Why I’m Getting F&I-Certified

Why I’m Getting F&I-Certified

We can no longer throw people into that office who were trained by the guy that got fired. 

Just a guess, but my observations tell me as many as half of the F&I managers working in dealerships have never attended F&I training classes.  

I would go so far as to say upwards of 90% of sales managers haven’t a clue as to how to properly disclose a contract or perform the detailed work of the F&I position.

Some dealership sales managers think Gramm-Leach-Bliley was a 1960s rock group. (It is a 1999 act regulating financial information-sharing practices and data safeguarding.)   

I was an F&I manager and an F&I director for several stores. During that time, I attended three major F&I Schools, including the famous Pat Ryan School on Wacker Drive in Chicago. That was intensive. We were in classes up to 10 hours a day for two straight weeks.

The curriculum included learning how to compute interest rates from add-ons to APR, and how to compute a finance contract using a calculator, which I promptly forgot how to do within a week. We drilled on word tracts and role-played every scenario and objection rebuttal.

A big part of my training early on was legal and ethical compliance in the sale and delivery of a car. I’ve always taken my responsibility seriously and sought to stay up to date. Many times I’ve said F&I managers need to study their profession as surely as if they were studying for a master’s degree.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many dealers spend $500 to $600 – even $700 a car to get the customers in the door, but they spend nothing to train their people how to handle them.

In recent years most of the Federal Trade Commission penalties and prosecutions involving car dealerships and their employees have pertained to advertising or finance infractions. When they started sending people to jail, I really started paying attention.

Showroom Walkabout Reveals Lots of Violations

Hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, are at risk. Truthfully, I could walk through many dealerships at 7:30 a.m. before the showroom opens (done this many times) and, without opening a drawer, find dozens of privacy violations lying around on desktops in plain sight.

Imagine the surprise when I walk into a dealer’s office, lay down a pile of papers and announce, “This represents about $150,000 in fines if I had been with a federal agency.” Let me tell you, it makes for a spirited managers’ meeting later that morning.

Regulators have always targeted the car business. Now, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau going rogue, we need to be absolutely transparent and upright.

I go into so many dealerships where salespeople are walking around with customers’ credit-bureau information, openly talking about the customers’ private financial information they have no legal right to see in the first place. Not in their position.

In most dealerships we have sales managers, and even salespeople, processing credit applications. Many of them don’t know how to work a finance deal.

Loose processes and missed opportunities are not only exposing dealers to a lot of liability, but they are costing deals and profits as well.

With all of this exposure and liability, so many dealerships are carelessly trusting finance to people they haven’t invested in training or certifying. Allowing sales people to handle the transaction is a time bomb.

My advice is simple. Get serious about your finance department. We can no longer throw people into that office who were trained by the guy that got fired.

The landscape has changed. Many managers are out of date. Get people F&I trained, including sales managers.

Also get people certified by the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals. It offers great courses and certifications, including legal and ethical compliance.

I have been teaching F&I for 25 years, and I am personally going to get AFIP certification because you have to stay on top of it no matter what. 

Jim Ziegler is president of Ziegler Supersystems as well as a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues. He can be reachedatzieglerss@aol.com

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