Twenty years ago, a finance and insurance manager was one of the most respected managers in the dealership. They could make or break your deal often within a few seconds of running the credit report. If the sales manager gave up all his front-end profit, the F&I manager had to save the back-end by holding a high rate and packing as much product they could into the deal.  They usually made six figures and always had the nicest demo (which we all know is a thing of the past, too).

And yes, many may not have had the highest ethical standards.

Those days are long gone, and times have changed – car buyers are more educated than ever, and regulatory compliance has eliminated many of the shadier F&I practices. Car buyers can handle much of the transaction on their smartphones now and some may even apply for their financing through mobile apps. All things unheard of just a decade ago.

Some industry experts have predicted the demise of the F&I manager due to more technology being used in the sales process but there are plenty of signs that they are not going away – just evolving and adapting.

And with the industry still reeling from the pandemic, digital delivery has taken off as a viable option for selling a car with both safety and convenience in mind.

What Does Today’s Buyer Really Want (Besides More Inventory to Choose from)?

Boomers and Gen X-ers grew up accepting the F&I process as about as enjoyable as a root canal. Long waits, high-pressure sales presentations, and a finance process shrouded in mystery.  According to TD Finance, 82% of today’s Gen Y car buyers don’t even want to walk into the F&I office at all. It’s too time-consuming and viewed as just another dealer profit center they don’t want to be a part of.

Today’s buyer wants a tech-friendly process when they DO walk into the F&I office and most dealerships have implemented the latest-and-greatest digital menus to help provide a more visual and interactive way to sell product and explain financing options.

Car buyers like the transparency that comes with these workflow solutions, and it shows. These presentation tools can also reduce time in the F&I office from 45 minutes down to 20 minutes or less on average. Higher profits, greater efficiency.

Will F&I Become Obsolete?

The F&I department is still an important and profitable part of the dealership. The F&I manager’s role has evolved and become more consultative. Many top producers are willing to engage more out on the sales floor, email car buyers with product information or offer to Skype/Zoom with an online buyer to answer questions and help influence them to come into the store.

With COVID, F&I managers have been forced to adopt more flexibility in engaging the buyer in a remote channel. The old ways are gone…now it’s all about establishing trust and fostering a non-threatening selling experience both in-person and online.

A well-trained and professional F&I manager will embrace new technology, not run from it. They will be more customer-focused, not pay plan-focused. That will result in higher PVR, higher product penetration, and most importantly, higher CSI.

F&I managers shepherd the customer through so many crucial parts of the car buying experience and as such they can increase sales long term by increasing customer loyalty. They protect the dealership through executing the proper disclosures to car buyers, increase cash flow by getting deals bought quickly, and can even jump in and help close a sale when needed.

No software program or flashy touchscreen can replace all that. F&I isn’t going anywhere…it’s just evolving to get better and that’s ok.

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