FCA: Countdown to 29 July

words: Mark Moran, Golden Charter
FCA regulation

After years of groundwork, Golden Charter is prepared to welcome Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation of the funeral plan market later this month. Pathway to Regulation, the provider’s straightforward three-step approach to the new rules, has helped to guide Independents through the regulatory journey.

In this issue, Mark Moran discusses how Golden Charter is supporting its funeral director partners as they make the final preparations before 29 July.

Taking the final steps

We have been delighted with the engagement and enthusiasm from funeral directors throughout the process of preparing for FCA regulation. Almost all of our funeral director partners have chosen to become appointed representatives of Golden Charter, meaning they will be able to continue selling our plans directly to customers.

One of the final steps that approved persons and those involved in selling plans need to take is training that will familiarise them with the new regulated sales process, ensuring that customers are treated fairly and have the same high quality, consistent experience with you and all your plan sellers.

If you’ve chosen this route, you’ll have received an invitation to attend one of our dedicated webinars. In fact, hundreds of plan sellers and approved persons have already successfully completed this requirement and received their certificate by the time this issue goes to print.

Our custom-built training programme has been developed with input from our regulatory experts and funeral director partners, simply building on existing good practices. Attending one of the short sessions will prepare funeral directors for the regulated market, helping to instil confidence.

Our range of webinars allow plenty of flexibility with dates and times to suit businesses of all kinds, and comprises interactive content and pre-recorded videos.

The majority of our partners are now working towards completing the pre-29 July training required by the FCA. With regulation within touching distance, it’s imperative the key members of each business and everyone who is involved in selling plans complete the training to be ready to sell on 29 July.

Our webinars are easy to join, with each attendee requiring only to register for the training session using their own unique email address to ensure that their individual record is updated.

Those funeral directors who are becoming an appointed representative of Golden Charter but haven’t yet booked to attend the training should speak to their business manager who will advise on where to register.

For those businesses that have applied to become an introducer appointed representative, there’s no need to complete the pre-29 July training as this doesn’t involve selling plans directly to families. Instead, we will provide all the information required to introduce and refer customers to us.

Once all of the required preparations have been met and we’ve confirmed completion of the training and understanding of the key outcomes, all that’s required of our partners is that they sign the agreement. We’ll then be ready to submit the application to the FCA for its approval.

Putting customers first

We welcome the added layers of protection that regulation will bring to our customers. As we’ll soon be offering regulated products, all of us will need to take some extra steps to meet the FCA’s requirements.

Suzanne Grahame, our Chief Executive, explains: “This training will ensure that customers are treated fairly, which is a key principle of the FCA. Of course, a customer-centric approach is nothing new for funeral directors, but what the funeral director training is doing is ensuring that those who are offering funeral plans beyond 29 July have a full understanding of the regulated sales process, providing additional protections for customers and enhancing existing good practices.

“Regulation has already weeded out the bad practices at the edges of our sector. Now we need to rebuild the public’s trust in funeral planning, which remains a very sensible way to prepare for the future, while providing protection against inflation. It is an excellent product which needed better controls. The sector can now look forward to a much more positive future with all customers getting the reassurance they need.”

As a plan provider, we understand that the knowledge and expertise of independent funeral directors provides an invaluable service to families. All of the preparations being made, including the training sessions, are designed to complement the customer-focused principles our partners already have in place. The benefits of regulation will simply help to strengthen your relationships with customers.

Funeral plans with reassurance

For many years, we’ve made annual accounts for the Golden Charter Trust publicly available to provide comfort to plan holders that their money is secure. In order to provide further reassurance for customers, the FCA requires that each plan provider offering trust-backed plans publishes an annual Solvency Assessment Report, which contains this information.

We were proud to be the first provider to publish this new report in May, compiled by an independent actuary. The report shows that at the latest valuation, the Trust held sufficient assets to comfortably meet its future liabilities and provide a level of inflationary protection.

More recently, we were delighted to confirm that the FCA included Golden Charter in its first list of providers it is intending to authorise from 29 July. Being awarded this status is significant in providing reassurance for our customers, and confirms why we remain the partner of choice for the majority of independent funeral directors.

The “intending to authorise” status is based on the information firms have provided to date. It is subject to there being no material changes to the companies including, and not limited to, their adherence to the threshold conditions from 29 July 2022 onwards. No funeral plan providers can be authorised before that date.

Still to complete your application?

If you haven’t submitted your application and completed the due diligence checks with UKGI by 29 July, you’ll not be able to sell our funeral plans. We’re still welcoming applications from funeral directors who have yet to submit their appointed representative or introducer appointed representative application to a plan provider. Should you wish to continue offering Golden Charter funeral plans to your families, contact your business manager or email partners@goldencharter.co.uk.

Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll complete the due diligence checks that the FCA requires, together with our regulatory partner, UKGI. It is here to make this process as straightforward as possible for the independent funeral director. Make sure you reply to UKGI’s request for information and it’ll work away in the background on your application.

Don’t worry if you haven’t completed this step yet. You can still register for and complete the training while UKGI progresses your application.

Finishing the pathway

Our FCA Support Team is here to help guide our funeral director partners through the final steps of the Pathway to Regulation with us. If your business is moving through the process, the team will be in touch shortly. They’re providing extra support, alongside our business managers, which we hope will offer further comfort around regulation and help our partners to move through the remainder of the process smoothly.

We devised the Pathway to Regulation as a straightforward three-step approach to navigating the regulatory journey. We’re delighted that the vast majority of our existing funeral director partners, and many new ones, have chosen to come along on the way with us. We’d like to thank all of our funeral director partners for their hard work and commitment to protecting customers and we look forward to the entering this new chapter of funeral planning together.

We’re here to help

On behalf of all of us at Golden Charter, thank you to all of our partners for your continued support. We’ll continue to guide you throughout the Pathway to Regulation and beyond. Please get in touch with your business manager, should you have any questions. To find out more about our partnership, email us here.

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