succession and active/passive family ownership issues to navigate. Our team understands the operating context that dealers are functioning in every day. It’s the opposite of a one-size fits-all approach, and it lets our teams be truly consultative thought partners to dealers.

How do clients react to your approach?

We recently met with an auto retailer's CEO as well as the CFO, and a couple of members of the next generation. Our team asked them where they want to see the company in the next five to six years. Afterward, the CEO said, "It just feels different with Truist. I currently work with two other financial institutions. Neither of them has asked me piercing questions like you have, and no one's pushing me to think about strategy like your team.” The CFO chimed in and said, “You're the only bank that’s had me meet with a Treasury specialist, a financial risk management specialist, a relationship manager, a corporate finance specialist, a private wealth strategist, and a credit underwriting specialist—all dedicated to the dealer business.” That tells me our approach resonates, and we can help that executive team be confident they have a partner that's looking at their full picture and cares about their business. 

How does your team fit into the broader team of advisory experts most dealers use?

Auto retailing is a highly specialized business, and our clients work with third-party professional advisors such as CPAs and attorneys to make important decisions. We serve dealers best when we have relationships with their full team of advisors and can collaborate with them to act in the dealer’s best interest. That dealership must be the center of the discussion, and its support must be a coordinated effort. It's a team sport. I’ve seen how powerful advisory teams can be when everyone's on the same page, working towards the same goal.

You can't just label yourself a “trusted advisor.” You have to earn it, and it takes a lot of thought and listening and focus to get there. That ethos lets us have the greatest possible impact on our clients’ businesses. 

What is top of mind for dealers these days?

Whatever publication I pick up—the Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, USA Today—the pace of consolidation is front and center. Whether you’re a private dealership business or a public group CEO, the question every dealer is asking is, "Where do I fit in this trend?”

I have two responses:

  • First tell me, what and who do you want to be? What are your goals and objectives? Remember where you’re trying to go and be true to that direction.
  • Whether you are a growth-minded dealer or dream of your grandkids running the business and expanding it tenfold, stay informed on how deals are being structured and closed. If you’re thinking of exiting, you want to understand how the dealer who wants to buy you is going to secure the capital for the purchase. You want to know where other dealers are finding growth, what’s going on with the public groups and private dealerships, and what role family offices and private equity are playing in the automotive sector.

While you don’t have to be a capital markets or finance expert, staying current on the market can help you be more informed as you think about your strategy, see potential blind spots, and be ready if an acquirer shows up with an unsolicited offer. Conversely, if your goal is to expand at rapid pace, having a strong understanding of specialized financing alternatives and solutions is equally as important.

Keeping you updated on the latest trends in the auto retailing industry is just one of the ways we can support dealers. It’s our job to be their eyes and ears and to help them understand these bigger forces at work, so they can do more effective strategic planning, and have the solutions they need to manage day-to-day operations effectively.

Find out how Truist can partner with your dealership.

Ask your Truist Dealer Services relationship manager how Truist can help you stay ahead in the fast-moving business of auto retailing.