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F&I positions mesh with millennial mindset

Finance and insurance departments tend to have less trouble recruiting and retaining millennial staffers than sales departments, said Mary Byrne, general manager of Bruce Titus Automotive Group in Olympia, Wash.

"Industrywide, everyone wants to work in F&I because it has this reputation as the job where you make the most money" for the time spent, she said, in contrast to the hours spent in sales chasing iffy leads. "What else fits better with the millennial thought process?"

Byrne cited the hours, pay and opportunity for financial growth as the most alluring aspects of the job for the four millennials on her F&I staff of nine. Bruce Titus Automotive Group sells Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, Jeep, Subaru and Mitsubishi new vehicles at four locations.

Still, Byrne said differences in work habits cause problems. Older workers don't move as quickly as the millennials do and, as a result, tend to put in more hours on the job, she said. Millennials, in contrast, reject the idea that they routinely should work 60- or 80-hour weeks to prove their value. That can cause tension, Byrne said.

Andy Crews, CEO of AutoFair Automotive Group in Manchester, N.H., said he's bulking up his staff to allow his millennials to work the hours they prefer. With a larger staff, his F&I representatives now are handling about half the volume they once did. AutoFair has eight dealerships in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

"I know it's aggressive, but we used to push a guy to handle 75 to 100 turns" a week, he said. "That's dropped down to where they're taking 40 to 50 turns."

Crews, who like Byrne is a baby boomer, chalks it up to generational differences.

"Time off is important to [millennials], trying to have a life balance," he said. "We work with them, trying to give them that time."

When Byrne was shopping for F&I vendors, she stumbled upon Ethos Group, the same vendor that dealer Gregg Ciocca, dealer principal of a nine-dealership group in east-central Pennsylvania, looked to for help with millennial hiring and recruiting at his stores.

Ethos Group recruits at U.S. college campuses. The company's account representatives conduct interviews to hand-pick candidates for the dealerships they serve, according to the company's website.

Byrne tapped Ethos as a tool for training. The company's education program focuses on team building and customer relations for Byrne's more recent hires.

"We brought on Ethos 100 percent based on the training program they offer," Byrne said.

Ethos has helped Byrne set up a more competitive environment to keep millennial staffers motivated.

"When you hire a millennial, you have to think differently," Byrne said. "If they're not doing something, their minds start to [wander]. That's why we keep them completely engaged in the training process."

Byrne said Ethos has been a driver of change in her F&I department, but with or without the vendor's help, the dealership group would have been forced to adapt.

"We can't do things the old-fashioned way anymore -- millennials just don't work like that," she said. "We have to change, or we'll be left in the dust."

You can reach Nora Naughton at nnaughton@crain.com -- Follow Nora on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NoraNaughton

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