The Finance & Leasing Association’s (FLA) Specialist Automotive Finance (SAF) programme has been relaunched in partnership with The London Institute of Banking & Finance.

Now known as SAF Expert, according to the FLA the overhaul will come with an improved range of training options for dealership staff that will further increase the professionalism, skills and knowledge in the sector. Those who successfully pass their yearly SAF online test, will accrue study credits towards the Level 3 SAF Advanced qualification which is accredited by the Institute.

SAF Expert will continue to be funded by FLA lenders, and provided free to users. This also applies to SAF Essentials, a new set of basic modules that offer an introduction to motor finance by providing a broad overview of the industry and its products. There an estimated 35,000 current users of the SAF programme.

SAF Advanced, which at Level 3 puts the motor finance industry’s training on an equal footing with professional courses required in other markets, is now also available on a new app-based learning platform, SAF Advanced Academy.

The app follows the established SAF Advanced syllabus. Users can also track their progress, then the app identifies those areas where more study is needed and will generate tests to check the user’s development.

Adrian Dally, head of motor finance at the FLA, said: “Motor finance is the third largest market in the consumer credit sector, so the current level of scrutiny from regulators and the media should be considered the new normal.

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“Staff training is therefore more important than ever, and the new suite of SAF courses provides a training option for everyone, regardless of their level of experience. Now is the time to make sure that all customer-facing staff have the skills they need to help your business thrive.”

Brian Wilkinson, managing director of corporate and professional qualifications at The London Institute of Banking & Finance, said: “Many consumers lack knowledge – and confidence – about how best to fund their car among the numerous options available to them.

“It’s critical that car-buyers get the right information and guidance from well-trained motor finance experts. A SAF-expert advisor is best placed to support the purchase decision and provide assurance that customers have made an appropriate choice.”

Figures released by the FLA show that asset finance new business (primarily leasing and hire purchase) grew in February 2019 by 15%, compared with the same month last year.