Raising Motor Finance Standards and Skills
Specialist Automotive Finance (SAF) for frontline motor dealership staff
The Specialist Automotive Finance (SAF) initiative aims to increase consumer confidence in motor finance sold in car dealerships by improving the financial knowledge of dealership staff. Over 14,000 dealers are now registered for the SAF online competence test. The scheme has the support of the Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Office of Fair Trading.
The scheme is built around an online competence test to assess showroom staff knowledge of motor finance. Those who pass the annually renewed assessment, become SAF-certified.
‘SAF Approved’ – company certification
In August 2009, the FLA extended SAF-certification from individuals to whole motor dealerships. SAF Approved is company certification.
Dealerships will be awarded certification for their professional standards surrounding the sale of finance to car buyers. SAF Approved status can be voluntarily applied for, through the existing online competence test. Dealerships are eligible for SAF Approved status once all eligible, customer-facing staff have successfully passed the online test.
SAF Approved is audited and monitored by the FLA. To become SAF Approved, each dealership must submit an annual SAF compliance statement and adhere to the SAF guidance note - a principles-based best-practice document that calls for dealerships to lend responsibly and treat customers fairly. Around 1,200 dealerships in the UK are currently SAF Approved, with many more making their way through the approval process.
The SAF Approved scheme now has 27 of the top 30 dealer groups in the country signed up and fully Approved.
Benefits of SAF and SAF Approved For dealerships and dealership staff:
- Free access to the latest information on motor finance products sold in showrooms, and the regulation surrounding those products. The reference material is constantly updated to include new consumer credit regulation - a module was introduced in 2010 to help dealers understand their new requirements under the Consumer Credit Directive, and new modules are being introduced in 2012 to help dealers understand new Broker guidance.
- The online competence test, which remains free of charge to all dealerships, helps employers identify the training needs of staff to support personal development and improvement.
- Improved knowledge and skills of staff to guide car buyers to the bespoke product that best meets their needs and budget.
- Professional recognition for staff and the company.
- The ability to use SAF promotional material in showrooms and in local advertising to help attract customers.
- A potential advantage over non-SAF Approved dealerships. The FLA has introduced an SAF Approved dealer directory, enabling car buyers to search for their nearest dealership that has met the SAF professional standards.
- Consistent showroom standards to instil confidence in car buyers – helping attract new customers and retain existing customers.
- All of the above may contribute to improved new and used car finance penetration.
SAF has been welcomed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) as an initiative that empowers consumers with improved information to help them make an informed decision on finance. SAF is a positive example of industry self-regulation, seeking to improve the service given to consumers.
Benefits for consumers
- Car buyers will benefit from improved information and guidance on motor finance options and their rights under finance agreements.
- Consistent standards in the information received, underpinned by the FLA’s SAF guidance note.
- Greater consumer confidence and peace of mind in the point-of-sale offering.
- Clearly branded showrooms, indicating those dealerships that have voluntarily obtained SAF Approved status.
- Access to www.financingyourcar.org.uk - the FLA’s dedicated and impartial website for car buyers on motor finance.
For all SAF enquiries, please contact:
Dan Tyler, SAF Marketing & Policy Advisor, Tel: 020 7420 9613, email: SAF@fla.org.uk