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F&I managers' skills will continue to be critical

With increasingly intelligent software and adjusted sales and F&I processes cropping up in the past few years, some dealerships have traded the traditional F&I and sales consultant roles for a hybrid client adviser position.

Industry players have debated whether the hybrid approach is effective, but for dealerships that choose to go that route, a hybrid position doesn't necessarily call for the demise of the F&I manager. In many cases, F&I managers are more qualified than any other dealership employee to take on client adviser positions.

F&I managers typically also have sales experience, so on that end, they are equipped. But they are also suited for the role because dealerships struggle to find employees with finance chops and F&I product knowledge, said Aaron Wallace, dealer principal of Schomp Automotive Group.

"One of the hardest things for us is giving [client advisers] enough touches on the finance side to get really good at explaining which warranty is right for someone, explaining GAP," he said.

If client advisers become the new norm, will the industry buzz about their jobs being in jeopardy someday, too?

Wallace doesn't think so.

Despite emerging software that lets the customer drive the sales and F&I process, Wallace doubts that a client adviser role would eventually disappear. When customers try to navigate through the process on a tablet, they often end up confused, asking for help anyway.

"Don't give me a spaceship that I don't know how to use and expect me to walk through it," Wallace said. "I am going in some place because I want service and I want help. I'm not going in to be served by a robot."

The title and responsibilities of F&I managers may fluctuate, but the skills of today's F&I managers will continue to be critical as the industry changes.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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