GRAPEVINE, Texas — CEO Brian Reed has announced he will leave F&I Express, the technology solutions provider he co-founded more than a decade ago. He will be succeeded by CIO Gary Peek, who assumes the role of vice president and general manager.

Reed’s departure comes as a mild surprise, even to him, the executive told F&I and Showroom. He had planned to remain with F&I Express through 2019 following the company’s Oct. 1, 2018, acquisition by Cox Automotive.

“When they purchased the company, I said I wanted to stick around, but as time went on, I decided it was time to go,” Reed said. “I had brought Gary Peek in a year and a half ago as CIO, knowing he was capable of replacing me. I made the decision I would retire from F&I Express.”

Reed said his phone has been “ringing off the hook” with well-wishers and new opportunities. He will remain with F&I Express in an advisory role for the next 90 days. The company will continue to operate as a subsidiary of Cox Automotive, continuing a collaboration to advance F&I technology that began in 2008, and its management team, including executives Rich Apicella and Roger Hildebrandt, will stay in place, Reed said.

Reed has earned a reputation as a tireless advocate for new and emerging F&I technology, being among the first to embrace electronic menus and contracting, among other advancements, and spending the past decade building a network of F&I product providers, auto finance sources, and digital retailers. Each has contributed in their own way, Reed said, but agents stand out for recognizing early on the benefits of improved connectivity and helping to drive integrations forward.

“I will always hold the agent and F&I provider group close to my heart for what they’ve contributed to the success of this business,” Reed said.

Asked whether he had accomplished what he’d set out to do when he founded F&I Express, Reed said the industry has made “tremendous” progress toward his stated goals of full adoption of econtracting and giving F&I an online presence to move it forward in the car-buying process.

“A large part of the market is there, and the part that is not there is working on its strategy. When we started, they said, ‘Dealers don’t want to have an electronic process. They like the five-ply forms.’ They’re not saying that anymore,” Reed said. “I know exactly where the market’s going, and I knew where it was going in 2008. It’s just taking a little more time to get there.”

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