The catchphrase in Wendy’s iconic fast food ads crystallizes a universal expectation that applies to more than just hamburger meat. And when I meet with the CFPB assistant director, tangible proof of performance will most certainly be on his mind. He’ll be asking, “Where’s the beef?”
The Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals will deliver hard evidence of the industrywide effort to ensure that a statistically significant number of car buyers are treated ethically and in accordance with state and federal regulations.
In meeting with the CFPB, the AFIP is acting in its capacity as a nonprofit association serving professionals who ply the F&I trade. We took our first step in 2013 when we submitted the AFIP Certified F&I Professional course to the bureau for vetting.
In addition, we related that after certifying nearly 50,000 people, we had reports of less than a handful of F&I practitioners getting their dealers in trouble. We also provided a roster of the dealers and dealer groups who demonstrate their commitment to regulatory compliance and ethics by maintaining fully certified F&I staffs.
Two major “Where’s the beef?” initiatives will be presented in the meeting. First, select captive lenders and aftermarket vendors are conducting self-monitoring programs to rectify regulatory deficiencies in stores in real time. For each of their dealer clients, this program qualifies as a key element of a CFPB-recommended compliance management system.
The two-phase program calls for the AFIP certification of dealer contact field operatives and the development of a proprietary regulatory compliance checklist. If, during a service call, a rule-savvy dealer-support person identifies a deficiency, it is recorded on the checklist to alert the dealer principal. The field operative then coordinates corrective action related to the vendor’s products and services.
The results have exceeded expectations. Recently, an AFIP certified field operative on a dealer call, armed with a proprietary checklist, cross-referenced a copy of an etch agreement with the entries posted to the corresponding installment sale contract. In doing so, he exposed — and stopped — the practice of an F&I practitioner burying a $700 etch policy in the deal.
The number of participants is growing, and the checklist concept is expanding beyond vehicle sales. I’m seeking permission from participating lenders and vendors to list them by name in my report to the CFPB.
Second, the regional AFIP Certification Boot Camps focus on the regulatory acumen and ethical parameters maintained by in-dealership F&I managers. The boot camps are aggressively promoted by lenders, vendors and general agents. The sessions are also promoted by select state dealer associations.
The past practice of limiting certification classes to a specific dealership or client has been replaced by training that is open to all dealers within a geographic area. The second key benefit is that, after a reasonable preparation period, certification can be achieved in two days with sessions held outside the dealerships.
On the first day of boot camp, key course information is addressed in depth. After an evening study period, a final exam review is conducted the morning of the second day, with a proctored exam administered in the afternoon. A second two-day boot camp is normally held to certify those unable to attend the first session.
As for the beef, the data generated by the boot camp sessions indicate a higher-than-average first-time pass rate and above-the-norm exam scores. The boot camp’s primary benefit, however, is its effectiveness in putting a growing number of regulatorily competent F&I managers in front of car buyers.
In a perfect world, the beef would always be bigger than the bun. But we’re not in the business of making hamburger patties. Franchised dealerships are grappling with an estimated 27 million new- and used-vehicle retail transactions this year that are the result of open negotiations between the buyer and the seller.
When considering the number of permutations that may come into play — lease, finance, cash, and aftermarket product selections — no two deals are identical. And no single solution or flat fee is capable of providing a mutually equitable remedy. In a sense, we’re dealing with a bun of infinite size.
It is AFIP’s intent to demonstrate that a cadre of regulatory-competent, in-store personnel will put enough beef in the bun to make a hamburger worth serving.
David Robertson is executive director of the Association Finance and Insurance Professionals. Email him at [email protected]