Timing in question as BofA makes big push into auto lending

|About: Bank of America Corporation (BAC)|By:, SA News Editor

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) last May tapped two mortgage executives to lead the auto loan business, writes Dan Freed, and they have hired loan officers and salespeople at a fast clip since.

The timing could be deemed as curious, with regulators and competitors sending signals that the benign credit cycle of the past years has peaked.

Across the industry, banks classified $1.1B of auto loans as uncollectible in Q4. That's up 15% from a year earlier, and 39% from 2011 (though the size of the market has grown considerably since 2011).

"I'm not actively hiring or growing our operations across the platform. That's for sure," says Andrew Stuart, who heads TD Auto Finance.

Earlier this month, Capital One CEO Richard Fairbank said auto loans after the financial crisis provided "once in a lifetime type returns," but now the business has begun to lose strength.

For its part, BofA says its focused strictly on prime and "superprime" customers, and the vast majority of borrowers have credit scores above 700.

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