Chartered Insurance Institute  

CII ditches SJP exclusivity after adviser backlash

CII ditches SJP exclusivity after adviser backlash
Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society

The Chartered Insurance Institute will expand its level six accredited vulnerable client pilot to all members following adviser anger at the unit originally launching exclusively to St James's Place. 

Earlier this month SJP announced it would be launching an exclusive unit with the professional body tailored to those advisers working with vulnerable clients, with the intention to launch to the wider market after two years. 

The advice giant said the Inclusive Financial Planning Qualification would be available at a discounted cost of £350 for each adviser as a result of the firm's own investment in the programme, and at the time of the announcement 140 SJP advisers had already signed up to the programme. 

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But the prospect of an SJP-exclusive unit was met with anger by some advisers and in a statement today (September 18) the CII confirmed it would now be opening up the pilot to its wider membership in a bid to " accelerate completion and availability". 

The professional body made assurances that, while it had been working in collaboration with SJP, it always intended to ultimately make the unit available to the whole market. 

Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, said: "I can fully understand the reaction and criticism surrounding the positioning of this generic subject and I apologise that it was positioned as an exclusive arrangement when it is actually the launch of the pilot period.

"The CII developed and accredited the unit on vulnerable clients, which is based on material supported by SJP. This unit can count towards achieving the CII’s level six qualification and chartered status.

"Both SJP, CII and PFS want the whole profession to benefit from this unit and the pilot period will be used to incorporate the output from the current FCA consultation on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers."

The unit is assessment-based, worth 30 Advanced Diploma credits and, at the time of its original launch, was the second to be launched in partnership by the CII and SJP. 

Mr Richards said it was standard educational practice for professional bodies to develop new material with specific organisations which have the "necessary resource and appetite".

He added that the CII remains keen to partner with other financial advice firms where there was a "clear need".

The CII said once it completes its review of lessons learned from the pilot and the FCA finalised its own guidance regarding vulnerable customers, the professional body will make the unit widely available.

In July the Financial Conduct Authority published a consultation on introducing further guidance to help firms support vulnerable customers in a move long awaited by the industry. 

The FCA said while many companies had made "significant progress" in how they treat vulnerable consumers the regulator was still finding cases where firms clearly failed to consider the needs of these customers.

The City watchdog pledged action against any company it found did not treat vulnerable customers fairly.