July 10, 2020

F&I companies plan to resume in-person training

After months of stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, several major finance-and-insurance training companies are preparing their associates to hit the road.

More dealerships are requesting in-person training sessions, F&I companies say, as states relax policies restricting in-person transactions and automotive dealerships are bringing back furloughed staff members.

American Financial and Automotive Services Inc., National Auto Care and JM&A Group are among the training companies reopening in-person training offerings for the first time since early March. Most will be taking precautions such as limiting classroom size, adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and, in some cases, requiring gloves and face masks for trainers and participants.

There are no plans as of yet to return to its main campus in Deerfield Beach, Fla., but JM&A Group is working with dealerships for in-person training. There is a class scheduled next month at a satellite office in Charlotte, N.C., which has classrooms large enough to accommodate social distancing requirements.

Chris May, director of JM&A’s Performance Development Center, said when and where associates conduct classes depend on state and local guidelines and whether the company believes classes can be held safely.

“We see the demand from our dealers really starting to come back,” May said.

American Financial will resume in-person training sessions on June 8. Class sizes will be reduced to 15 students from 30 to practice social distancing, said Ritch Wheeler, vice president of training. The company plans to conduct limited student classes twice a month for the next several months to maintain social distancing.

F&I product and training company EFG Cos. resumed dealership visits last week, said Eric Fifield, the company’s chief revenue officer. Classes at the group’s Dallas training center will be back in session the week of June 15.

The first in-person training class conducted in months by the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals is scheduled for July, according to Executive Vice President Shannon Robertson, though some courses are tentatively set for the final two weeks of June. Classes will be assessed based on dealership location, the store’s policies and local and state guidelines. If required, trainers will be outfitted with masks and gloves and will be prepared to distribute the same protective materials to attendees, Robertson said.

“As we book the locations, we are making the space to allow for appropriate social distancing and have hand sanitizer available,” he said in an email.

Not all F&I companies are looking to resume in-person sessions in the short term. Protective Asset Protection is monitoring recommendations from health care professionals and national reopening efforts at this time, Bill Koster, vice president of training and specialty products, said in an email. The company has opened several of its online resources during this time for dealership employees and agents — even those who aren’t Protective clients.

“As we see the spread of the virus lessen and safe meeting guidelines expand, we’ll be happy and excited to begin offering more in-person training again,” Koster said.

David Neuenschwander, president of National Automotive Experts/NWAN, said the Ohio F&I company isn’t looking to reopen in-person training until the fourth quarter of 2020. And even then, conditions will have to be just right.

“If we have enough demand and opportunity, our class participants are willing to travel and to share a classroom with people from around the country, and we are not back in limited/essential business mode,” Neuenschwander said.