Editor’s Note: The 2020 RV/MH Hall of Fame’s Annual Induction Dinner is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 3, at the Hall of Fame’s Northern Indiana Events Center in Elkhart, Ind. RV PRO will be celebrating this year’s class in the coming weeks leading up to the dinner and ceremony, and today we begin with Mark Beecher.
Mark Beecher, Exec. VP (retired), Bank of the West
Mark Beecher credits his long and successful career in the RV industry to “mostly dumb luck.”
Beecher started his career with John Deere and worked for the company for nearly 15 years. He started out in manufacturing, moved into financial services, and eventually led the formation of a credit company arm for John Deere in Iowa.
About that time, he was approached about getting John Deere into the RV finance business. Within six months, he had put together a private financing program for Coachmen.
In 1995, Beecher went to work for the Bank of the West and made the move to California after being pursued by the company.
“The hallmark of our business at Bank of the West was the proverbial ‘thinking outside the box.’ In later years with Deere, when people were starting to use credit bureau information, scorecards and credit scores were becoming more important, we took it to the next step and did a dealer self-approval program, which people thought was crazy at the time,” says Beecher.
“People asked, ‘How can the dealer write their own loan?’ (It’s) based on publicly reported information from credit sources. They’ve developed pretty intelligent algorithms predicting how much (debt) they can take on and manage.”
Beecher and his team set out to get dealers to utilize those resources and pulling their own credit reports. At the time, most dealers weren’t set up to do so, even though all credit bureaus were selling subscriptions to their credit inquiries.
“So, we put together some incentives and named the product VIB (very important buyer) as a play-off of VIP (very important person). We started talking about bear financing, so we gave away little stuffed bears to dealers at every (RVIA) Louisville show. We branded like that.”
Beecher saw the industry evolve throughout his career, remembering when the longest RV loan term a customer could get was 96 months. Then it started extending out to 180 months, even to 240 months in some cases for high-end coaches.
“It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re a manufacturer or financial person, you try to stay one step ahead of your competitors and know what makes it a little bit easier, convenient, economic and better for the consumer. You always have to be on the lookout for the next best thing,” he says.
Beecher was a part of the RVIA finance committee right from the start of his career with Bank of the West.
“It was a fun time. I continued to build relationships with dealers and manufacturers, both through RVDA and RVIA, and I think all those paid dividends,” says Beecher. “Anyone who’s been in the industry for a long time and is still a major player in the industry is a testament to some stability and predictability. As long as you can be that predictable supplier of whatever service you have, people will stick with you, too.”
For more information on this year’s RV/MH Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, please click here.