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Be diligent on disclosure

To be a professional means more than merely having a job, it involves striving to achieve the highest standards.

Professional bodies often require their members to comply with stan- dards which are made available to members of the public who use their services. Typically, members will not only have to comply with the relevant laws and regulations covering their activities but must also deal with aspects relating to their wider responsibilities within society. These elements deal with matters such as responsible behaviour, integrity and confidentiality. They are designed to protect the reputation of the profession as a whole and create a climate of trust with the public.

The Society of Mortgage Profess- ionals, as part of the CII, requires all its members to adhere to the CII code of ethics and conduct. Obviously, the requirements include the need to ensure that regulatory standards are met.

Recent findings from the FSA in the mortgage market have identified that many firms still have some way to go to ensure that customers receive the information held to be a vital part of the sales process.

Out of 82 assessments carried out across a sample of lenders and intermediaries, there were 45 instances where failures occurred involving the provision of the initial disclosure document or key facts illustration.

Looking at the survey in detail, there is no particular type of firm that can hold itself out as being most likely to meet the requirements. Lenders are slightly better at providing a KFI but are no more likely to issue the appropriate documents at the right time. Among intermediaries, appointed representatives are less likely than directly authorised firms to meet the standards.

Inevitably, there will be cases where the failure to issue documentation could be blamed on circumstances on the day. However evidence suggests there are too many cases where firms are not being sufficiently diligent in providing customers with the information to which they are entitled.

FSA managing director of markets Clive Briault is quoted as being disappointed by the findings and has issued a warning that it will continue to monitor closely the distribution of IDDs & KFIs. He warns that continuing failure will be taken very seriously and acted upon.

In choosing to look at disclosure, the FSA has signalled its interest in the sales process. We can expect that the suitability of advice will soon become the focus of interest.

Meeting the expectations of customers is all about providing a professional service. Ensuring that high standards operate across the industry is an essential element of safeguarding the reputation of the industry.

Only by maintaining high standards will we be able to command the respect that is essential for the continued health of the sector.


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