The changing role of the Business Manager

July 25, 2017

As originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of AutoJournal.

Interview with Paul Roberts, Senior Manager, Integrations, LGM.

Consumer attitudes and expectations are changing. Is your F&I office keeping pace?

As consumers visit fewer dealerships in their quest to purchase a vehicle, F&I and sales functions are beginning to merge together.

“Many dealers are trying to create a single point of contact,” says Claude Moureaux, Strategic Advisor at Desjardins. “The F&I is moving from the office to the showroom and engaging customers immediately as they enter the dealership.”

Consumers have gone from visiting five dealerships to only visiting one or two before purchasing.

“When they’re in there, you know that if they’re leaving, you’ve lost the sale,” says Moureaux. “Dealers understand that they have to focus on the customer experience, and they want someone to be able to have an end-to-end process with a single point of contact, taking charge of the customer at the entry all the way down to the financing.”

The role that financial managers should have is to educate and assist and work in the interest of the customer.

“If you want to ensure that the customer will come back in three years, make sure he has a good experience that will stay in his mind,” says Moureaux. “As a dealer, you want to mold that customer into a lifetime value that keeps him in your business.”

Game changer

The banking system has evolved, according to Paul Roberts, Senior Manager, Integrations at LGM Financial Services.

“Banks will play a more significant role due to integration between providers of goods and services. You have the OEM, the F&I, an underwriter, the tools and technologies providers, the software companies, and the financial institutions. The integration of these providers of goods and services and the security between them the collaboration is really the game changer in the industry as we move forward in the next decade.”

Currently, the marketplace is very fragmented.

“When you look at F&I providers in North America, as well as DMS systems, ancillary software tools and inventory applications, there are so many different software providers, or in some cases, larger software providers under different names, that the key going forward is integration.

There’s no single 800 pound gorilla that’s ruling the market. There are a lot of smaller and medium sized players.

“Those who think big and start small, and are willing to jump into the pool and start making relationships, providing collaborative solutions, are going to be the game changers for both consumers and dealerships. Ultimately, they’re more focused on the consumer in the long run.”

Working closely with vendors

So it’s important for the industry to start thinking about working closely with vendors and banks.

“Partnerships, collaboration and a lot of other players in the marketplace such as roadside assistance programs, Carproof, all of these come together into being the necessary components in what happens in the sale and purchase of a vehicle, and the F&I products involved,” says Roberts. “There are a lot of players involved in the sale of the average car. Collaboration is king going forward.”

However, as with any type of change, this will happen over time.

“It’s happening now,” says Roberts. “But it’s very hard to predict. There needs to be more discussion about it, and recognition that it’s really going on. It’s the type of thing that happens more in larger markets, just by their very nature. It’s happening in the United States, and it will definitely happen in Canada.”