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Tim Sargisson: Why chartered status matters less than your culture

Last month, Wingate Financial Planning director Alistair Cunningham wrote an article in Money Marketing arguing that chartered status had been cheapened, citing high-profile incidents of chartered financial planners involved in poor advice as one reason why.

For the record, Sandringham is not currently chartered. The question for us and other non-chartered firms remains whether there is any benefit in becoming so.

This is not designed to demean any person or firm that has put in the effort to reach the pinnacle of their professional development.

I follow the path of our own chartered planners with interest and the drive behind establishing the Sandringham Academy in association with Redmill Associates was to support those who wanted to work towards Level 4, 6 and, ultimately, chartered status.

Alistair Cunningham: Chartered status has been cheapened

However, columns like Cunningham’s add to the debate about what tangible benefits there really are.

The first key issue is that it is all about the client. Cunningham’s article questions whether some advisers view a string of qualifications and titles as perhaps superseding the need to deliver good client outcomes. The two should go hand in hand but Cunningham’s point is that sometimes they do not.

I would argue that the business culture is more important than titles. I appreciate that, to be chartered, the firm must have in place core values and business practices that align with the Chartered Insurance Institute code of ethics, but they need to go further.

It is all about delivering great client outcomes. Every business needs a clear mission statement, combined with a core focus and a set of core values, all of which reinforce how the client is at the heart of the firm.

Our mission statement, core focus and values are included in our employee handbook to ensure staff understand this from the moment they join us.

We ask that staff judge the management in terms of how we treat clients against these values; to let us know if they believe we are not delivering. Putting a plaque on the wall is irrelevant if it is not accompanied by a focus on outcomes acknowledged by everyone in the business.

Tim Sargisson: Advisers need a Prod in the right direction

The second point is about whether it helps client engagement. Providing a level of comfort by being chartered is not the same thing as actively encouraging new clients to seek you out because you are chartered.

Clients are just as likely to respond with “so what?” when offered the facts. This is as much to do with the way we present the facts, with very little in the way of “why” a firm is chartered and how it supports the delivery of good outcomes.

For us, though, all of this is largely academic. This is because to qualify for chartered status, a minimum of 25 per cent of the firm’s advisers must hold the chartered financial planner title, which will increase to 50 per cent by 2020.

I suspect this sits well with most firms where, according to the FCA data, 89 per cent have five advisers or fewer. However, for the 38 firms with 50-plus advisers, it is challenging to deliver the requisite number qualified to be able to join the club. This means, for the time being, we will have to direct our efforts elsewhere.

Tim Sargisson is chief executive at Sandringham



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There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. So Tim this argues the point if a BS (British Stanard) cert has more credibility
    I think it does ?

  2. One of the things that successful businesses strive to do is to differentiate themselves from possible or actual competitors

    In the financial plannings space it seems to me to make sense to put some real effort into that. After all, potential clients have a real challenge when it comes to appointing an adviser, it’s not easy for them.

    Tim is right in that the culture of a firm is vitally important. I find myself putting a lot of emphasis when speaking with clients- existing and new- about our approach to ensuring that they receive suitable advice which is transparent and well managed from a risk perspective.

    I also explain to them how our attainment of Chartered status (both as a firm and as individuals)is about the mark of respect that we have for our clients in that we were prepared to be tested to a high standard and continue to be prepared through CPD.

    I have never had a client say “so what?” when we have explained our Chartered status maybe that’s because we take the time to explain to them where that status sits in our culture as a firm. Expecting them to know without explanation is maybe just lazy.

    It is not though, the be all and end all. Applying our skills with trust and integrity, maintaining our knowledge and experience doing what we say we are going to do and having Chartered status,none of these things are mutually exclusive are they?

  3. The CII rules for Chartered Firm status are that a firm must have more than one chartered adviser, ie: one person adviser firms are ineligible for chartered firm status. So the 89% with 5 or fewer advisers is reduced by the % with only one adviser. Those firms at either end of size will find it difficult to attain firm status on the new 50% rules. Does that lend itself to individual chartered status and individual ethics and values becoming more important in establishing a wider professional culture than a board of directors who hold a qualification but rarely advice. I hope so.

    • As a fellow sole practitioner with chartered status I fully concur with Susie on this.Furthermore it would not appear to follow the practice of other chartered professions, eg accountancy.

  4. […] Tim Sargisson: Why chartered status matters less than your culture  Money Marketing […]

  5. Frank Williamson 15th January 2019 at 3:32 pm

    I could not agree more Tim. While other factors are clearly important, the culture of the firm and the attitude to clients is key above all else.

  6. There is a huge difference about being different and being competent, or committed or being Trusted. Many firms have in the past been paid for and flagged up as being “superior”, for sales purposes instead of putting clients first. Being a farmer rather than a hunter ( or “hooded”, and groomed to maximise and line their own pockets ( or their sponsors where commissions are paid). It is vital the commitment to clients is uppermost and the commissions and fees and charges raided from and “Drag on investors returns”, – needs to be demonstrated in financial terms. Then, and only then, will potential clients be able to see in real terms any benefit or Real Benefit – in saving or investing.

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