An Interview With Kumar Kathinokkula
An Interview With Kumar Kathinokkula

Over the past several years, Kumar Kathinokkula has emerged as a leading voice of reason and progress as technological advancements have changed the way F&I products are sold and administered. P&A sat down with the COO of F&I Administration Solutions to learn what new developments are on the horizon and how dealers, product providers and administrators will be affected.

Tell me a little bit about your company and its place in the industry.

F&I Admin is the leading provider of administration solutions for F&I products. Our core platform, SCS Auto, natively supports the broadest array of products amongst all solutions in the marketplace. It offers full lifecycle administration of VSC, GAP, prepaid maintenance and at least 15 other products with behavior specific to each product in the same system.

The functionality is as deep as it is broad, and it gets deeper with at least one new release every two months, if not more often. All this comprehensive capability is attested to by our customer base of 50-plus administrators, who collectively process more than five million new F&I contracts every year on our platform.

We also have the highest number of menus connected to us (53 and counting) for erating and econtracting. In fact, our open architecture makes it easy to support a wide array of integrations, such as inspection companies (nine), WrightExpress for claim payments with credit cards, SPP, PayLink and Omnisure for premium financing, and much more.

Are there any recent or future developments within your company that you would like to tell us about?

We are in a very exciting phase of our evolution at the moment. Our customer and transaction base and growth rate give us the muscle and stamina for the kind of long term projects and connected services that no one else has. In 2015, we launched “clearFI,” our business intelligence platform that allows our customers to slice and dice sales, earnings and claims metrics and publish them as interactive dashboards accessible via mobile and desktop devices.

We also launched the F&I private cloud systems architecture in June 2015 that offers our customers redundancy and load balancing within and across dual, geographically distributed data centers. All the while their data is stored exclusively on our disks and servers; nothing is stored on third-party cloud services, all while maintaining the highest levels of performance and availability.

We will soon launch “pureFI,” our next-generation administration platform. We now provide certified DMS integration services via our Agilifi services hub to SCS Auto and other customer systems. We will launch many other services via Agilifi in the coming months, such as VINtelligence support and aftermarket parts pricing integration.

How did you (personally) get started? What caused you to choose this career path?

I worked at Deloitte and CGI for much of my formative years, building business intelligence and P&C insurance solutions. The consulting role suited my temperament well, since I am constantly looking for new challenges. Eventually, I wanted to build the kind of solutions that would take a very long-term focus — something that was not possible in the consulting field.

In 2004, I left consulting for the opportunity to build an F&I administration and menu presentation solution set for a company that was eventually purchased by Dealertrack. David Trinder and I bought that division from Dealertrack in 2009 and formed F&I Administration Solutions.

What are your outside interests / what do you like to do on your days off? What activities/sports are you passionate about?

If I were ever to retire, you would likely find me riding a motorcycle in Africa, Asia or Latin America. I like traveling to new countries and places. Just last year, we visited the Taj Mahal in India, the cloud forests and beaches of Costa Rica, and the estuaries and coastal beauty of northwest Oregon. When I can’t afford a long trip, I like to run and cycle a few miles from home.

What are the biggest issues you see facing the industry today and in the future?

As always, our customers continue to watch the regulatory environment carefully. We do provide many pricing parameters that ensure dealers are pricing products fairly and within a reasonable range. In addition, however, the industry continues to pursue the holy grail of easy, paperless transacting in the F&I office. This requires several disparate entities (lenders, administrators, state and federal regulators) to all come together to create an environment that facilitates such seamless processing at the dealership.

Although many are working on it, no single platform in use at the dealership yet provides a compelling paperless workflow to integrate the disparate transactions with these entities that a single vehicle purchase usually entails. The market will ensure that it is only a matter of time before such solutions are created. As has been the case lately with technological change, when this occurs, the pace of adoption will be rapid. Administrators must ensure they have the right technological platforms to connect with and support such solutions as quickly as they appear.

As always, the never-ending quest for greater efficiency continues to drive administrators to integrate and automate every aspect of their systems and processes. The current focus of this drive is producer signup and management processes, reinsurance administration and customer service. The common thread running through these efforts is the desire to make all aspects of the interaction with an administrator as easy as possible.

Administrators sit at the center of a complex web of service providers and partners that all need to work together to provide a seamless experience for their customers. This implies their systems need to be increasingly open and connected so they can drive this efficiency and ease of doing business. Increasingly, this means having open, flexible, secure, reliable and performant systems that can be easily integrated with a limitless array of partners and vendors. This is exactly the kind of systems we build and are continuing to build.

The entire functionality of pureFI will be exposed as REST APIs that can be consumed internally or externally so that integrating with other systems is merely a function of finding the right set of services to connect.

What advice would you give to someone new to this industry?

Get used to complexity and change. Always ask and know why. Never get comfortable with status quo. And don’t ever think you know everything. From the outside, the F&I industry may appear a bit behind the times with its reliance on paper at several junctures. But you only have to scratch the surface to be see the amount of complexity and sophistication that underlies the products on offer, and that the value chain that leads up to it is enormous. Go deeper and you see new products showing up on a regular basis, new ways of earning these, new and better ways of adjudicating claims, and more ways of automating every administrative process.