Finance director, Headquarter Hyundai
Jasmine Figueroa impressed a customer so much in her job selling video games at Toys R Us that the woman asked whether Figueroa would be interested in joining the Chevrolet dealership where she worked.
“This is where my life changed forever,” Figueroa said. That was in 2004, when she was an 18-year-old newcomer to Florida. In January 2021, she became finance director for Headquarter Hyundai in Sanford, Fla., where she manages a team of finance managers and works directly with customers — “a little bit of everything,” she said.
Figueroa started out in the auto retail industry as a receptionist, then a cashier, and worked her way up to assistant to the finance director. “I loved it,” she said.
At every stage, she was ambitious, wanting more for herself and her daughter. But under that can-do exterior, she worried in those early days whether she had what it took.
“Being an 18-year-old girl at a dealership was so hard,” she said. “Women always feel underqualified even if they’re not. A lot of women have self-confidence issues, especially in a male-dominated business.”
Today, Figueroa works to mentor other women in auto retail, encouraging them to reach for higher positions.
After about three years at her first dealership, then known as Bill Heard Chevrolet, Figueroa left her job as a finance assistant for a stint at an auto lender, culminating in a position as senior loan processor.
“I was the last step to a customer getting an auto loan,” she explained. “I verified all stipulations, documents and detected any fraud.”
That was at Regional Acceptance Corp., an affiliate of the former BB&T Corp. that specialized in subprime auto loans. While working there, she was offered finance manager jobs at dealerships but always hung back, she said. She eventually left the bank in 2012.
“I was so afraid I wasn’t good enough or I wouldn’t succeed,” she said, “because I was a girl from the Bronx who never thought she was enough.”
But ultimately, she decided to quit her post at Regional Acceptance for her first job as a dealership finance manager. That was at Sutherlin Nissan of Orlando.
Over the next decade, she gained valuable experience at a couple of other new-car dealerships and two different groups of independent used-car dealerships, including one that specializes in online sales, HGreg.com.
Figueroa feels blessed not to have had to relocate from the Orlando area in her automotive career. Her bank experience also has helped, she said.
“I feel like doing that transition from a dealer to a lender, then back to a dealership, has given me better perspective [of] what the lenders experience and how finance managers are at filling in the stips, the stipulations, and customer interviews, etc. because I was there,” she said.
Stipulations are additional conditions that a lender puts on a credit application, such as verifying documents, proof of income or proof of residency.
Figueroa said that she has advocated for consistent processes in her auto retail work and has changed procedures when it makes sense.
For example, she said deals take way too long at most dealerships because salespeople negotiate too many parts of the contract before the finance and insurance manager ever sees it, and then the manager starts negotiations all over again.
“It would take them two hours to get me the deal. Why is it taking so long? It’s because they go back and forth constantly,” she said. Instead, Figueroa advocates for a streamlined process where the sales desk negotiates the “out-the-door” price, “and then finance takes over,” she said.
Since the change at her current dealership, not only are deals getting done faster, Figueroa says F&I gross profit per vehicle retailed has risen to $2,700 from $1,200 in 2020.
Figueroa also is an advocate for e-contracting. A captive finance company the dealership does a lot of business with charges a $150 fee for every contract not done digitally, she said.
On her watch, Headquarter Hyundai is up to 95 percent e-contracts, from 40 percent previously, she said. Besides avoiding the fee, using e-contracting makes funding much faster, Figueroa said.
“A lot of people in the auto industry are very set in their ways how they do things,” she said. “They don’t want to change anything.”
— Jim Henry