In Focus: Vulnerability  

PFS launches vulnerability charter for advice firms

PFS launches vulnerability charter for advice firms
 Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society

The Personal Finance Society has created a Financial Vulnerability Charter for advisers to adopt in order to express their commitment to vulnerable clients.

Advice firms wishing to adopt the charter must commit to nine core pledges, and will be expected to display their commitment on their website.

The charter forms part of the PFS’s new independent financial vulnerability taskforce, which aims to support the profession to better recognise and address the various forms of consumer vulnerability, improve client outcomes and increase access to financial advice.

Keith Richards, chief executive of the PFS, said the advice profession "must be given the mechanisms to unite behind transparent and consistent standards" if it was to demonstrate it was a "trusted, safe pair of hands".

He added: “The current regulatory focus on vulnerability provides a timely opportunity as a united profession 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.”

 “I encourage every member of the financial planning and advice profession to adopt the taskforce’s charter, support this endeavour and publicly display commitment via a new digital logo.”

Supporters of the taskforce will have access to vulnerability experts, a resource library from the PFS, the latest regulatory guidance and links to agencies that can assist clients in vulnerable situations.

Further educational material and insight will be produced by the taskforce’s steering committee, chaired by Mr Richards.

Other members include Caroline Bielanska, joint founder of Solicitors for the Elderly and Keith Brown, chair of the NHS England Safeguarding Adults National Network, alongside a number of financial planners.

Robin Melley, adviser at Matrix Capital Limited and part of the committee, said: “The way in which we, as individual practitioners, deal with clients who are in vulnerable circumstances will determine whether we as a profession are viewed as a safe pair of hands in society. 

“This may be a topical issue now but it is really a lifelong commitment to safeguard, support and advise people to help them achieve the best possible outcomes, irrespective of their circumstances.”

Mr Melley urged fellow advisers to “embrace the charter” and help raise the bar of professionalism in the industry.

Financial advisers who wish to adopt the taskforce charter must complete an online application form, and registration will be renewed on an annual basis. 

The PFS said advisers should be prepared to provide evidence of how they are committed to the charter of the financial vulnerability task force as part of a random audit.

The Financial Conduct Authority has sharpened its focus on vulnerable clients over the past few years, warning in July 2020 that vulnerability was sometimes “not considered by firms or positively exploited for gain".

The warning was the latest in a string of promises from the FCA that it would take action against firms which did not treat vulnerable customers fairly.