Annual report 2020
The CII’s role is to reach out to new markets while also developing membership engagement, guidance and support beyond its role as a professional body.
In this section we examine how this has been achieved through the successful evolution of the Personal Finance Society (PFS) which celebrated its 15th Anniversary in 2020; and how it has been the blueprint for a further four insurance and mortgage sector societies working in collaboration with the local committees and insurance institute network.
Personal Finance Society – 15th anniversary
Our longest established and successful society, the Personal Finance Society (PFS) celebrated its 15th anniversary during the year. It was born out of the Society of Financial Advisers and the Life Insurance Association, in recognition of continued reform of the sector into a dedicated profession in its own right. Initial growth of the society was created through the regulatory requirement for mandatory qualifications, which were first introduced in 1998 at Level 3 and then subsequently increased to Level 4 as part of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), which was implemented on 31 December 2012. Despite fears of significant market contraction, the society has grown in membership to 40,000 individuals, more than 200 Associate firms and 700 Chartered Financial Planning Firms.
During the early stages of the society, the focus was more on providing the right qualification framework and support, but from 2013 the commitment was made by the PFS board to evolve the role and purpose of the professional body to be more modern, relevant and inclusive by providing greater guidance and support for members for their lifelong learning needs, increased engagement with policy makers, as well as more initiatives to better engage the public. This was as part of the Personal Finance Society’s Shared Royal Charter mission to secure and justify the public’s confidence and trust in the membership and the wider sector.
The PFS has continued to see growth in membership year-on-year as well as significant increases in the number of members attending physical events, visits to its website and downloads of good practice guides and documents. Over the last 8 years the PFS has also seen much greater engagement and involvement in key policy events such as pension freedoms and the Retail Distribution Review with Keith Richards, CEO of PFS, often being invited onto key government working groups and being consulted directly by both HM Treasury, the FCA and The Pensions Regulator.
There have been many exciting developments during the course of the past few years, especially the creation of pro-bono programmes that allow the profession to give back to society. Free financial guidance offered via Citizens Advice, as well as through military charities as part of the Forces Gateway, have been further complemented by an educational programme called My Personal Finance Skills. My Personal Finance Skills now has more than 1,000 qualified professionals offering their time to increase financial awareness and education in schools across the country for 14 to 18-year-olds and via the programme’s website.
The PFS has also spearheaded the launch of cross-sector taskforces to tackle key consumer challenges. Both the Pension Advice Taskforce and Financial Vulnerability Taskforce have created consumer guides and standards that have been adopted by the profession in alignment with ‘good practice’.
Keith Richards, Chief Executive, Personal Finance Society
Total CII membership
Personal Finance Society membership
General insurance membership
Relaunch of the Society of Mortgage Professionals
From our oldest society to our youngest.
The Society of Mortgage Professionals was relaunched in December 2019 with the aim of raising professional standards and equipping mortgage brokers with the tools and skills they need to deliver the best outcome for consumers. The society is chaired by David Thomas, joint managing partner of Chadney Bulgin, and its website (www.smp.org.uk) contains good practice guides on second charge mortgages, bridging, protection and the senior managers & certification regime, as well as webinars and podcasts on relevant subjects.
Following the launch of associate firm status in the summer of 2020, which allows businesses across the sector to demonstrate their alignment to guidelines of professionalism and ethics, the society appointed a National Account Manager, Laura Gauden, in August.
Commenting on her first 9 months in the role, Laura said:
“It has been a fascinating time to join, with the market having gone from effective closure at the end of March as the first lockdown restrictions bit, to one of its busiest times ever after the stamp duty holiday was introduced.
My role is to work with the profession to support them to help raise standards and professionalism in the sector, so it is all about ensuring the best possible customer outcomes and helping to improve public trust, just like the CII’s role but specifically for the mortgage sector.
The starting point for a business is gaining associate firm status and I work with them to understand their needs and their strategy, and to help ensure that it has an impact on customer outcomes and the building of public trust in that particular sector. So, we are encouraging members to go above and beyond what that regulatory minimum is, and actually talk proudly about the fact that they are doing so. Together we will help to raise the profile of the profession and demonstrate the value of the intermediary’s advice above other potential routes.”
David Thomas BA FCIB FPFS
Chair of the Society of Mortgage Professionals
“When we launched the Society of Mortgage Professionals in December 2019 with almost 10,000 members we could never have imagined the challenging landscape the profession would face within months, from near shutdown during lockdown to one of the busiest periods in our history after the stamp duty holiday was introduced. Despite this, much has been achieved with the establishment of associate firm status, the appointment of a National Account Manager and the creation of a compelling online offer for our members. The aim of all this activity is to deliver value to members at all stages of their career development and drive positive change in the sector, by encouraging the highest professional standards and playing a key role in maintaining public trust.”
Progress of our societies and institutes in 2020:
As the pandemic hit in March 2020, overnight the CII had no option but to do almost everything digitally, including member engagement. This had limited effect on the general insurance societies and the Society for Mortgage Professionals as their strategy was already based around engagement through digital delivery. It did however affect the Personal Finance Society who had to speedily move a number of their events from physical locations to online.
Our Local Institute strategy was also dependent on face-to-face events. So, there was a period when the Local Institutes had to cancel almost everything in their diary and our challenge at the CII was to help give them the skills to become digitally literate in a short amount of time so they could deliver thousands of hours of virtual CPD last year from a static start.
The CII also launched a coronavirus hub to make sure that everything relevant was pulled together in one place, to inform members, reduce stress and increase engagement.
Here are the thoughts on progress in 2020 from each of our society chairs and presidents:
Sue McCall, ACII
Chair of the Society of Claims Professionals
“Against the backdrop of the business interruption insurance case, latest public trust data shows that the reputation of insurance over the past year has been damaged. There are huge opportunities for claims professionals to have a positive impact upon this through the speed we provide help, the respect and compassion we show and the control and choice we afford our customers. Claims professionals are working harder than ever to deliver a market-leading service. As the Society of Claims Professionals, we are here to help raise professional knowledge and technical competence for our members, with home working during the pandemic aligning perfectly with our Society’s range of online services. It’s so easy to lose sight of personal career development when workloads are unusually high. Our good practice guides and research help support continued development.”
Kevin Hancock, ACII
Chair of the Society of Insurance Broking
“The Society of Insurance Broking is in place to work with our members, and other bodies to raise standards, increase professionalism and improve trust in our profession by focussing on helping insurance brokers to achieve better customer outcomes. In the last few months, we have done our best to be current and have focussed on live topics including the FCA business interruption insurance test case, the Building Safety Bill and the hardening market. We have also looked at the benefits of reverse mentoring and how to recognise and be aware of mental health issues in the workplace. Our popular webinar sales masterclass series has covered topics designed to help make brokers better at generating leads, winning new business and improving communication all while maintaining the highest of standards. For 2021, we should stop, reflect and think about how we have adapted over the last 9 months where work practices have changed through necessity. We should consider whether some of the things that we are now doing, make us more efficient and effective, and lead us to provide a better service to our clients. We should think about what we are doing better now and do more of it.”
Sarah Lord, FPFS
President of the Personal Finance Society
“The Personal Finance Society (PFS) celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2020 and despite spending a significant period of the year in lockdown, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both the Society and its members adapted quickly to demonstrate relevance, influence and value. Core to the Society’s strategy is three pillars of greater engagement with members, policymakers and the public. The future need for regulated financial advice and planning is becoming even more evident as every country sets its goal to build back better from Covid-19, which must include greater financial education and awareness to improve financial resilience and wellbeing. The PFS is committed to playing a role in shaping the future and building public confidence and trust in its members and the wider profession.”
David Williams, FCII Chartered Insurer
Chair of the Society of Underwriting Professionals
“The last year, as well as the huge problems presented for many, has absolutely highlighted the need for professional underwriting standards, and allowed the Society to be of even greater value to its members. The Society has produced guidance around how to mitigate and prevent the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the emerging global risks which may follow. The online approach for delivery was even more in demand, allowing us to efficiently deliver more guidance to provide a strong understanding of the technical skills and professional behaviours required of underwriters in today’s market. Learning the lessons from lockdown has been combined to good effect with foresight over what changes are coming. The good practice guidance we have issued over the last year has had to be timely and relevant, and the reaction and engagement has shown that to be exactly the case. Overall, a strong year in difficult circumstances.”
David Ross ACII Cip
Vice President for Local Institutes
“In common with the CII itself, the Local Institute (LI) network has not been immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, it could be said that the difficulties faced by our council members up and down the country have been even more significant under the circumstances, combining their voluntary LI responsibilities with all of the other significant personal and professional challenges that Covid-19 has brought. However, this volunteer army has responded magnificently. An enforced move from face-to-face events to virtual ones has seen the network embrace the opportunities that new technologies have presented, with more than 1,000 hours of CPD being delivered, often to include audiences that may not otherwise have attended or have been able to attend in person. Innovations have also been apparent in delivering virtual social events as well as seeing the vital work that LIs do in relation to charitable fundraising continue in impressive fashion. In these difficult times the Local Institute network has proved itself to be a determined and resourceful asset working for the benefit of all members and CII colleagues alike.”