For an industry that recognizes the need for speed, the auto repair industry has been a bit slow off the line in the race to digitization. As in other verticals, FinTech platforms are busy providing small and midsized businesses (SMBs) the tools they need for digital speed.
DigniFi is a mission-driven company, dedicated to serving underserved credit markets to finance auto repairs at dealers and independent repair shops. Over a decade in business, the DigniFi platform has grown to include 5,000 merchants that use the platform to arrange on-the-spot financing.
The company is also committed to diversity in the workforce, as evidenced by the fact that its team is 50% women.
The company’s CFO, Mariana Coontz, personifies those values.
PYMNTS caught up with her in a wide-ranging interview that addressed mission, vision and values as well as the challenges of running the CFO office in an uncertain macro environment.
Empowering SMBs to Automate Payments
According to Coontz, the auto repair industry’s reluctance to digitize has given the company she works for a greenfield opportunity to serve as a resource for customers who may be able replace the head gasket on a 1989 Mercedes E-Class with their eyes closed but are just as befuddled by the intricacies of financing and systems integration as the next person.
“The challenge is to create an experience for both the merchant and then the consumer that’s frictionless and seamless in a way that makes sense in a time where inflation is higher than we’ve seen in a very long time and the consumer is being squeezed.”
In her part of the business, that means using every tool at payables and receivables teams’ disposal to stay on top of credit innovation — providing accurate forecasts that give decision makers all the information they need to make strategic decisions. Often, that means walking a tightrope between innovation and adhering to rigid standards.
“You always have a risk discipline and a risk slant to how you think about things, so you must responsibly underwrite credit to offer the right sort of credit box to consumers,” she said. “You must manage it, but I think if you’ve got the right processes in place to be able to do that, it’s just something that comes with the territory.”
Funder, Fund Thyself
While no FinTech startup, the company is privately held. To fund contemplated expansion, according to Coontz, “we did debt financing with Brigade Capital Management.”
She shared her thoughts about the capital market in general: “Certainly this year the markets have changed quite significantly. There’s much more of a focus on the discipline that you’re creating and how do you get to a positive faster, how do you become operationally efficient, faster?”
In short: Profitable growth is in, growth at all costs is out.
“That doesn’t change my operating rhythm,” she said. “I have always come into an organization, whatever it may be and thought about, ‘How do I operate this business more efficiently? How do I make sure that I’m, I’m creating shareholder value from whatever seat I’m sitting in and having grown up in sort of the finance or risk side of the organization?’”
Often, that boils down to communication, she added, helping tell a narrative that puts the company’s finances into a broader business and economic context.
Coontz said DigniFi is a remote-first company, which helps it nurture a robust, energized and diverse team.
“The digitization of the general economy has made for a virtual world. You must make sure that you’re being inclusive and making sure that people feel that camaraderie and that culture, even though you’re … sitting in different places in the world.”
And that perspective, Coontz said, may well provide an ideal launching-off spot for expanding into other markets.
“That’s part of the growth plan. It’s definitely a strategic change in direction of the company. And certainly, moving into different verticals is something that’s on our roadmap. As we get through the next six, 12 months and build the right disciplines, then absolutely we’ll be exploring that.”
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