Interview With AFIP
Interview With AFIP

This month, P&A caught up with Dave Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals, an international organization offering training and certification for F&I staff, managers and directors. Robertson is a longtime contributor to several leading auto finance publications, including F&I and Showroom magazine, and an in-demand speaker at industry events.

Tell us about AFIP and what the organization offers.

The Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals was founded in 1990 and is active in the United States, Canada and, pre-recession, select countries in Europe. At present, AFIP is establishing a branch in Brazil.

AFIP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit continuing education association whose primary mission is to certify F&I practitioners, dealership managers and the personnel of select captive and institutional lenders, aftermarket vendors and general agents to a recognized level of competency with the applicable state and federal regulations. AFIP also requires its certified members to sign and abide by an enforced code of conduct that holds the certified individuals personally accountable for what they tell a customer.

AFIP differs from all other F&I development curricula in that it focuses solely on the state and federal laws. The program is designed to be compatible with all existing training programs. In addition to providing accurate and updated regulatory information provided by the law firm of Hudson Cook LLP, AFIP redirects the contingent liability connected with this highly sensitive area away from the dealer or general education training provided to AFIP. AFIP Certification is the car dealer’s first line of defense.

After certifying tens of thousands of F&I practitioners for 22 years, AFIP has a record of only one AFIP-Certified F&I Professional getting his dealer in trouble.

Who are your target markets and what message would you like to give them?

Because it creates the dealer’s first line of defense — by preventing violations of the governing rules and redirecting liability — AFIP’s target market is the individuals who arrange financing and solicit aftermarket products in franchised, independent and BHPH / LHPH dealerships selling motorized conveyances of all types. The trend among dealers is to AFIP-certify anyone in the store who “touches the deal.”

The second major market is the dealer contact and F&I development personnel employed by the captive and institutional lenders, aftermarket vendors and independent general agents.

AFIP’s message is simple: F&I transactions conducted ethically and by the rules aren’t the subject of TV exposés, FTC or Department of Justice administrative action, or class-action lawsuits. The lender or vendor who is instrumental in getting a store’s F&I cadre AFIP-certified has established a bond with the dealer principal and F&I personnel that a competitor can’t break.

Tell us about yourself and the path that led you to the leadership of AFIP.

In 1989, an industry visionary by the name of Laurie Posella saw the need for an independent sanctioning body for the F&I trade. And so did Ford Motor Credit, GMAC, Bank of America, the company I owned at the time (Dealer Based Services) and many others. We provided the seed money and collectively developed the curriculum to meet AFIP’s primary objective. However, AFIP is unique among professional associations in that there are no regional chapters. There isn’t, for example, a San Diego chapter of AFIP.

Seeing the need to tie the benefits of AFIP certification to the services provided by its founding members, the firms and general agencies who join AFIP as industry-level members become the AFIP chapter. As such, any benefit that flows from AFIP to a car dealer does so under the auspices of an industry member. For example, FMCC is an AFIP chapter, as is Great Lakes Companies and hundreds of others.

I was among the founding members and, at the request of the board, assumed the executive director position. I later reincorporated AFIP in my own name and moved it from California to Texas. I have been active in the automobile industry for nearly 40 years.

How has the industry changed in the past five years, and how will it change in the near future?

Two ongoing evolutionary changes are directly affecting the F&I process. The first is the impact of the Internet on the buying and selling processes. The paperless F&I transaction will soon be commonplace. The second is the proliferation of consumer-oriented regulations and the heightened level of scrutiny from all quarters: state and federal regulators, the press, consumer advocacy groups and the plaintiff’s bar.

How do you like to spend your time off?

If I’m not working, I must be sleeping. In the short interludes between those two activities, I enjoy traveling with my wife, playing with my grandchildren, and contending with a spoiled-rotten dog. In addition, I recently completed an MBA and I’m currently pursuing a Ph.D. addressing business ethics.