With recognition from Treasury minister Ruth Kelly, the Raising Standards
quality mark scheme is gaining momentum and credibility in its second year.
As one of the first companies to be accredited for the Raising Standards
scheme with the Scottish Equitable brand and also one of the first to renew
our accreditation for a second year, I am delighted to see the scheme is
gathering momentum and, more importantly, credibility as it enters its
Let's not kid ourselves here. Raising Standards has never been short of
detractors. Industry observers have dismissed the scheme as irrelevant, too
little too late – something that the industry should have been doing a long
time ago. Many have suggested, wrongly, that Raising Standards is simply
about tinkering with the wording in the brochures.
Anyone involved in the rigorous accreditation process which addresses the
total service proposition including customer service and satisfaction,
product design as well as customer-facing literature will be aware of how
gaining and keeping accreditation is a demanding and onerous exercise.
Raising Standards has delivered three core objectives – increased clarity
and comparability of information, improvements in the fit between the needs
of the consumer and the product they purchase and increased focus on
No one is suggesting that Raising Standards is the pan-acea of the life
industry's ills. But research suggests that it does go a long way to
addressing some of the key concerns of consumers when they are looking to
save for retirement, or take out insurance to protect their families.
This year, we have heard much discussion of the £27bn savings gap and
the emergence of the protection gap which is estimated to be many times
However, as an industry, arguably the biggest problem we face is the
credibility gap. That is, the lack of trust and belief on the part of
consumers as regards financial services providers.
Unless we can bridge this credibility gap, the financial health and future
prosperity of the UK is in jeopardy. Not to mention the future business
development of the life insurance industry.
Against this backdrop, surely a scheme such as Raising Standards can only
be of benefit to consumers, financial advisers and providers alike.
On the second anniversary of the scheme, Raising Standards received its
most significant accolade to date. Treasury financial secretary Ruth Kelly
praised the scheme for its role in codifying the way that firms communicate
with consumers, which she saw as important to the Government's strategy of
“empowering consumers through education and information and making the
market work better for the many”.
Kelly also recognised the impact of the reforms brought about by Raising
Standards, including the acknowledgement of the scheme in the Sandler
review and FSA rev-iew of with-profits funds and the fact that Raising
Standards already addresses many of the issues raised in both these reviews.
The scheme was also lauded for having attracted over one-third of the
industry by market volume.
So, as the scheme develops and further brands are accredited and, more
importantly, accredited on a yearly basis, it is heartening to see that the
efforts of those companies who have supported Raising Standards have not
Looking to the future, one of the reviews due out in 2003 is the FSA review
of product disclosure which will examine the format and clarity of product
literature and consumer understanding. Raising standards has made
considerable impact in this field and it's to be hoped that the FSA will
take account of this in its review.
Peter Dornan is director of group businesses at Aegon UK