Automotive retail sector must sustain investment to reassure FCA

Steve Nash, CEO, IMI, responds to draft guidelines published by FCA regarding vulnerable customers.

“The draft guidelines published by the FCA earlier this week to provide all consumer lenders – including motor finance providers – with clear direction on ensuring vulnerable consumers are treated fairly are yet another step in the regulator’s mission to eradicate any malpractice, non-compliance and, arguably, a lack of fundamental customer-facing skills across the consumer finance sector as a whole – the automotive retail sector must play its part in addressing these concerns.

“We believe that a commitment to continued training and professional development is crucial, as well as obviously ensuring that products are fit for purpose; customer service is provided at the right touch-points and processes exist to monitor outcomes experienced by vulnerable consumers.

“The IMI’s F&I Accreditation is designed  to go to the heart of the needs of the individuals in motor retail operations, providing them with an opportunity to demonstrate that they are operating to FCA guidelines and, moreover, that they are currently competent in their role. Crucially, the sector must recognise that this is not a competitive issue or unique selling point for any of its members – it should be a basic hygiene-factor that car buyers offered finance and insurance products are treated fairly.”

A good example of how this has been adopted in the sector is ALPHERA Financial Services (part of BMW Group Financial Services) which has become an IMI Centre, using the IMI F&I Accreditation as a tangible means to demonstrate their commitment to good practice and TCF (Treating Customers Fairly). BMW Group Financial Services has also created an Underwriting Excellence and Responsible Lending Programme for its senior underwriters – needless to say, this too is quality assured by the IMI as a QAP (Quality Assured Programme).

BMW Group Financial Services

The first-of-its-kind programme is designed to reaffirm buyer confidence in finance application and affordability assessment processes, with BMW Group Financial Services underwriters enrolled in the new programme as part of the company’s commitment to ongoing professional development. As such, it aims to safeguard those buying a vehicle on finance, providing customers with the reassurance of a competent, registered professional, accurately assessing their financial situation based upon the information available to them.  In short, this is an unequivocal demonstration of ‘TCF’ that is at the heart of the FCA’s work.

The BMW Group Financial Services Underwriting Excellence and Responsible Lending Programme will be offered to the top tier mandate underwriters working across the BMW, MINI and Alphera Financial Services brands.

Assessment takes place for up to three years from the date of enrolment, and will be compulsory for underwriting managers to qualify for the maximum credit authority level.

Training will be delivered on the job, and will be accompanied by monthly coaching sessions and regular one-to-one assessments. Underwriters enrolled in the scheme will also benefit from ongoing ‘four-eyes’ review of cases underwritten to ensure consistent adherence to compliance regulations.