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Unbiased urges FCA to act on Which? false qualifications findings

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Unbiased is calling on the FCA to intervene after a Which? investigation found more than half of firms sampled had inaccurate qualification information.

Which? looked at advisers in 10 postcodes in February this year and compared those who claimed to have professional qualifications on Unbiased with official lists from the bodies themselves.

Of the 92 firms who said they were accredited by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments, only 36 appeared on the official list.

In addition, only six of the 21 firms who claimed to have the BS 8577 certification – the standard for personal and corporate financial advice – appear to hold it, Which? says.

Lastly, 13 out of 39 firms were found to have no advisers with ISO 22222. This defines the financial planning process and specifies ethical behaviour, competences and experience requirements.

Unbiased chief executive Karen Barrett says the sample was small and that consumer detriment was likely to be low as the data was mainly from its free listing service.

She adds the regulator needs to step in to solve the “industry-wide” issue.

“We think that people listing incorrect or outdated qualifications is an industry-wide issue. It is up to advisers to update when they leave us or move firm, we know there is a lot of churn and that feeds into the data bugs found here.

“We’re thinking about how as an industry we can tackle this. We think a centralised verification system is needed as this would solve the issue immediately. If the FCA could start listing who is independent, restricted and what type of restrictions as well as qualifications that would be a great resource for everyone.

“We’ve manually checked over 50 per cent of the 50,000 qualifications and accreditations we list across 24,000 individuals, that’s a massive undertaking.”

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Comments

There are 13 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Well done Which? Are you taking a look at VouchdFor next?

  2. We have always felt that the Regulator should do more – much more. We have again be awarded BS8577 and Mandy ISO22222 and it is well worthwhile. However it requires commitment and dedication and is not cheap. Firms and individuals who go the extra mile should be recognised and not have their efforts undermined by at best lazy and worse devious individuals who try to cash in on something they themselves are not committed to. I would ask whether this is a matter for the FCA and am considering whether to write to them. It is a serious issue of honesty, integrity, being fit and proper. Given that the FCA rejected the long stop on the grounds of consumer confidence, how does this help the profession restore that confidence?
    A register would help but the FCA must do more to recognise quality marks (even insisting on them) and take proportionate enforcement action against any firm making such fraudulent claims. Perhaps the PFS should consider taking disciplinary action against the individuals if it is found they are abusing the ISO22222 standard (noting that it could be the firm that is making the claim on behalf of absent advisers). Incidentally, we believe that BS8577 is far more rigorous that the CII Chartered Status, not that we are demeaning the latter but merely pointing out how good the BS standard is and suggesting the CII should do more. It is after all an external verification of what you do by assessment and closer to ISO9000. It intrigues me how financial service firms work outside the ISO9000 bubble where as we expect it in pharmaceuticals for example.

  3. More evidence that the FCA is looking for other people to sort out problems and inconsistencies within this industry they (the FCA) should doing for themselves !

    They have the information they should be making it available to the public, who is regulated, who has the right exams, and what qualification each individual has and what permission each company has….. how difficult does it have to be ?

  4. Stones in greenhouses. Unbiased encourages misinformation. They are not unbiased at all. They allow in restricted advisers, who could well be biased in favour of certain products. Firms are happy to be listed in the hope that the public will confuse ‘unbiased’ with Independent. Using semantics to describe yourself isn’t exactly the unvarnished truth either.

  5. Can we advertise on the Which? website? I don’t understand which website they are referring to in this article…

  6. Become a regulator ~ for that, you don’t need any relevant qualifications at all.

  7. I do not understand the response here – this is about honesty and integrity within our profession and all we do is slag off Unbiased and the FCA when really we should condemn those firms and advisers for their behaviour. You can imagine their cavalier treatment of clients and disregard of procedures.

  8. It is for the professional bodies to sort out as it is disciplinary and could result in non issue of an SPS. It ONLY then becomes an issue for the FCA when non-one will issue an SPS. ?Which should provide a list to the relevant body who the person has misclaimed who then ask for the SPS of the individual and then report to their SPS provider for their ethics board to investigate and consider.

  9. To prove the point that I made above you only have to refer to the ‘Your Money’ supplement in today’s Daily Telegraph. Page 4 ‘Is financial advice worth the fees?’ 3rd column, 2nd paragraph – 5th line: ” You can also find a list of fully regulated IFAs through websites such as unbiased.co.uk”

    Does anything more need to be said?

  10. Harry Katz – Correct. Hearing ‘Unbiased’ adopt a moral tone is making me laugh
    Ian Robinson – Also a totally valid point
    Philip Castle – Another good plan. If an accredited body is made aware of this taking place (something which surely calls into question the fit and proper status of the individual) revoke the SPS and notify the regulator.
    Once a few charlatans have been de-authorised, I predict this practice would pretty much cease at once.

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