The evolution of the advice profession has stemmed from a lot of hard work from advice firms. They have spent a long time working up and revisiting their propositions to ensure consistently high levels of service to clients, as well as investing in staff to help deliver on business promises.
Advisers and consumers are less convinced that providers have been through that same transition. The challenges of pension freedoms, and the subsequent surge in defined benefit transfers, have put pressure on providers which have left many frustrated.
This was evident at our recent Money Marketing Interactive conference, as a debate about technology morphed into a lament about provider processes.
But quietly, there are efforts to change things. The Chartered Insurance Institute is encouraging providers of life, pensions and long-term savings products to sign up to its professionalism commitment, which aims to boost professional standards across the sector.
The idea is that by signing up, providers pledge to operate policies that encourage high quality standards of customer service, embed the principles of treating customers fairly and demonstrate a commitment to career development.
These standards should be implemented by the end of 2018, across customer facing staff, technical roles and the company’s leadership and senior management teams.
Research from the CII among over 2,000 consumers and over 100 MPs has found there is a clear appetite among the public for providers to raise professional standards to support customers in the wake of the pension freedoms.
Only 36 per cent of consumers and under half of MPs thought providers had responded well to the reforms. Clearly, the time for change is now.
Over the coming months, Money Marketing will be hearing from those who have signed up to the commitment, and the change they are delivering both inside their business and externally to advisers and their clients.
The initiative will have failed if this is another talking shop. The drive to boost service and professionalism among providers has begun.
Natalie Holt is editor of Money Marketing