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 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 and span customer facing staff, technical roles and the company’s leadership and senior management teams.
The CII is clear the professionalism commitment is not simply about demonstrating knowledge, but making ethics, professionalism and training part of a company’s DNA and demonstrating this on a daily basis in how a company deals with its customers.
Our series on the professionalism commitment looks at what the CII is trying to achieve through the initiative, and what providers are doing to apply the standards to their business.
The professional development work being undertaken by firms is even more important in the context of pension freedoms and the consequent surge in pensions activity.
As we report elsewhere, the FCA’s recent retirement outcomes review shows consumers have welcomed the reforms and are engaging with pensions on a level not seen for years, if not decades.
But this engagement is more about accessing their pension pots than a newfound interest in long-term pension savings. The FCA’s review identified an inherent mistrust in pensions, perhaps signalling a wider mistrust of the financial services industry overall.
It is against this backdrop that boosting standards is so important, as it will help prove to consumers that the majority of financial firms can be trusted. If providers are working to drive professionalism through their business, that should also reflect well on advisers. But it may also start the hard job of turning around the negative perception of financial firms and financial products.
Natalie Holt is editor of Money Marketing