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Raising the issue of standards

As the newly appointed project director for the Raising Standards initiative, I am always interested to get feedback on how the scheme is perceived.

I was interested to read Lorna Bourke&#39s criticisms of the Raising Standards initiative (Money Marketing, May 10).

The Raising Standards initiative has been developed with the intention of making a real difference to consumers of financial services products.

A considerable amount of research and consultation was undertaken with consumers and their representatives to ensure the scheme addressed their needs and concerns.

The results helped us to develop the fundamentals. With 83 per cent of consumers saying they would prefer to buy products from companies carrying a quality mark and with 80 per cent of the industry committed to implementing it, we are confident that the Raising Standards mark will prove to be the one that consumers positively adopt.

Consumers will receive clearer and more comparable key features documentation. It requires brands to remove opaque charges, improve surrender values and persistency rates, and improve complaint handling and customer service.

Lorna Bourke incorrectly uses the criticisms of with-profits to suggest that Raising Standards is failing to address the issues that really matter.

In fact, the scheme does provide solutions to some of the criticisms of with-profits but it has been shaped to address issues that go considerably beyond product design and was never intended to be the panacea for every issue. The ABI has other work in progress examining the future for with-profits disclosure.

Finally, it does seem rather unfair to use our research to help develop of Raising Standards as a stick to beat us with. We know consumer confidence is not all we would wish it to be and that is why we have developed Raising Standards and rooted it in the demands and needs of consumers.

We will only be able to judge its success once the scheme has gone live and a critical mass of companies has implemented the standards.

I, for one, am confident that the view from commentators then will need to be quite different and that the initiative will be widely supported.

Stuart Tragheim

Project director,Raising Standards

ABI, London EC1

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