Customer-oriented regulations will help brokers to keep their clients

A leading lawyer has hit back at suggestions that FSA regulation is a cause for concern.

At the Insurance Times Profitable Business Growth conference sponsored by The Welsh Development Agency, Hugh Price a partner at Hugh James, said: "Does current regulation produce any areas for optimism? In my view it does.

"First, the FSA's fundamental approach to regulation starts with the needs of the customer - treating customers fairly (TCF). When you think about the concept it makes complete sense. Treat your customers fairly or, in other words, put the customer first."

Price said that one broker, Simon Burgess, of Burgesses, has embraced the concept so wholeheartedly that he makes it his policy to explain that TCF underpins everything his business does.

"It is a universal truth that if you do not look after your customers they will go elsewhere. If your customer thinks he is not being properly looked after he will go elsewhere. There are plenty of other providers out there.

"Putting customers at the top of the priority tree is good, sensible business practice.

He added: "Don't be afraid of it. Embrace it and make it the underlying culture of your business. Teach it to your staff. Establish best practice in how you will deal with your customers and tell them at the outset. Make it happen."

Price said that the TCF initiative is more than a recommendation - it is a "must do" requirement. "The FSA will be asking you how in practical terms you have put in place processes to demonstrate how you treat your customers fairly.

"Don't ignore this. It is fundamental both for the success of your business and to demonstrate compliance."

Price also said that the industry should not be scared of embracing technology. "Many of my generation recoil in horror at the prospect of even more reliance on technology. However, technology can make a huge difference if properly employed.

"At my firm, Hugh James, we now handle large volumes of conveyancing transactions, personal injury claims, will writing and others supported almost entirely by technological means."

He added that online technology enables users to meet the regulatory process needs while keeping cost bases low.

"Provided the system is regularly (and overtly) monitored you can be comforted in the knowledge that the system is compliant. Technology also helps with staff /client scripts ensuring that the client's attention is drawn to any appropriate terms of the policy."