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Car dealers must invest in finance specialists, a guest opinion

Gerry Kouris of Alphera Financial Services

In a bid to professionalise finance industry employees, attract young talent, and provide career progression for staff, the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) has been promoting Motor Finance Specialist Apprenticeships, created in line with the Government-approved level 3 apprenticeship standard.

Developed by motor retail and finance industry employers, the Motor Finance Specialist Apprenticeship standard enables businesses to employ apprentices that, upon graduation, will specialise in the provision of motor finance information and support to customer or intermediaries.

The Motor Finance Specialist Apprenticeship was developed to recruit and train specialist motor finance apprentices, with a vision of providing even better service and value for customers.

As a leading advocate for the education and development of finance sales specialists in the motor industry, Alphera is a firm supporter of this initiative. It’s incumbent on key industry players to promote the benefits of apprenticeship schemes to dealers, and make them aware of the benefits to their staff and, ultimately, their bottom line.

In the volatile and unpredictable environment the industry now finds itself in, it is imperative that we constantly challenge ourselves to improve. It is vital that we invest in a new generation of finance specialists, helping them to provide the best possible service to customers and future-proof the motor finance industry.

The development of a new Government-approved apprenticeship scheme is a crucial stepping stone to ensuring motor finance customers benefit from outstanding customer service by sales specialists. By successfully completing the Motor Finance Specialist Apprenticeship, apprentices will achieve an A-level equivalent qualification, and be fully-certified to carry out their role effectively.

Specialising in the provision of motor finance information and support to customers helps apprentices engage with customers in the most positive way, presenting motor finance information in a clear and transparent manner throughout the sales process.

For motor retailers, funding for apprenticeship training is subsidised by the Government and can be offset against apprenticeship levy payments. In the 2018 budget, the Government announced a £95m increase to the levy payment pot, and an extra £90m of government funding to encourage employers to invest a quarter of their apprenticeship fund in people working for businesses in their supply chain.

However, according to Department for Education (DfE) data, with a total levy pot of £2.7 billion available across all industries, to-date just £370m has been drawn down to fund courses. Employers that have contributed to the levy pot since April 2017 but don’t put those funds to good use may see them redirected to SMEs and other DfE projects.

To maximise use of the Apprenticeship Levy and improve apprenticeship take-up, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) offers free advice to dealers on a case-by-case basis, encouraging them to make use of these funds. For dealers and groups in need of more specific support, the organisation can also arrange for a meeting between its business development team and the dealer’s senior managers or directors.

At Alphera Financial Services, we highly recommend that every financial body in the industry seriously considers the Motor Finance Specialist Apprenticeship. Findings from a survey conducted by the IMI showed that apprentices typically generate a return on investment of between 150% and 300%, and usually generate profit within 12 to 24 months. Alphera has an apprentice enrolled in the FLA’s scheme and the improvement to their confidence and professionalism has been abundantly clear.

When you consider everything available to dealers, such as the Government levy, the proven return on investment generated by apprentices, and the free advice offered by the IMI, it’s a no-brainer: all finance sales specialists in the industry ought to take advantage of the Motor Finance Specialist Apprenticeship. It is important that dealers make the most of the available funds before we lose them.

Speaking recently about the apprenticeship scheme, Adrian Dally, head of motor finance at the FLA, said: “For those recruiting into the motor finance industry, the Apprenticeship programme is an ideal way to ensure you are getting the right candidates with the right skills. It has been designed specifically for the motor finance industry, and set up is easy, quick and extremely cost effective.”

There have been many changes to the apprenticeship levy since its launch in 2017, so it can often be confusing for businesses wanting to draw upon the funds available. Alphera hopes that many more dealers take advantage of the levy to enrol staff in the apprenticeship scheme.

By investing time in customer satisfaction, and seeking to improve sales standards through education, dealers will reap the long-term rewards of repeat business – and, potentially, increased profitability.

Author: Gerry Kouris, marketing manager, Alphera Financial Services

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