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How to Become a Finance Manager

By Amanda Pliskow | Jun 21, 2023

Last updated on Nov 8, 2023

How to Become a Finance Manager in a Dealership

Ask anyone who works in a car dealership what the core profit centers are, and F&I will top the list. While vehicle salesperson is the role most people are familiar with, finance managers – who are responsible for selling finance and insurance (F&I) products – have a key role in the customer’s experience and the dealership’s profitability. So it’s no wonder F&I Managers are some of the highest-earning employees at a dealership.

There is always a demand for skilled finance managers, so let’s discuss pathways to becoming an F&I Manager, whether you’re working in the sales department or have no dealership experience at all. In this article, we’ll share the requirements and responsibilities of finance managers, important skills to have, and the necessary training and tips for success.

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What Does A Finance Manager Do? 

Becoming a finance manager means perfecting a blend of skills and knowledge that complement the customer experience to create a seamless sales process.

A great finance manager will smoothly guide a car buyer through the menu of available products, upselling and making sales that provide income for the dealership. Becoming an effective finance manager means honing service-forward "soft skills" alongside specialized F&I product knowledge to become the face of the financing department.

What is a Finance Manager's Role in a Dealership?

A finance manager is an integral part of the sales process. After a sales rep on the dealership floor has sold a car to a buyer, they will then hand the deal off to the finance manager.

At that point, the finance manager will talk to the customer to understand their driving habits and needs, then present the menu of F&I offerings to the customer. An F&I manager must have extensive and in-depth product knowledge in order to answer questions and effectively sell to the customer.

They also support the customer with financing options to complete the sale of the vehicle, so they also maintain relationships with lenders like banks and finance companies. Because of the nature of a finance manager’s role, they must pursue ongoing training and ensure they perform their role in compliance with all laws and regulations.

Another key responsibility of a finance manager that is crucial to their success is an ability to communicate across areas of the dealership, including to the sales and service teams as well as leadership.

What is a Finance Manager’s Salary?

Dealerships rely heavily on their finance managers to create additional revenue. As with many sales roles, a finance manager’s salary is performance-based, often structured around a base rate with commission or incentives on the products they sell. Because of the profit potential in F&I, finance managers are often some of the highest-paid members of the staff. According to Indeed data, the average finance manager salary is $114,178, and some high earners have income over $200,000.

It’s important to note that income can fluctuate based on market factors like supply and demand for vehicle sales, which ultimately impacts F&I sales opportunities. Additionally, the soft skills required for the role, like relatability and customer service – which we discuss next – are critical elements to success and earning potential.

What Are the Most Important Skills for a Finance Manager?

Finance managers are customer-facing employees, and their skill sets must match their role. There are a few traits that can help you successfully apply for a finance manager role and succeed in the position. These include:

  • Sales skill and experience: While an F&I manager and an auto salesperson have different focus areas, both have an important impact on the customer experience. Success here boils down to a few factors, including knowing how shoppers prefer to be treated and being able to confidently express the benefits of their respective products.
  • Soft skills and communication: Empathy, listening and effective communication are all vital for finance managers. They enable an easier sales experience and are more likely to create a positive customer experience and build loyalty to the dealership.
  • Persistence and the right attitude: Excelling at these skills has dual benefits – both with customers and across dealership departments and leadership. Know that persistence does not equate to forcefulness, but rather the grit and lively, optimistic communication style that makes for a successful sales professional.
  • Business leadership and management skills: Finance managers must be effective collaborators and leaders within their own departments and across the dealership. Being able to work side-by-side with senior management and colleagues in and out of the F&I department will help these employees thrive.

One important question you may be asking if you're aiming for a finance manager career path is whether you need automotive sales or service experience.

The short answer is no. Finance managers don't need to know other areas of dealership operations as well as F&I product menus and financing options. However, some knowledge or experience is valuable, just as every dealership employee should know the basics to create a cohesive, consistent customer experience.

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How to Become a Finance Manager

The process of becoming a finance manager typically involves earning a high school diploma or bachelor's degree, especially one that includes business and finance coursework. But ultimately, skills and experience in other dealership roles can help on your path to the F&I office.

Spending time learning relevant skills in sales, management and customer service at a dealership can gain you the experience to prepare for F&I. But it’s also possible to learn the art of customer service in a field such as hospitality, then acquire automotive knowledge later.

If you’re already working at a dealership, expressing interest in an F&I role and asking for on-the-job training can make you a strong candidate for a finance manager when an opening becomes available.

What Training Is Available for Automotive Finance Managers?

There are a variety of available training programs whether you’re pursuing learning for yourself or a leader looking to upskill your team. With virtual and in-person options available, sessions led by subject matter experts are the gold standard. These skilled consultants can guide learners through topics such as:

  1. Unique selling practices tailored to F&I departments
  2. Customer service tips around presenting an F&I product menu
  3. Compliance and legal requirements around F&I sales
  4. FILES professional certification, an industry-accepted measure of F&I knowledge and excellence

Finance and Insurance Legal and Ethical Standards (FILES) certification is one of the cornerstones of F&I training. In it, you’ll learn how to conduct customer interviews, explain and review the F&I menu, helpful upsell tactics and how to handle objections in the F&I process.

There are multiple levels of F&I training ranging from introductory to advanced depending on your skill and experience. Beginner-level courses cover the basics of the role and prepare you for FILES, whereas employees who have earned their FILES certification can build upon their abilities through advanced sessions that provide more specific coaching. Here is an example of a more thorough training path for F&I professionals:

Certification Timeline for New Business Manager



How to be Successful in Automotive Finance Manager Jobs

Understanding the roles and responsibilities of a finance manager and determining if that career is right for you is just the first step. To land the job and be successful, you should determine if you have the soft skills – communication, active listening, customer-focused thinking and persistence – as well as the professional experience required. Even still, introductory and advanced training are a necessity to keep advancing your knowledge. If that sounds appealing to you, you’re on the right track.

Now that you understand the job requirements and necessary steps to become a finance manager, it’s time to take action. Learn what kinds of training are available to you now.

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