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False claims of certified status double in a year

False claims of certified status double in a year

The number of people found to be falsely claiming the status of certified financial planner has more than doubled last year, according to the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment.

The professional body found 103 individuals falsely claiming certified status in 2019, an increase of 106 per cent on the 50 purporting to be certified financial planners in 2018. 

According to Jacqueline Lockie, head of financial planning at the CISI, the main reason for the jump was a number of people having stated they were certified financial planners on various adviser search websites.

Ms Lockie said: "Once we saw some, we’ve been methodically looking for any more. And found quite a few.

"We have not seen a big jump in those stating that they are CFPs on their own websites."

The Chartered Insurance Institute could also expect to investigate a growing number of accusations surrounding misuse of the chartered title this year, with the body already looking at 57 complaints in 2020 so far. 

This compares with 86 firms accused of misrepresenting chartered status in 2019 - of which the CII further investigated 12. Last year the professional body's legal team also dealt with 26 cases concerning other trademark gripes. 

Melissa Collett, professional standards director of the CII, said: "Protecting corporate chartered status for insurers, brokers and financial planners is important to us and that is why we have our corporate chartered rules to ensure the status is used appropriately for the benefit of firms and the public.

"Where a firm is holding itself out as being corporate chartered insurers, brokers or financial planners incorrectly, we will investigate the situation and our legal team will contact the firm directly to ensure this is rectified.

"We will continue to use these powers where we feel it is necessary in order to protect the reputation of the chartered title.

"Any behaviour that does or could lead to consumers being misled is contrary to the CII’s code of ethics and damages the efforts of not only the CII, but the sector as a whole in working to secure public trust in the profession." 

Darren Cooke, of Red Circle Financial Planning, said it was "fairly easy" to check the status of an adviser, but most members of the public would not know where to look and so may fall victim to false claims.

Mr Cooke said: "Chartered is a protected title. It was an honour hard won by the CII to be able to award Chartered status to qualifying individuals and firms and the criteria for gaining that status and being permitted to use it are not easy, deliberately so.

"In both cases one of the key elements of membership of the PFS and the CISI is integrity. I would say that anyone found to be falsely using one of these titles has breached that key standard and should be declined future membership which would jeopardise their ability to maintain an SPS."