Westlake Financial Services: Putting customers in the driver’s seat

In automotive financing, profitability depends on how well a lender manages risk and how quickly it can structure and approve the right loans. Westlake Financial Services uses technology as a competitive advantage, allowing it to service a full spectrum of prime to subprime loans and process thousands of loan applications every day. As a result, the company holds over 500,000 auto loans worth more than $4 billion and has a default rate well below the industry average.

Westlake finances contracts through a network of over 10,000 new and used auto and motorcycle dealerships across the U.S. When a car deal is on the line, every minute counts, so Westlake strives to provide a decision to dealers and buyers as quickly as possible. Once the loan is approved, underwriting and servicing also have to be efficient and secure.

Westlake is constantly improving its technology and looking for ways to provide better customer experiences and make its internal processes more efficient. Instead of continuing to invest in on-premises systems, Westlake decided to move most of its applications to Google Cloud Platform. With Google Cloud Platform, Westlake can access high-performance compute and networking on demand and use machine learning to better understand the risk of default for each customer. To improve processing performance when analyzing very large datasets, Westlake chose Google BigQuery.

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“In financial services, data is vital, and we need to analyze it fast to maximize business opportunities. By building our real-time loan scoring engine on Google Cloud Platform and using Google BigQuery to analyze our largest datasets, we’re providing faster service and making smarter lending decisions,” says Michael Wang, Vice President of IT at Westlake Financial Services.

Making real-time lending decisions

Westlake receives an average of 7,000 loan applications every day, and more than 10% are approved. Its website and contact center take in more than $5 million in payments daily as well via a customer portal. At the same time, the company’s interactive voice response (IVR) application helps improve customer interactions by directing calls to the right agent for support. The company also has a special service application in place to allow dealers to apply for fast activation of credit lines to finance new inventory. All of these applications need to be continually available; otherwise revenue is on the line.

By moving these and other critical services to Google Cloud Platform, Westlake is mitigating the potential impact of data center outages and cyberattacks on its applications, so it can further improve customer service and cash flow. It’s also minimizing capital expenditures by avoiding hardware purchases even as its portfolio grows by 800 or more loans daily. And by leveraging Google Compute Engine to support real-time scoring, the company is delivering high-quality loan decisions to dealerships in minutes.

“With Google Cloud Platform, we can provide more reliable service, structure more profitable loans, and make them available to customers in near real-time. Google Cloud Platform makes a lot more sense than buying hardware, because there’s no up-front commitment and we get sustained use discounts,” says Michael.

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Robust business analytics

Westlake is in the process of using Google Cloud Platform and BigQuery to build a big data warehouse in the cloud that will be used for all large-scale queries and reports, including nightly financial processing. By using Google Cloud SQL to run the batch process and then handing the data off to BigQuery for analysis, Westlake can scale analytics far beyond what its on-premises systems would permit, gaining valuable insights to improve its applications and drive profitability. The company is currently working with Neudesic, a Google Cloud Platform Partner, to implement the project, and is considering using Google Cloud Dataflow to manage the data processing.

“Running big data queries on our on-premises database takes six hours or more and impacts other processes, so we have to do it after business hours. With Google BigQuery, we can keep services running without interruption because we can now analyze any data in minutes and complete our nightly processing in less than an hour,” says Michael.

Saving manpower, improving service with machine learning

In keeping with its focus on using technology as a competitive differentiator, Westlake is interested in Google Cloud Machine Learning APIs and plans to use Google Cloud Translation API to provide fast, dynamic language translation to improve customer service at its contact center.

“Machine learning is a big part of gaining a competitive edge, and with Google Cloud Platform we can do text and image analysis through simple APIs,” says Michael.

Industry-leading security and support

Westlake operates in a highly regulated industry, making security a top priority. With Google Cloud Platform, it has the peace of mind that cloud services have been reviewed by an independent Qualified Security Assessor and determined to be PCI DSS 3.2 compliant. Westlake has also enrolled in Google Cloud Support.

“Security and support are two reasons we chose Google Cloud Platform. By working with Google, we know our environment is compliant, and we’re learning about new technologies that can strengthen our leadership position,” adds Michael.

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