Melissa Sacher, BBVA USA | Most Powerful Women: Next

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Head of indirect auto lending

What initially looked like a dead-end job became a career launching pad for Melissa Sacher.

Sacher was a young commercial banker in Texas when her husband got transferred to Colorado in 2008. Her employer, BBVA USA, had only one job opening in Denver — executive assistant to a commercial banking executive named Rafael Bustillo.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that. I’ve got an MBA,’” Sacher recalled.

But amid the financial crisis, Sacher was facing a bleak job market. She met with Bustillo, who promised to teach her a lot. So she took the job.

“I don’t know if I was a great executive assistant, but I tried to be, and he let me work on all kinds of projects,” Sacher said. “It’s the best role I’ve ever had. I will say that to anyone who ever asks me.”

The reason? “I learned how to be a leader,” she said. “I mean, I was very young; I was far away from being a leader. But I got to observe someone. So when my opportunity came, I had this great base of education that he gave me.”

Twelve years later, Sacher is again reporting to Bustillo. He is chief operating officer of BBVA USA, and she heads the company’s indirect auto lending unit.

Sacher was tapped for her current role in June 2019. At the time, the Birmingham, Ala.-based unit of the Spanish banking giant was reassessing its growth strategy in a business that works with auto dealers to offer loans to car buyers. Sacher was charged with implementing a strategy to improve the risk-adjusted returns for the traditionally conservative business.

“We got more granular with our pricing,” Sacher said. “It enabled us to capture more of that business in the space we wanted.”

Sacher is one of 15 executives selected for our second annual Next list. This extension of our Most Powerful Women in Banking program is meant to highlight high-achieving women in the leadership pipeline who are age 40 and under.

During the second half of last year, BBVA’s indirect auto lending unit reported its highest-ever risk-adjusted return. Credit quality on new loan originations was also the highest it had ever been.

“By year’s end, Melissa had turned around what was a declining business to become one that is now growing by double digits,” Bustillo said. “I never have cause for concern with any assignment or responsibility I assign Melissa. I simply know that she will deliver, because she always has.”

This year, the coronavirus-induced economic crisis has presented a new set of challenges for Sacher and her team. In April, new light-vehicle sales in the United States were 53% lower than they were in the same period a year earlier, according to Cox Automotive.

Melissa’s potential at BBVA is vast, thanks in large part to how she leads. It’s clear to each member of her team that she genuinely cares about them as a person, inside and outside BBVA.
Rafael Bustillo, BBVA's chief operating officer

Sacher said that BBVA’s footprint in the Sun Belt has proven relatively advantageous, since states such as Texas, Florida and Oklahoma did not shut down their economies to the same extent that states in Northeast and on the West Coast did. Still, she said there is a lot of uncertainty about what lies ahead.

“Obviously people are going to be challenged to pay their bills, and we’re trying to take measures to protect against that and predict that the best we can,” Sacher said.

Nominating executive:
Rafael Bustillo
Chief operating officer

What he says:
“Melissa’s potential at BBVA is vast, thanks in large part to how she leads. It’s clear to each member of her team that she genuinely cares about them as a person, inside and outside BBVA.”

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Auto lending BBVA The Most Powerful Women in Banking: NEXT 2020
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