Last year, the National Automotive Finance Association established the Jack Tracey Pinnacle Award to recognize a professional at a member organization with enduring service to the non-prime auto finance industry.

The award is named in honor of one of the organization’s early supporters and its first and long-serving executive director.

The inaugural winner was Tom Hudson of Hudson Cook. The second recipient is another of the NAF Association’s founders, Jim Bass, who now is senior vice president of strategic relationships at Agora Data.

The association will officially give Bass the award during the 2024 Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference, which is set for June 5-7 in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I don’t know where they’re going to go to find the third recipient. I think these first two are so obvious and deserving,” said Mary Ellen Tracey, who served the association with her husband for more than 20 years.

Hudson and Bass had not met before the NAF Association began to germinate in 1997. At the time, Hudson was cultivating what now is one of the most prominent law firms in all of auto financing. Meanwhile, Bass already was president and chief operating officer of Auto One Acceptance Corp., a prominent participant in non-prime financing that also executed one of the first securitizations in the space.

“Frankly I was more or less scared to death of him,” Hudson said in his well-known dry delivery. “He was a very successful fella from one of the top companies.

“I knew he was a big deal. He was and I wasn’t,” Hudson added.

An idea for creating an association led to a phone call, then an in-person meeting and another. Quickly, the NAF Association was born with Bass being crucial to it.

“He clearly was one of the top early leaders and has served as an officer or on the board ever since,” Hudson said. “His stint with the organization has been since the very beginning and constant. I can’t think of anybody else who has been with the organization from the beginning until now like Jim has been.”

Bass often collaborated with Mary Ellen Tracey to make sure the organization’s finances were in order. Bass has an extensive background in accounting and served as the NAF Association’s treasurer for many years.

“I feel like I’ve known Jim forever, but I guess I really didn’t have any encounters with him until the association was created,” Mary Ellen Tracey said. “He is a friend that I cherish and that outlasts my time working with him. He is so kind and considerate. He never looked down or spoke down to me. He always wanted to make everybody comfortable.”

That’s another point Hudson made about Bass’ abilities. The NAF Association board currently consists of nearly 30 industry executives from an array of different companies.

“In addition to his contributions to the organization, part of my affection for the man is that he is just one of the best individuals I’ve ever known,” Hudson said. “He has the ability to work with people who agree with him and those that don’t. Yet not tick people off to the point that they can’t get stuff done. He’s just a natural leader. The impression he gives is that he is dead honest and has no ego at all. Both of those things I think are true.”

Along with being in an executive leadership role with Auto One, Bass’ professional career also includes time as an industry consultant, chief financial officer of an independent dealership along with his current position with Agora Data, which is a fintech company specializing in delivering technology, capital and guidance with predictable contract performance and analytics tailored for the subprime automotive sector.

“He has such a great perspective,” said Mary Ellen Tracey, who mentioned the NAF Association also honored Bass with the Industry Excellence Award in 2010.

The NAF Association now gives the Jack Tracey Pinnacle Award. Bass actually handed the first award to Hudson during an emotional ceremony that happened about two years after Tracey’s passing.

“Jack will always be remembered as a leader and fierce advocate for the non-prime automotive lending industry,” the association said.

“Individuals nominated for this award should have an extensive record of service to a NAF Association member company that is substantive and encompasses a productive, voluntary effort exceeding the duties of regular employment,” the association said. “A nominee’s service record will reflect having produced a positive impact beyond an individual company.”

In a news release, NAF Association executive director Jennifer Martin elaborated about why Bass received the accolade.

“Jim Bass epitomizes the values of dedication, leadership, and excellence that define the Pinnacle Award,” Martin said. “His profound impact on the non-prime auto finance industry and unwavering commitment to our organization’s mission make him a truly deserving recipient of the Jack Tracey Pinnacle Award. We are honored to celebrate Jim’s remarkable achievements and grateful for his continued contributions to our industry.”

Steve Burke is CEO of Agora Data and another of the NAF Association’s founders.

“Jim Bass’s dedication and leadership within the non-prime auto finance industry are unparalleled,” Burke said. “As a founding member of NAF, his tireless service and unwavering commitment have left an indelible mark on the auto finance industry. We at Agora are immensely proud to see Jim recognized with the Jack Tracey Pinnacle Award. Congratulations, Jim, on this well-deserved honor.”