PFS CEO Keith Richards explains the purpose of the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce
Many professionals will recognise, regardless of specific events, most people outside of our profession will instinctively feel vulnerable when dealing with ‘experts’ in respect of what might seem complex financial matters or unfamiliar language, at least until a level of trust is gained.
Given the perceived and often real technical nature of financial planning and advice, which automatically places most consumers in a position of knowledge-based dependency, if our profession is to grow and flourish, we must address this issue and opportunity head on; and with a sense of urgency. In doing so, we must act not only in the best interests of our clients but do what we can at every opportunity to demonstrate we are to be a trusted ‘safe pair of hands’, a term that I believe most people intuitively understand and value.
We all have a moral duty to put a spotlight on fraud and scams, but also on poor professional practice. Professional competence and culture should always put clients’ interests above business interests, and being seen to do so is frankly the only approach that in the long term will guarantee wider public trust, less regulatory intervention and ultimately greater commercial success.
We have an opportunity to build on the regulatory and government focus on vulnerability by acting as a united profession, to start to change public perception through the way in which we consciously deal with those in vulnerable circumstances
We also need to find a way to collaborate across the personal finance sector and beyond, to find some basis of consistency in approach, service delivery and understanding. It is with this in mind that the PFS has put its support behind the creation of the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce.
The taskforce’s purpose is to promote greater understanding, encourage appropriate behaviours and establish good practice, so that all professionals working across the personal finance sector are increasingly seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ by both policymakers and the public at large, especially by those who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.
While there is much good work ongoing across financial services in respect of vulnerability, it is all too frequently delivered independently and in silos. We have an opportunity to build on the regulatory and government focus on vulnerability by acting as a united profession, to start to change public perception through the way in which we consciously deal with those in vulnerable circumstances and address perceptions (or the unconscious reality) of commercial conflicts of interest.
At the heart of this initiative is the Charter, which underpins the work of the taskforce. The Charter sets out how professionals who commit to it, should work with customers in vulnerable circumstances, through nine pledges designed to underpin good practice.
I encourage every member of the personal finance and wealth management profession to align with and adopt the statements within our Charter. Supporters can publicly display their commitment via a new digital logo that can be used on websites or marketing material.
To find out more, register your support and gain access to a downloadable consumer guide for you to use, please go to the dedicated website at: www.thepfs.org/financial-vulnerability-taskforce
The guide seeks to explain how a financial adviser or firm who has committed to the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce Charter will support those in vulnerable circumstances.
Looking to the future
It is critical that the public increasingly becomes confident, when dealing with a financial planning firm or adviser through this commitment, that they will use their best endeavours to provide a service that recognises everyone’s unique circumstances and delivers the best outcomes based on individual needs.
We all have an opportunity to be on the front foot in helping to safeguard, support, advise and serve those in vulnerable circumstances and in so doing, evolve the profession into a ‘safe pair of hands’ viewed more positively by the public at large and secure parity of esteem with the other professions.
I encourage your support based on your current alignment and commitment.
Keith Richards is CEO of the PFS