More than 3,000 personal finance professionals attended our Festival of Financial Planning at the NEC in Birmingham in November. Here we took the opportunity to announce a far-reaching European link-up and highlight the progress being made on two other major initiatives.
On the European front, we have secured a vital post-Brexit foothold for UK advisers and their clients by officially aligning the qualifications framework of our 37,500 members with their counterparts across the rest of the continent.
The Personal Finance Society already acts as the UK representative of the European Financial Planning Association (EFPA). We have now reached an agreement of mutual recognition to enable nearly two-thirds of our qualified members to use an additional European qualification designation of European Financial Adviser (EFA) or European Financial Planner (EFP).
EFPA is one of the largest and most respected professional licensing, standard setting and certification bodies for financial planners and advisers in Europe. This positive collaboration gives UK advisers greater certainty in advance of Brexit by ensuring the Personal Finance Society qualifications framework is now recognised via the EFA and EFP European financial planning standards, which are already accredited by certain European regulators.
The new link will ensure consumers who wish to access advice from UK advisers, or maintain existing relationships in a post-Brexit environment, will in future be able to do so as part of an all-embracing quality standard all over Europe.
It will also combine the knowledge and experience of the leading entities in Europe and the UK. New EFPA UK certificate holders will become part of the EFPA family, joining more than 40,000 members in more than 10 countries in Europe.
A new era
Continuing on the theme of co-operation, the Personal Finance Society partnered with the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) earlier this year to launch a consumer awareness and education campaign on the benefits of savings and investment. It highlighted when professional advice should be sought and how to avoid financial crime and scams.
We believe it is the first occasion where a regulator and a professional body have teamed up to tackle the growing problems of scams and financial fraud, while at the same time highlighting the value of professional advice. This heralds a new era of collaboration to serve the best interests of the public.
Financial crime cost the UK an estimated £52bn in 2016, and the link was forged after a series of investment scheme failures where islanders lost considerable sums of money.
Investments were made without individuals properly understanding the potential risks involved or seeking professional advice, and in most cases it has been an issue of ‘misbuying’ as opposed to misselling.
Our mutual objective is to raise the profile of professional advice and increase consumer awareness of investment risk, to empower the public to make better informed decisions.
The campaign is set to continue in 2018 and has been supported by television, radio, consumer press and social media advertising. Explanatory leaflets were also delivered to all 41,500 homes in Jersey.
One of the other initiatives highlighted at the Festival is that we are in talks with the Ministry of Defence about extending our Forces MoneyPlan scheme to active members of the armed forces.
The scheme was introduced last year with the On Course Foundation, a charity which helps disabled veterans with jobs in the golf industry. It provides pro-bono financial guidance to sick and injured armed forces personnel and veterans, who have difficulty accessing professional financial guidance.
More than 300 advisers have signed up to support the service and provide the appropriate guidance so far.
Following greater active engagement of our armed forces in recent years, many members of our services have received substantial sums of money from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme or insurance payouts. Some of those left with disabilities found themselves with six-figure sums that they were unsure what to do with.
In many cases, the amounts involved are of a level the veteran has never had to contemplate or manage in the past. This places them in a position of vulnerability, at risk from inappropriate and sub-optimal advice that doesn't have their best long-term interests at heart, to more blatant fraudulent activity and financial scams.