A spotlight on compliance and regulation

words: Roisin McGroarty

Every parliament across the UK has made various moves that could have a direct impact on independent funeral directors.

Now, as the industry prepares for change, SAIF and Golden Charter are keen to ensure members are following the rules surrounding the sale of funeral plans, to make certain every customer has their final wish met.

To aid SAIF members, Alison Wilson , Golden Charter’s Director of Risk and Audit, will be hosting an interactive seminar at this year’s Education Day in Leicester on 2 November.

The SAIF-organised event will see Alison stressing the key issues surrounding the sale of funeral plans, from data protection, to finalising paperwork to the use of technology in selling plans.

“The Education Day is providing a chance to personally explain the correct procedures and why we have these rules and regulations,” explained Alison.

“A lot of the time, funeral directors may not realise why Golden Charter has to follow certain procedures, so this is our chance to speak directly to the funeral directors and answer their questions.”

Data protection

The Compliance and Risk session will look at all parts of funeral plan selling, from how to deal with someone who pays their full plan in cash, right through to the holding of data on completion.

Alison said: “When funeral directors send us (Golden Charter) the customer application forms, they don’t always realise the value of the information provided.

“Many funeral directors are unaware that they have to redact payment information on the original form once they pass the information on to us, so sensitive clients’ information is not left in their premises. Data protection is a massive issue and the security and privacy of our customers’ details are paramount.”

Finalising paperwork

With funeral directors working tirelessly in the community, offering a 24/7 service, it can be tricky to remember all the rules surrounding application paperwork. Not following through on one of those policies could lead to a customer’s plan being declared null and void.

“Independent funeral directors are not sales people; they are hardworking people who are providing their community with an essential service,” said Alison. “But, when selling Golden Charter plans they really need to look closely at the paperwork. Sometimes, we receive application forms with missing information or plans which have been sold incorrectly and even missing the customer’s signature or other important details.

“Most funeral directors are incredibly supportive of what Golden Charter does, especially after we explain the reasons behind it.

“The key is ensuring that all funeral plans are correctly sold and that we do not uncover any problems when the client passes and family and friends are handling their funeral.”

Use of technology in selling plans

The benefits of technology are plain to see, especially for business growth, but are you aware of the rules and regulations surrounding its use in the funeral industry? Instant communication makes it easy for us to work on the move. It also means that customers are more tech savvy and will instantly check out most businesses online, especially before deciding on a funeral director. This means that independent funeral directors’ websites must be providing accurate information.

Alison explained: “At Golden Charter we have given some examples of bad websites for them to look over and realise what can cause issues. The poor examples might include the use of inappropriate pictures next to plans, text using outrageous claims and even simple typos and spelling errors – all mistakes that can really alter a funeral plan.

“It is this attention to detail that we hope all funeral directors use.”

However, the Education Day is more than a chance for Alison to express the good and bad points surrounding plan sales. The session is a chance for SAIF members to interact and express their views.

“Sitting in head office we could decide that funeral directors need to do X, Y and Z, but when you speak to funeral directors and listen to what they need, they often point us in a different direction. It is great to get their feedback,” explained Alison. “The funeral directors that work with us vary from having one or two members of staff, to firms with more than 100 branches. We need to reach out to all members, to ensure we have a process in place that everyone can understand and use.”

All funeral plans that Golden Charter sells need to meet the high standards of the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA). The FPA, an impartial body that aims to protect customers, regularly reviews the approach and financials of funeral plan providers registered with it.

In June ’s issue of SAIFInsight (issue 177), Graeme McAusland, the FPA’s Chief Executive, spoke about the organisation’s role in protecting the customer.

He said: “I think there is a real chance for funeral plans to be a force for good, to encourage and educate people to think about how they will pay for a funeral.

“Everyone is going to die, it is just a question of when, and at that time there is going to be a cost. The danger is that this potential force for good is knocked off course by poor selling practices and the FPA’s future activities will be focused on ensuring that selling is being done properly.”

While the regulations surrounding the industry are tightening, the funeral plan market is growing – with FPA registered plan sales rising from 46,340 in 2002 to 185,500 in 2015. It is a booming business, but one that must be cautious in its approach to selling.

To ensure all policies are sold correctly, and the customer’s money is protected, the Education Day will provide SAIF members with the essential information they need to support that growth safely.

And key to that learning process is audience interaction, as Alison revealed: “It always surprises my team and I what we are asked. We provide briefs on the frequently asked questions, but I’m sure I will be surprised on the day by being asked one thing that I would never have thought of.

It is great to get the views and feedback from those funeral directors who are not just based in their communities, but they are actually a part of their communities.

“The Education Day gives us that chance to explain everything in detail while we hear back from independent funeral directors. Interaction from the audience is key and I hope this will be of real benefit to everyone who comes along.”

Compliance and Risk will be just one of several sessions taking place at the Leicester Tigers Rugby Club, with other speakers looking at health and safety, the IFD College and resomation – a dignified and respectful water based alternative to burial and cremation with clear environmental benefits.

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