The Personal Finance Society has been a key mover behind the launch of an independent Financial Vulnerability Taskforce aimed at supporting planners and advisers to spot and tackle consumer vulnerability.
The professional body, which awards the Chartered Financial Planner designation and has 40,000 members, says it wants to improve client outcomes and increase access to financial advice.
Advisers will be encouraged to support the taskforce campaign and sign up for a new Financial Vulnerabilty Charter.
The taskforce will promote wider understanding of clients in vulnerable circumstances and encourage good practice as well as addressing the expectations of regulatory standards and public expectations.
To adopt the Financial Vulnerability Charter financial advisers need to commit to the nine core consumer guide pledges.
- Acknowledge their services involve the application of specialist and technical financial knowledge which places many clients in a position of dependency.
- Ensure clients’ interests are placed above commercial interests.
- Recognise vulnerability can manifest itself in physical, mental or an emotional form, is dynamic in nature (short lived or longer term, sometimes permanent, transient, recurring or fluctuating over time) and may be hidden.
- Treat all clients fairly, regardless of their identity, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, and guard against making assumptions about the characteristics of individuals.
- Be aware that language is important and that vulnerability relates to circumstances and not a type of person. Recognise people in vulnerable circumstances could be unaware of their vulnerability and, if they are aware, may not wish to be described as vulnerable.
- Accept heightened professional obligations towards clients in vulnerable circumstances; and the need for raised awareness, greater sensitivity and additional technical competencies.
- Encourage clients to self-declare any vulnerability safe in the knowledge the advice they receive will be as good as that received by those who are not in vulnerable circumstances, confidentiality will be maintained and the way they will be treated will be fully compliant with relevant legislation including The Equality Act 2010, Consumer Protection regulations, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and General Data Protection Regulation.
- Provide training to everyone within the organisation on appropriate methods of engagement and the effective discharge of professional services to clients in vulnerable circumstances.
- Recognise clients in vulnerable circumstances who may be in immediate danger of significant abuse or harm and contact the appropriate authorities to mitigate the risks they face.
Financial advisers who sign-up to the Charter can display their commitment to the pledges on their website via a digital badge, list the core pledges and reference the consumer guide.
Supporters of the taskforce will have access to subject matter experts plus a resource library from the Personal Finance Society.
The steering committee is chaired by Keith Richards, CEO of the PFS, and includes Caroline Bielanska, joint founder and former CEO/Chair of Solicitors for the Elderly, Professor Keith Brown, founding director of the National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice and Chair of the NHS England Safeguarding Adults National Network, Andrew Mason, non-executive director of Matrix Capital and independent Chair of the Telford & Wrekin Safeguarding Partnership, Robin Melley, the Personal Finance Society’s Chartered Financial Planner of the Year and managing director of Matrix Capital, Tony Miles (Secretariat), technical director of My Care Consultant, Tali Shlomo, head of inclusion and wellbeing at Shearman & Sterling LLP, and Laura Thursfield, Financial Planner at Mazars LLP.
Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, said: “Our profession must be given the mechanisms to unite behind transparent and consistent standards if we are to demonstrate we are a trusted ‘safe pair of hands’.
“The current regulatory focus on vulnerability provides a timely opportunity as a united profession to change public perception through the way in which we consciously deal with those in vulnerable circumstances and address perceptions or the unconscious reality of commercial conflicts of interest.”
“I encourage every member of the Financial Planning and advice profession to adopt the taskforce’s Charter, support this endeavour and publicly display commitment via a new digital logo.”
Robin Melley, Chartered Financial Planner at Matrix Capital Limited, said: “The way in which we, as individual practitioners, deal with clients who are in vulnerable circumstances will determine whether we as a profession are viewed as a safe pair of hands in society. I would urge my peers to embrace the Charter and raise the bar in terms of professionalism and join together in creating a safe pair of hands for our clients.”