NZAI announces new Board, CEO, strategy; eyes growth through car retail finance

Today we have unveiled a new Board, CEO and plans to grow our multi-million dollar retail finance book.

New Zealand Automotive Investments (NZAI) is on a mission to help Kiwis afford great cars, operating throughout New Zealand via two subsidiaries – automotive retail and vehicle finance.

Our automotive retail subsidiary, “2 Cheap Cars”, was founded in 2011 by Eugene Williams and David Sena. In less than a decade they have built one of New Zealand’s largest used car dealerships under the 2 Cheap Cars brand, with 12 dealerships across New Zealand which have sold over 60,000 cars.

NZAI is now focused on the opportunity to leverage our automotive retail business to support the growth of our recently established vehicle finance company, NZ Motor Finance (NZMF).

2 Cheap Cars is responsible for approximately 8 per cent of all used car imports into New Zealand, generating sufficient earnings to grow its vehicle finance company in line with NZAI’s long-term plans for growth.

Approximately a third of 2 Cheap Cars customers require vehicle finance at point of sale based on FY20 statistics, amounting to more than $30 million of financing annually. By offering our own car finance to customers buying their vehicles from 2 Cheap Cars, NZMF can originate its loans with effectively no additional marketing or acquisition costs.

NZAI has appointed an experienced Board of independent directors, and vehicle finance expert David Page as CEO, to provide strong governance, lead the company’s expansion and drive its growth strategy.

Karl Smith, a professional independent director who brings over 40 years of extensive corporate executive and governance experience, was appointed as Board Chair in September last year. His current directorships include – VetNZ Limited, Halls Group Limited (Chair), Hamilton Jet and Forthill Property Limited (Chair). Karl recently came off the Ports of Auckland Board, and has strong shipping and logistics expertise.

Smith has significant experience in taking founder-led or family run companies and helping them grow to the next stage.

“I subscribe to a vision where founder-led or family businesses are looking to evolve and surround themselves with the right people to help them achieve the next phase of growth.

“I hope to offer a smooth transition from a founder-led company to one of the leading used automotive groups in New Zealand.

“There has to be a value creation opportunity underpinning everything, and we certainly have that here with NZAI.”

NZAI has attracted additional talent over the past six months, with Charles Bolt, Michele Kernahan and Tracy Rowsell also joining as Board members. The newly appointed Board brings a breadth and depth of both corporate and industry experience.

David Page was recently appointed as CEO to lead NZAI through its next phase of growth. He comes with over 25 years of asset finance and banking experience, which includes a deep knowledge of consumer, motor vehicle and commercial asset finance.

“I took on this role because, with my unique vehicle and asset finance background, large scale retail operational experience and a family background in the car industry, I believe I have the right skills to complement the founders and lead the implementation of NZAI’s strategic roadmap for growth.

“I was sold on the story of this Kiwi company that’s been growing from scratch and has successfully disrupted a traditional industry, has a clear view of who its customers are and a really focused strategy, leveraging its existing business to potentially become a major player in motor vehicle finance.

“I also see this as a unique time for the industry, as businesses and consumers evolve and support Climate Change targets to reduce emissions. Our model is about sourcing affordable cars for everyday Kiwis. With a growing percentage of our cars now being hybrid electric and electric vehicles, we will play a crucial role in helping Kiwis adapt and secure affordable vehicles that meet the future requirements set by the New Zealand Government. We have already seen our sales of hybrid and electric vehicles almost double in the last 12 months, and for the last five months (September – January) we have averaged over 100 HEV/EV sales per month.”

Co-founder Eugene Williams says he is excited about the growth opportunities ahead for NZAI.

“Access to affordable, high quality vehicles is an essential need in New Zealand. David Sena and I felt Kiwis were paying too much for cars, the majority of which are sourced from Japan. That is why we founded 2 Cheap Cars to disrupt the sector by introducing a high volume, low cost model.

“2 Cheap Cars is vertically integrated from sourcing and buying our vehicles in Japan to point of sale, which gives us greater control over our supply chain, improves vehicle quality, and allows us to achieve lower price points.”

NZAI’s long-term strategy is to leverage its retail business to build a diversified automotive services group, with aspirations to rival the country’s other main used car automotive group, Turners.

“With a new team and sound strategy in place, I am excited and optimistic about what’s ahead for NZAI in the next five years and beyond,” says Williams.

The appointments to the Board and senior management are:

Karl Smith, Chairman
Karl is a professional independent director who has over 40 years’ extensive executive and governance experience. His current directorships include Halls Group Limited (Chair), Hamilton Jet, FortHill Property Limited (Chair) and VetNZ Limited. Karl previously held directorships in Ports of Auckland, Lyttleton Port Company and the Crusaders Franchise Limited. Prior to becoming a professional director, Karl served as Chief Executive Officer of Gough Group Limited and previously held senior executive positions in PDL Holdings, Progressive Enterprises, Crane Group and Citibank N.A. Karl was appointed as Director and Chairman of NZAI in September 2020. Karl holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Canterbury, is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and is a chartered member of the Institute of Directors.

Eugene Williams, Executive Director & Co-founder
Prior to founding 2CC in 2011 with David Sena, Eugene had been a successful small business owner in the education and FMCG sectors. Eugene is responsible for sales and marketing and overall strategy of NZAI. He has been a Director of NZAI since its inception.

David Sena, Executive Director & Co-founder
David founded 2CC in 2011 with Eugene Williams. He is responsible for all procurement and supply chain aspects of the Company including compliance, re-conditioning, and logistics. David was born in Japan and has been influential in developing and maintaining relationships with vehicle suppliers. He has been a Director of NZAI since its inception.

Tracy Rowsell, Director
Tracy is an advisory partner at BDO Auckland, with more than 20 years of experience in providing business advisory and taxation services to a wide array of local and overseas clients. She has provided advice to 2CC since 2012 and has a close understanding and knowledge of the business. Tracy has been a Director of NZAI since December 2020.

Charles Bolt, Independent Director
Charles has a background in corporate law and as a senior executive in a major listed company. Beginning his career in capital markets regulation with the NZX, he then worked for New Zealand law firm Bell Gully before joining Fletcher Building where he most recently held the role of Group General Counsel and Company Secretary until 2019. He is currently General Counsel for TIL Logistics Group Limited. Charles holds an LLB from Victoria University and has completed the Senior Executive Programme at Columbia University, New York. Charles has been a Director of NZAI since December 2020.

Michele Kernahan, Independent Director
Michele is the Managing Director of New Zealand’s largest temperature-controlled transport and logistics business, Hall’s Group. Prior to joining Hall’s Group in 2019 she held various Executive roles at Fletcher Building over 21 years, including as Chief Executive of the Building Products division. She holds a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Canterbury and has completed the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School and other Executive programmes at Wharton Business School, Stanford School of Business and Melbourne Business School. Michele has been a Director of NZAI since February 2021.

David Page, CEO
David has worked across a diverse range of industries, holding a range of large-scale general management roles and corporate governance responsibilities. David has over 25 years’ asset finance and banking experience, which includes a comprehensive knowledge of consumer, motor vehicle and commercial asset finance. David recently spent 10 years at ASB, where he was responsible for setting up the Asset Finance business and growing the Specialist Industries business which included Asset Finance, Franchise Banking, Healthcare Banking, Professional Services Banking, Maori Financial Solutions, Industry Development and Strategic Partnerships. David joined NZAI as CEO in December 2020.

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Haydn Marks, Acting CFO
Haydn has over 20 years of financial management and leadership experience across financial services and technology sectors, including most recently four years as CFO with a listed technology company, Straker Translations (ASX:STG), where he took the company to IPO on the ASX in 2018. After starting his career in advisory services in New Zealand, Haydn spent 10 years working in London, most notably, in a commercial group finance role with banking software company Temenos (TEMN:SWX) and prior to that held finance roles at Credit Suisse and Visa card. Haydn is a member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and holds a Bachelor of Business from Massey University. Haydn joined the NZAI Group in November 2020.