The financial services industry makes up one of the key pillars of the global economy.
Bearing in mind the enormous number of lives which it affects, it is only right that there are controls in place to ensure that it acts in a fit and proper manner.
In the UK, overseeing the sector falls to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It was created by an act of parliament a decade ago as one of the mechanisms to regulate how the industry functions.
Even though the regulatory framework which it is responsible for maintaining has changed markedly in the years since, the FCA’s specific objectives haven’t altered.
Its primary roles are to protect consumers, ensure that the sector remains stable and to promote “healthy competition” between those firms providing financial services.
That is no small task. It polices the conduct of nearly 50,000 organisations in the UK, including banks, insurers and major investment companies.
For most responsible firms, that is usually achieved not by direct intervention but by complying with a set of rules which subtly shift over time.
To get it right is time-consuming and places a significant burden on – in insurance terms – the providers of insurance policies and distributors or brokers like ourselves at Broadway.
However, it is not – and should not be – simply an administrative duty.
We fully appreciate that regulation is there and needs to be updated in order to remain alive to issues which impact on the interests of customers.
Take the latest such changes – new rules in relation to Consumer Duty.
Even though they were approved last year, firms across the financial services sector were given 12 months to implement them for new and existing products before the obligations formally took effect at the end of July.
They constitute a requirement that clients are given information which can be easily understood, products which not only meet their needs but represent fair value and customer service support of a sort which find useful and which is available when they need it.
In practice, it means things such as an end to what the FCA describes as “rip-off charges and fees”, something which all good practitioners in the industry abhor anyway.
Furthermore, the Consumer Duty rules provide for clarity to enable customers – be they businesses or individual consumers – to make informed decisions about transactions which are of huge importance to them.
I share the FCA’s belief that higher standards of consumer protection is also for the betterment of the financial services sector as a whole, causing us to look at what we do and how we do it with the ultimate focus being on who we do it for.
It is one reason why I have decided to join Broadway.
Ours is a company which has grown quickly since it was launched just three years ago.
Compliance – having the kind of rigorous processes which can meet obligations to our clients and to our industry regulator – has been critical to us since the very start.
Having someone like myself join to concentrate solely on that area of operations is essential to maintaining our excellence in that regard.
We regard compliance as so much more than a tick-box exercise.
Compliance to us is not just about having the right regulatory framework in place but ensuring that everyone who works at Broadway has all the training and support which they need to deliver the best possible service.
At the heart of all that is our conviction about what a broker should be.
We know that insurance is to some individuals a relatively complex business. It is our job to be sufficiently knowledgeable about our clients’ circumstances and how they might best manage any risks to which they might be exposed.
Fundamentally, it comes down respect: for the rules, for your colleagues and – above all else – for the people who trust you to help them look after the things which are dear to them.
Written by Gary Ward, Director of Operations and Compliance, Broadway Insurance Brokers