A dealer or dealership general manager probably thinks the F&I manager is responsible for increasing your gross profit, maintaining lender relationships and ensuring compliance.

This is a fairly comprehensive outlook, but how would the dealership’s sales team describe the F&I manager’s role? What would lenders say?

My bet is a salesperson might say something like, “The F&I manager just sells products.” Lenders may describe the F&I manager’s role as, “structuring financing arrangements.”

While these descriptions do cover some of the F&I manager’s responsibilities, they do not represent the full picture of an F&I manager’s important position in dealership operations. To enhance dealership performance and foster more collaboration, give everyone in your dealership an overview of the F&I office’s function.

It can be broken down into four categories.

Sales Responsibilities

Yes, F&I managers sell F&I products, but they sell much more. Effective F&I managers must build relationships and market the dealership to consumers as the place to go for service and maintenance, as well as future vehicle purchases, along with F&I products.

This responsibility alone means F&I managers must take time to understand customer driving habits and needs in order to tailor F&I presentations.

F&I managers must be experienced orators, marketers and active listeners.

They must sell the dealership and its customers to lenders.

They must build lender relationships, understand and work within lender requirements and send enough business a lender’s way for the lender to justify taking on less-than-prime paper every now and then. F&I managers are the face of the dealership for lenders. Their ability to work with lenders can make or break a dealer’s lending base.

Lastly, F&I managers must “bridge the divide” with the sales department. They accomplish this through such tasks as “save-the-deal” meetings, where F&I managers protect not only dealership profitability, but also the salesperson’s commission, as well as their own.

While F&I managers do sell products, their No.1 responsibility is to secure the deal and protect the gross profit, again ensuring the paychecks for all involved in a vehicle sale.

Management Duties

Managing is inherent in the F&I manager’s title, but what does this mean? First, it’s important to know most F&I managers started on the sales floor and worked their way up to become top sellers. This set them apart to be considered for a management role.

Their experience gives them the knowledge and background to provide excellent sales training to the salespeople they work with, including helping customers select the right vehicle, practicing sales closes, completing paperwork and ensuring they provide what they need to close the deal in F&I.

This also requires team management to ensure sales and F&I work together every step of the way to finalize each deal.

F&I managers also are responsible for tracking documents to ensure accuracy and compliance, as well as tracking contracts in transit and chargebacks to protect the gross. This leads directly to their administrative responsibilities.

Administrative Activities

F&I managers prepare contracts and ensure documents the sales team provides are accurate and compliant. They also have signature authority and are responsible for making sure customers sign all necessary forms. They receive money or deposits that are part of the financing process.

While some of these responsibilities may seem tedious and time-consuming, each is closely linked with compliance. F&I managers must be diligent in maintaining their administrative responsibilities to avert compliance repercussions.

Legal Responsibilities

In addition to signature authority, F&I managers are responsible for informing customers about all disclosures from the dealership, manufacturer, F&I product provider and lender.

F&I managers secure personal information and complete their role ethically. This is reflected by several laws governing F&I practices, but is encapsulated by the 300% rule: present 100% of F&I products to 100% of customers 100% of the time.

An F&I manager can make or break a dealership. Managers who provide training, foster teamwork, manage lender and customer expectations and handle administrative and legal responsibilities, have the potential to significantly increase dealership profitability and enhance operational efficiency.

John Stephens is senior vice president of Dealer Services at EFG Companies. He can be reached at 972-445-8910 and jstephens@efgusa.com