The industry responded to the results of the survey with a common theme - brokers will have to get their act together. Caroline Jordan puts together a range of opinions
The personal view
Michael Slack, chairman of Fyfe Group and FSA board member
My personal view is that the results show there is a steep learning curve for brokers. This is a hard survey and only on four, did brokers get over 75% correct. Issues such as money laundering and the cooling off period have been well publicised, so that is encouraging that more got these right, but overall, there are big gaps in knowledge.
We have to look at the reason for this confusion - are some not clear on definitions and rules over commercial and retail customers for example? We also need to ask if the FSA has made matters too complicated, or if in fact it is the brokers who are at fault for simply not putting enough effort into learning the rules.
I feel the FSA is certainly listening and we can expect to see improvements. It needs to see where it has been too prescriptive and I hope they will review this in time. And, it is true that there needs to be more separation of brokers' work with that of the life and pensions advisers.
Short term, I would recommend brokers use Biba's compliance manual, which is brilliant. For those who don't make any effort, then the message has to be either get a grip or get out of the business."
The examination provider's view
Tony Tudor, director of the Institute of Financial Services
This is an interesting exercise but this survey is only a guide, you need to go a lot further to judge standards of knowledge.There needs to be some credit for the fact that most brokers did get through GISC smoothly and, while they may not have as much knowledge as required, many are part-way there.
There is a range of help out there including support for managers. IT is vital to train customer-facing staff too and we are now offering our CERGI qualification on CD Rom - the CII with FIT is also there. Compliance is embedded in many qualifications and brokers should be encouraged to take them."
The insurer's view
David Grant, marketing and compliance director, NIG.
Brokers are now focused on audits. While this survey is challenging, I don't think brokers should be too worried if they found it hard. The view is that the FSA is concentrating more heavily on secondary intermediaries, which is probably where greater problems lie.
Broker-supporting insurers do have a role to play in helping and we are looking at keeping ours up to date by seminars and web material. In the first half of the year, we'll be announcing some face-to-face compliance linked training which should prove useful. We also make sure our extranet is up to date and brokers can download guides from here.
My advice now would be for brokers to ensure they have robust systems in place - for example to show what training they are providing, that the key facts documents are correct and things like stationery are compliant.
Co-mingling, where brokers struggled in the questionnaire, is a difficult area, but we are still waiting for final guidance.
The FSA is here to stay and has teeth. Brokers now need to think about being audited and the next phase as trading in a regulated market.
The trade body's view
Steve White, Biba's regulation and compliance manager
The survey confirms our experience of handling compliance inquiries from our members. While in certain areas it is clear that understanding is already quite high, for example ICOB, training and competence and complaints handling, although in other areas such as client money, understanding could be greater.
We offer members a broad spectrum of compliance support services, ranging from telephone and email inquiry lines, which handle hundreds of enquiries per month to BrokerASSESS in conjunction with the CII.
For this, we have developed a comprehensive, co-ordinated range of online learning and assessment tools, specifically designed for the general insurance broking profession.
We have also had an excellent response to the Biba Compliance Manual. We launched it in late autumn 2004. It contains 230 pages of information, and templates to assist members in evidencing compliance. This should help firms establish good business practices and will also assist in the event of an FSA visit.
We don't produce this on a profit making basis and I would recommend brokers buy a copy for their office to use as a reference guide - the manual costs £250 and so far the feedback from those who are using it, is that it's been money well spent."
The professional body's view
Steve Wellard, marketing director for the CII
The results identify a worrying lack of knowledge in certain areas. At a time when the regulator is emphasising the importance of ‘treating the customer fairly' the inaccurate response to questions about cooling off periods, complaints, cold calling and what constitutes competent status for a general insurance adviser are perhaps of most concern.
It is essential that information given to the customer at the point of sale and in subsequent communications is accurate.
The business reasons for this are obvious, but the reputation of the industry is also at stake if the consumer is given mis-leading or incorrect advice.
There is no excuse not to maintain competence as there are plenty of tools available. For example, over 10,000 practitioners currently use brokerASSESS (the CII and Biba online competency system). There is the new Faculty of Insurance Broking and also a wide range of courses, seminars, talks and information readily available.
We all have a responsibility to life-long learning. If we only learn one lesson from the results of this survey it is surely that. IT
The small broker's view
Simon Bolam, principal of broker EH Ranson, and a member of the FSA's Financial Services Practitioner Committee
There is no doubt that smaller brokers are under a great deal of pressure to achieve compliance - and I am one of them. The whole experience has been daunting. It is even harder for brokers to find time to cope with this when you look at the extra burden on them in terms of cost. This just means they have to work even harder to pay compliance bills.
Under GISC rules, I paid around £850, now it is £3,000. As a sole trader, my accountancy fees were around £1,000 now they are £3,000 as I have to be audited.
My own view is that the FSA could take a lighter approach and still operate as an effective regulator. I am concerned that there is a lack of understanding about the roles brokers play and that we have been viewed as being in a similar position to financial advisers.
A small IFA may do three cases a day which are high commission earning, but this allows him or her time to ensure all the compliance work is properly handled. A small broker on the other hand, may be doing 300 cases a day, but this volume means they cannot achieve the same standard of compliance.
I also want the FSA to look at what is happening in terms of customer satisfaction and regulation. We are wasting time having to go through all this - some of my clients have run up parking tickets because they've had to wait so long and staff are being abused because the process is taking so long. We are wasting time and paper.
It is a concern that brokers don't know these answers. But, we need simple handbooks and three to four page documents that explain the rules clearly and not in legalistic gobbledygook.
The principal cannot take it all on themselves and you need to divide up the work with staff if possible. I also brought in Branko Bjelobaba as consultant, but again this is cost - a good consultant will cost upwards of £5,000.
There needs to be pressure on the FSA to simplify matters where necessary and I want to see pressure from Biba, the IIB and other bodies.