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By Gavin Tisshaw | Published May 09, 2012

Raising the bar with new advisory firm standard

The British Standards Institution has just released a new standard for firms. It is entitled BS 8577:2012, Framework for the Provision of Financial Advice and Planning Services.

Many of you will be aware of the ISO 22222 standard that is already in the market for individual personal financial planners. When this was first discussed the original UK team were keen to produce an ISO standard for firms rather than individuals. International priorities and pressure however drove the focus away from the firm and to the individual adviser. While the ISO standard states the need for a personal financial planner to operate within a supportive framework it is still the individual who is certified to the standard. In the UK the individuals are assessed to a high standard and existing planners with the ISO standard are justifiably proud of their standing.

It has however always been in the UK committee’s mind to produce something at the firm level in order to give the consumer confidence in the entity they are dealing with and for firms to have confidence in their systems and processes. With the RDR about to take place and many firms seeking chartered firm status from the CII, or registered firm status from the IFP, it is ideal timing to introduce a new British Standard for firms.

Firms are under pressure to cope with all the forthcoming changes and this standard can provide them with a useful track to run on. Utilising the operational framework in particular and adopting all the inherent principles should prove invaluable for a business. It may well be the case you are ahead of the game and have every confidence in your ability to deliver consistent outcomes. If, indeed this is the case what better way than to get external verification of this and steal a march on the competition by using it on your stationary and promotional material?

The new BS 8577 specifies the areas of assessment inherent within the following sections; overarching principles, management responsibilities, objectives, policies, operational framework, regulatory compliance, control of documents and records, recruitment, training development and ongoing competence and customer relationship management.

Within the annex are invaluable examples of good practice which should really help firms whether or not they go for assessment.

One of the differentiators of this standard (and the ISO 22222) is the individuals and organisations involved in putting it together. Representatives from the British Standards Institute, Chartered Insurance Institute, Institute of Financial Planning, Personal Finance Society, Standards International and Which? as well as highly qualified practioners and consumer representatives have all been involved at some stage in the process. What this means is that the end result is a robust and well thought through standard produced by the profession for the profession.

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