In many of the dealerships I worked in years ago, there simply were not many female F&I managers. I was the rare exception at two dealer groups and had been hired not for prior car business experience but rather for two primary reasons: I had experience in credit analysis and…I was a woman.

Now the latter should have upset me but it didn’t. I understood why as I looked around the dealership and saw all male staff in sales, management, service and parts. The only woman I saw the day I interviewed was the receptionist. The GM said they wanted to change their approach ‘in the box’ as their CSI was taking a hit with existing staff. I knew what that meant. I got it. And so, my career began.

In today’s dealership environment, it’s becoming more important than ever to embrace the unique qualities that a female can bring to the F&I process…the same qualities that helped me succeed in every store I worked in.

As of 2016, only 16% of F&I managers were female. Dealers have hired more women over the last 20 years but likely still not enough considering that 56% of the car buying public are women. More work needs to be done here.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your store should consider recruiting more women to work in F&I –

  • Approach – Women in the F&I office can bring an openness and caring attitude to a job that often benefits from a softer touch. Think about it…many buyers come in with challenged credit or limits to what they can spend each month. Women tend to be more empathetic and caring in their presentation and negotiations. No knock on men here but even the men I worked with would have agreed.

Women tend to be more interested in their customer and that helps CSI. They tend to ask more questions to establish rapport. Buyers want to know they are valued and not going to be treated badly based on F&I stereotypes in the car business. NO, not every male F&I manager is a sleazy, fast talking type who perpetuates the image buyers have before walking into the F&I office but unfortunately there are still some out there. Rarely are they women, though. Approach matters.

  • Trust – True story…I was one of two F&I managers on the floor on a busier-than-usual Tuesday night at a GM store. The walls of my office were glass so I could see a couple at the sales tower pointing into my office as they talked to the sales manager. I was not the next up for a deal but here he comes to tell me that the couple wanted to deal with me because I was a woman. They insisted.

My male counterpart was not happy of course but it spoke to a bigger issue…trust. They felt that I was going to be more trustworthy than the male F&I manager and that their experience would be more pleasant. The other manager was fantastic and always had solid PRU and CSI so there was no reason for them to assume their experience would be bad but they did.

Whether we like to admit it or not, an argument could be made for having more female F&I managers for this very reason. If some customers feel more comfortable with a female, that cannot be ignored when it comes to staffing decisions. Trust is critical in the one part of the car buying process that buyers are the most skeptical about.

  • Adaptability – It’s estimated that over half of students in industry F&I ‘schools’ are women. This is encouraging sign that women want to be a part of the car business at a higher professional level. Women tend to seek out more training and educational opportunities in general and in F&I, training is one of the more important keys to success. Since many women are coming from ‘back office’ or administrative positions, it shows a willingness to adapt and embrace new skills for success. They want to take the next step in their career.

If your store is already heavily invested in training and continuing education for F&I staff, recruiting more women would be beneficial. It’s widely known that women have a higher degree of discipline for internal processes and would be more likely to seek out additional skills training if available.

It’s important to note here that men and women in F&I can exhibit these critical traits and likewise I have worked with some women who could not muster any of them. There are good and bad on both sides for sure.

Sales skills are, of course, the most important factor in the success of any F&I professional but this short list simply serves to highlight the innate intangibles that a female F&I manager can bring to the department. After all, surveys are revealing that today’s ‘millennial’ buyer wants a more personal experience when buying a car and having F&I staff that can be attune to that will help drive profits and increase CSI.

Car dealers still have a long way to go when closing the gender gap in F&I, but the trend is rising and as dealerships become more agile in how they staff and respond to the changing buyer personas, women in F&I should continue to increase.

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.

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