Monthly Archives: October 2016

Weekly Round-up, 28th October, 2016.

Aspiration

Latest research from the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ long-running series on attitudes to housing tenure confirms that home-ownership remains firmly in place as the nation’s overwhelming preference and aspiration, and not purely for financial reasons.

72% of adults want to be home-owners in two years’ time, and 80% hope to own in ten years’ time, broadly in line with the 30-year average sentiment. The survey undertaken on behalf of the CML by YouGov in late June/early July, also revealed some less predictable findings such as how people perceive part-ownership, and who they think should be helping young people who face affordability hurdles.

Findings include partial home-ownership (through shared ownership or shared equity) is regarded as a good idea by around half of all respondents and more people see part-ownership as a stepping stone to full ownership than as a permanent tenure in its own right. In addition, a majority of people – regardless of their own circumstances – feel that it is harder than it has ever been for young people to buy their own home.  If those who believe it is “very difficult” are included, the proportion rises to 85%.

75% believe action is necessary to help first-time buyers. Predominantly, people see government as having a responsibility, but mortgage lenders, house builders and local authorities are also widely regarded as having a role. Special incentives to save for deposits were favoured by more than half of respondents and topped the list, closely followed by introducing subsidies for all first-time buyers. Over a third favoured the measures of abolishing stamp duty, reintroducing mortgage interest tax relief, and requiring developers to discount prices of some new homes, among others.

Saving time

People in the UK are saving more money than ever before according to the Nationwide with the average amount saved being £16,460. The report which was conducted to determine the effects of a sustained period of low interest rates on savings attitudes, highlights around half of people (49%) have more money saved away now than they did in 2009 – the year base rate dropped from 2% to 0.5%.

This figure, according to the research, is just £5,000 short of the amount Brits feel they need in reserve to feel secure (£21,313). Despite the low interest rate environment, the vast majority (90%) still put money away whenever they can, with more than two in five (44%) managing to put money aside regularly. Encouragingly, more than half (51%) of savers say low rates have had no effect on their intention to save.

But even with strong savings behind them, more than two in five people (42%) say they plan to start saving even more. According to the research, the main reason for putting money away for nearly three quarters (71%) of savers is not about returns from interest, but to ensure they have a nest egg available should it ever be needed in an emergency. And for a third of savers, they have built a comfortable financial cushion should the worst happen.

Despite the number of people who are still saving whenever they can, there appears to be a lack of understanding about how those savings are working for them. More than two thirds (68%) of Brits admit they have no idea what interest rate they are getting on their savings, while more than a third would never consider shopping around for a new savings account. The research also shows one in five (20%) of people have never changed their savings account.

Remortgage up

Statistics published by LMS, a leading UK Conveyancing Firm suggest that the number of remortgages rose to 36,195 in August, an 8% increase from the 33,400 remortgages in July, and the highest number since July 2009. Year-on-year, there were over 11,000 more remortgages in August 2016 than in August 2015, a 45% increase.

However, the value of gross remortgage lending fell by 2%, from £6.0bn in July to £5.9bn in August, as the value of homeowners’ loans decreased: the average remortgage loan amount fell by 6% between July and August, from £172,184 to £162,268. This could be interpreted as a sign that homeowners are unwilling to borrow more at a time when the economic outlook is unclear. Year-on-year, gross remortgage lending rose by 40% from August 2015 levels.
Average remortgage loan amounts across the country ranged widely in August, but continue to remain in line with house prices, from £100,466 in the North of England to £279,169 in London. Following the Bank of England’s decision to cut the base interest rate to 0.25%, the average LTV declined or remained the same in every region of the country. It ranged from no change in Wales (75%) to an 18% decrease in the North East from 95% to 77%.

London continues to possess the lowest LTV (58%), in part as a result of house price growth experienced throughout the capital in recent years, while the North West had the highest LTV (78%).

Like a loan

In its latest analysis of the borrowing habits of UK Banking Customers, British Banking Association (BBA) figures indicate consumer credit is growing at its fastest rate since December 2006, driven by strong demand for personal loans and credit cards. Consumers are increasingly using short-term borrowing to take advantage of record low interest rates. This trend has accelerated since the Bank of England cut rates in August.

According to the BBA, mortgage approvals picked up slightly this month but their commentary suggests the housing market continues to show signs of underlying weakness. Both house purchase and remortgaging approvals are down on the corresponding figures for 2015.

Business borrowing decreased slightly again in September, which may be in part down to uncertainty following the EU referendum. There is a longer time lag behind corporate investment decisions so it may take longer for the effect of the interest rate cut to filter through to such borrowing.

Fright Night

No garlic or garlic-scented items allowed, including perfume,” read the house rules of Count Dracula’s castle to ensure that Halloween night guests cannot avoid the vampire.

On October 31st, two people will be allowed to sleep in velvet trimmed coffins in the seclusion of the count’s crypt and will spend the rest of the night in the Carpathians castle completely alone, says vacation rental marketplace Airbnb.

The company launched a promotional contest via Airbnb last Monday to pick the castle’s first ever overnight guests since Romania’s post-World War Two communist regime expelled the owners, the Habsburg royal family, almost 70 years ago. In 2006, a democratic government that replaced the fallen communists restored the 14th-century Bran fortress, known as “Dracula’s Castle”, to Habsburg descendants. Situated in the wooded foothills of the Carpathian mountains, it is now a museum and major tourist attraction in European Union member Romania.

The castle was never part of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” although Romania’s notorious 15th century ruler Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), whose life inspired the book, may have set foot there briefly.

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Compliance Blog: 28th October 2016

Replacing your clients’ existing protection policies

image of Gavin Earnshaw At HLPartnership, we’re constantly working hard to try and keep you safe whilst ensuring that the compliance requirements are not cumbersome and over the top. This week, the process for replacing your clients’ existing protection policies has been the focus of our attention and we’re pleased to announce a simplified process.

This week’s blog will provide a bit more background to policy replacement and explain what we’re doing to help make life quicker and easier for you, but also improve the customer experience.

Reviewing insurance policies regularly is an important part of good financial planning. When a client’s existing policy was taken out, chances are their personal circumstances were very different to what they are today. Reviewing and making sure those existing plans still meet the clients’ needs is a key part of your role.

Over the years, policies have evolved and, particularly for plans which included critical illness cover, the difficulty for advisers is where the older policy covered additional illnesses or had less strict definitions which made the policy easier to claim on. This led to an apprehension within the market when replacing existing policies and it got to the point where some companies even banned replacing protection policies outright.

For HLPartnership, we’ve always tried to look at things from a practical point of view. After all, if the client had a policy that was not suitable, then banning a broker from being able to replace the offending policy would actually leave the client in a worse position – not exactly delivering a good customer outcome.

Instead, we developed the Discontinued Plan Form (DPF) which would allow the broker to replace the existing policy but would provide a template for the adviser to explain the thought process they went through to reach that advice. In reality, the DPF was just a re-imagining of a previous form, developed from a time where it was far more difficult to add the necessary information in to suitability reports. Now we have 360 Lifecycle – a point-of-sale system that allows much more flexibility and which creates suitability reports that already contain half the information required in a DPF.

So the logical step is to build the remaining information required on the DPF into the Suitability Report on 360 and that is exactly what we’re doing. By adding two additional paragraphs to the letter, we end up removing a couple of pages of extra work from you thereby reducing the duplication of information and speeding up the process. It makes it easier for the customer too as there is no longer an extra document to sign and all the relevant information is in one place rather than two. All this whilst retaining the protection afforded by the DPF to both you and the customer. This change is being built as we speak so should be live next week (est. 7th November ). Keep an eye on the Compliance Updates as we’ll be confirming this shortly.

That all said, it is important to remember that the risk is still there. If the customer were to try and claim on a new policy for something that would have been covered on the old policy, then this could still lead to a complaint if it were not explained or discussed. Even though the process will be easier going forward, the onus is still on you to ensure that you really understand the existing client’s current financial situation, what the existing policy covers and what differences there are on the new policy.

The key thing is to get a balance – many of the differences between a new policy and an old policy are actually beneficial to the customer. Additional illnesses and medical procedures are often covered now and some policies offer add-on benefits such as the ability to seek alternative medical help from some of the world’s best specialist doctors. As long as we understand what the customer’s priorities are and explain any differences in cover, you’ll be doing your client a good service.

The other thing to remember is that whilst older policies may have included conditions which are no longer covered, the reason for that may well be because medical advances make these conditions far less of a problem. A good example in recent years was the balloon angioplasty procedure which used to be a feature of many critical illness policies. Surgical procedures have become so advanced that this is dealt with using key-hole surgery and often doesn’t even require an overnight stay in hospital. So whilst the old policy may have covered this, these days it’s not considered critical condition.

Looking after your clients by reviewing the circumstances regularly and ensuring their financial product plans continue to meet their needs is the bedrock of any good customer relationship. As with anything, as long as the file demonstrates the customer is aware of the pro’s and con’s of the advice then you’ve done everything you need to do. The new process fits nicely in with our desire to evolve our compliance processes in order to make things easier for brokers, whilst maintaining high standards. So perhaps now is a good time to look back through your existing client bank, see who you’ve not spoken to for a while, and perhaps give them a ring. Who knows, if their circumstances have changed they might need your advice.

Weekly Round-up, 21st October, 2016.

Property rising

According to the Office for National Statistics, average house prices in the UK have increased by 8.4% in the year to August 2016 (up from 8.0% in the year to July 2016), continuing the strong growth seen since the end of 2013. The average UK house price was £219,000 in August 2016. This is £17,000 higher than in August 2015 and £3,000 higher than last month.

The main contribution to the increase in UK house prices came from England, where house prices increased by 9.2% over the year to August 2016, with the average price in England now £236,000. Wales saw house prices increase by 2.7% over the last 12 months to stand at £145,000. In Scotland, the average price increased by 4.3% over the year to stand at £145,000. The average price in Northern Ireland is currently £123,000.

On a regional basis, London continues to be the region with the highest average house price at £489,000, followed by the South East and the East of England, which stand at £318,000 and £277,000 respectively. The lowest average price continues to be in the North East at £127,000.

Interest on Interest

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has identified that some mortgage lenders and companies administrating loans may have automatically included customers’ arrears balances within their monthly mortgage payments which are recalculated from time to time, for example when an interest rate changes. The FCA considers this practice to be ‘automatic capitalisation’ and a likely breach of their rules.

Effectively, because firms have not reduced to zero the arrears, they are collecting the arrears over the remaining mortgage term through a higher monthly payment and, also continuing to pursue the arrears through their collections processes treating them as immediately payable.  The Regulator suggests that the automatic inclusion of arrears balances in customers’ mortgage payments lacks transparency and can lead to harm. For example, it can take a customer longer to repay their arrears and may lead to inappropriate fees being charged in relation to the arrears.

When customers do meet the higher mortgage payments and also separately clear their arrears they are making overpayments to their mortgage account which can result in them repaying their mortgage account more quickly than would otherwise be the case. The FCA has written an example ‘John’s Story‘, this case study shows how the practice may affect customers.

The cost of starting up

New insight from Lloyds Bank shows that the average cost of starting up a new business is £12,601 with property the single largest contributor, accounting for 25% of costs incurred. Following on from property, transport and IT each account for 20% of start-up costs. The cost of business space (£2,987), vehicles (£2,440) and technology (£2,426) altogether contribute to over 60% (£7,853) of a new business’ start-up costs.

The research highlights a revealing disparity between the genders around how much is spent and where the money goes. Female business owners spend nearly two thirds (59%) less than their male counterparts at the launch of their businesses with men spending an average of £13,551 compared to £8,031 for women. Men budget significantly more on IT equipment (£3,149 vs £470) and websites/marketing (£2,570 vs £1,281). In contrast, females prioritise property (£3,777 vs £2,694) and loan repayments (£1,703 vs £393). Only 6% of new business owners found the costs of starting their business less than they’d budgeted for. Younger start-up owners (18-34 year olds) were most likely (42%) to find the costs higher then they’d expected compared to only 30% of older entrepreneurs (35+).

Three quarters (76%) of new entrepreneurs sought business advice prior to launch but they typically turn to more informal sources of information such as friends and relatives (41%) or former colleagues (30%) rather than an accountant (19%) or their bank (11%).

Keep IT safe

According to Which?, many major banks have failed to adopt two-factor security steps that could safeguard their customers from online banking fraud. In their research, Which? tested the customer-facing security of 11 banks and found more than half failed to conduct two-factor ID checks when customers logged into their accounts.

In 2014-2015, losses soared by 64% to £133.5m for online banking and 28% to £323.3m for phone banking. Which say many banks are still failing to introduce security steps that could better protect their customers from falling victim to scams. They suggest two-factor authentication at login should be commonplace which combines two different types of ID checks – typically something you know, such as a password or Pin, with something you have, such as a card reader or a mobile phone on which to generate or receive a single-use pass code.

All the banks conduct additional checks before money can be transferred. But if hackers can penetrate the first level of security at login they can access sensitive financial details which they can use to win their victims’ trust and trick them into transferring money voluntarily – a tactic used by scammers.

Please hold and listen to Mozart

“Your call is valued” is the most irritating phrase to hear while waiting to be answered by a company, according to a poll.

Almost half of those surveyed by consumer group Which? (47%) said the phrase was the most annoying while on hold, followed by being directed to the company’s website (28%) and apologies for all operators being busy (11%).

An engaged tone tops the list of most annoying sounds, named by 29% of those polled, followed by rock music (22%) and background music with no specific tune (21%).

Around half (48%) said that classical music was their preferred sound while waiting.

More positively, a third (33%) said being told how long they would have to wait was the most useful information while on hold, followed by where they were in the queue (32%) and the offer of being called back if they left a number (30%).

The watchdog also found the vast majority of people (93%) feel that the maximum time they are prepared to wait should be no longer than five minutes.

HLP Compliance Blog

Simplified mortgage product transfer process

Simplified mortgage product transfer process

should take into account and it mainly relates to the potential for complaints down the line. The first issue is the potential for customer confusion. They may see you as a ‘broker’ with access to the wider market, so it is important to make clear that in arranging a product transfer you are considering only those products offered by the existing lender and that you are not looking at the wider market.

In reality most customer that waive the chance to have a wider market review are going to be the ones whose circumstance mean that they are not going to get a comparable rate elsewhere. They may have lost some income, accumulated debts and defaults or gone self-employed recently, making them ‘un-mortgageable’ – exactly the type of people the transitional arrangements were brought in for. Anyone that has a good track record and is able to demonstrate affordability is likely to be better served having a review of the market, in which case you should follow the full advised sales process as you would for any remortgage.

Another concern for me would be if another firm arranged the initial mortgage. How can you be sure they did a good job and, in arranging a product transfer, could you be implicated by association if the customer decides at a later stage that they are with the wrong lender or have the wrong type of mortgage? Again, in this situation you should really start from scratch and undertake a full advised process or suggest they go to the lender directly.

There is also the customer that comes to you and admits they are in serious financial difficulty and really struggling to maintain things, with a danger of default about to happen. My view is, if it’s serious, they should talk to the lender directly – the risk/reward is not great enough in situations like these.

However, outside of these situations, the process should be really straight forward and our new procedure will help you conduct a product transfer with much less fuss and hassle. We have laid out this process in our four-page guide available the members area. Look it up in the compliance section, compliance documents, procedures/guides and start taking advantage of this new approach straight away.

Weekly Round-up, 14th October, 2016.

Lending improves

According to the latest news from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, both the number and the value of first-time buyer loans grew with the number of first-time buyers in August being the second highest of 2016.

The number of home mover loans was also the second highest monthly figure of 2016, after March, and the highest August level since 2013, but on a seasonally adjusted basis lending to home movers was weaker than to first-time buyers. The typical loan size for a first tome buyer increased to £136,300 in August from £133,000 in July, against average household income up slightly from £40,200 in July to £40,900 in August. This meant the income multiple was slightly up from 3.55 to 3.56.

The average amount borrowed by home movers in the UK increased to £175,000 in August from £172,000 in July, while the average home mover household income also increased to £55,400 from £55,000. The income multiple for the average home mover went from 3.29 to 3.27 month-on-month.

The number of home-owner remortgages rose to reach its highest monthly level since July 2009, although by value remortgaging was lower than the previous month.

Where can I park my boat?

Fewer than one in three people researched the flood risk of the property before buying their current home, new figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) reveal today.
A survey conducted for the ABI found homebuyers were more likely to have looked into the ease of parking in the area (33%) than checked whether their house could be at risk from flooding (28%).

With one in six homes in England and Wales estimated to be at risk of flooding from either rivers and sea or surface water, the ABI is urging estate agents and property websites to provide up-front information about flood risk, using a simple traffic-light style mark.

The ABI has unveiled its proposed design showing how symbols could work for property adverts demonstrating the risk from flooding, in the same way Energy Performance Certificates do. At the moment, information about a high flood risk may only be uncovered during property searches as a house purchase is being processed.

HPI Eases

In its latest picture of UK housing market, the Halifax has identified that in the three months to September house prices were largely unchanged compared with previous quarter. The annual rate of growth eased from 6.9% in August to 5.8%. According to the Bank, the housing market has followed a steady downward trend over the past six months with clear evidence of both a softening in activity levels and an easing in house price inflation.

The reduction in annual house price growth from a peak of 10.0% in March to 5.8% six months later remains in line with Halifax’s forecast at the end of 2015. They suggest that a lengthy period where house prices have risen more rapidly than earnings has put pressure on affordability, therefore constraining demand. On the positive side, Halifax highlight the combination of very low mortgage rates and a shortage of properties available for sale should help support price levels over the coming months.

Plan to Work

The maximum pension which can be purchased whilst staying within HMRC tax relief limits has been slashed by two thirds in the last decade, according to a new Policy Paper by Royal London. The report also highlights the huge complexity which has been created by repeated changes in tax limits, with around 100,000 people now covered by complex transitional protections associated with the different reductions in lifetime limits.

The paper, Pensions Tax Relief: ‘Time to end the Salami Slicing’, looks at the way that cuts in the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) for pension tax relief have interacted with falling annuity rates to reduce the size of pension that can be bought within HMRC limits. The LTA was cut in 2012, 2014 and 2016, from a peak of £1.8 million to just £1 million now, whilst annuity rates have fallen by around one third in the last decade.

Although only a minority of people currently have pension pots at this level, if the limit is held constant in real terms (which is the government’s London Royal calculates that in 2016/17, with an annuity rate of 4.54%, a £1 million pot would buy an annual pension of just £45,400, whereas in 2007/08, an annuity rate of 7.36% applied to the LTA would have generated a pension of £117,760. Taking account of inflation since 2007/08, this represents a real terms cut of over two thirds.

Chocolate tasting sprouts…

A device that tricks the tongue could one day be used to turn the most unappetising “healthy” food into a delicious treat, scientists say. Placed in the mouth, the Taste Buddy emits thermal and electric signals that stimulate the taste buds.

While the early prototype is restricted to imitating sweet or salty tastes, future versions have the potential to completely alter our diets – for instance, by transforming bland tofu into juicy steak, or conjuring up chocolate broccoli, it is claimed.

Professor Adrian Cheok, from City, University of London, who led the team of scientists and engineers that created the device said: “What started out as a fun engineering experiment has now led to something much more exciting with the potential to have a positive social impact.” He added: “Many children hate the taste of vegetables. So I knew that when I became an engineer, I wanted to make a device that could allow children to eat vegetables that taste like chocolate.”

In its current early form the Taste Buddy consists of a 2cm wide tab that sits on the tongue and is wired to a bulky processor. To enhance sweetness, the device warms up very rapidly and stimulates specific taste receptors that react to heat. A weak electric current is used to target other taste buds responsible for salty flavours.

Weekly Round-up, 7th October, 2016.

Landlords be aware

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has announced its expectations of Lender’s underwriting standards when assessing a buy to let mortgage. The PRA’s actions are intended to bring all lenders up to prevailing market standards and guard against any slipping of underwriting standards during a period in which firms’ growth plans could be challenged by the changing economic landscape and the impact of forthcoming tax changes.

The PRA’s supervisory statement outlines minimum expectations that firms should meet in underwriting buy-to-let mortgages, specifically that affordability assessments should take into account: borrower’s costs including tax liabilities, verified personal income (where used by the lender) and possible future interest rate increases. Lending to portfolio landlords (defined by the PRA as being those with four or more mortgaged buy-to-let properties) will in future be assessed using a specialist underwriting process.

The good news for Lenders is that they now have to 1st January 2017 to implement the more straightforward changes, and 30 September 2017 for the remainder. Underwriters can take reasonable rental increases into account when assessing affordability and landlords remortgaging without raising any additional capital are excluded from the new rules.

Shortage in rental

With rising house prices making home ownership increasingly unaffordable, it is predicted that by 2025, 1.8 million more households will be looking to rent, rather than buy. However, new Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) figures show that 86% of landlords have no plans to increase their rental portfolio this year – with that trend set to remain for the next five years. Additionally, a net balance of 58 per cent of RICS estate agents have reported a drop in buy-to-let sales since May.

According to RICS, the number of UK households renting property doubled from 2.3 million in 2001 to 5.4 million in 2014. However, earlier this year, the Government took measures to dampen the demand for buy-to-let investments by making changes to the Stamp Duty threshold. RICS suggest that this has further reduced supply, arguably making a 2025 rental supply crisis more likely. The problem is expected to be exasperated next year when landlords’ right to deduct their mortgage interest from their income tax bill is removed.

Back-up plan

More than 4 million self-employed people do not have a back-up plan for if they were unable to work, despite their families being disproportionately reliant on their income, according to new research from Scottish Widows. Just 7% of the self-employed population have critical illness cover, compared with 9% of the general population. With the self-employed population now rising to 4.79 million workers in the UK , or 15.1% of the workforce , this is the equivalent of 4.3 million workers having no protection in place if they were unable to work due to illness.

This financial protection gap is particularly concerning given that self-employed people’s families are likely to be disproportionately reliant on their income. Two thirds (62%) of self-employed workers’ households are reliant on one wage earner’s income, compared with 52% of the average population. When asked about the consequences of losing their main income, one in five (21%) self- employed people say they would not be financially secure at all and 12% don’t know how long they would be able to pay their household bills if they or their partner were unable to work. Just under a third (30%) say they wouldn’t be able to rely on a single income.

Taxes Up

This week saw Households across the UK face a second increase in the rate of insurance premium tax (IPT) in less than a year, affecting more than 50 million policies. The standard rate of IPT, which applies to most general insurance policies purchased in the UK, has gone up to 10% from 1st October 2016 after being increased by the previous Chancellor George Osborne in the Budget earlier this year.

This follows a previous rise from 6% to 9.5% which came into effect at the beginning of November last year, meaning the tax itself has risen by more than 66% in less than a year. Because Insurance Premium Tax is a tax the Government applies to individual policies, people who have the highest insurance costs – such as young drivers or those with on-going medical conditions – attract the highest amounts of tax.

Businesses are also affected when they buy cover for their premises, vehicles and to guard against issues such as business interruption.

Just Google it

It’s human nature to worry about what others think of us. The opinions of colleagues, friends and family count for a lot – but have you ever wondered what our European partners think of us Britons

New Data from Google searches has revealed the questions our European neighbours are really asking about Brits and the UK. The data – reflecting the questions asked by 16 of our EU partners – was gathered using Google’s autocomplete feature, which lists commonly asked queries as users type their queries into the search engine.

The Scandinavians seem a curious bunch, asking sensible cultural questions; Swedes want to know why England has more than one flag, Finns ask why the UK was referred to as ‘Britain’ during the Olympics and the Danes are puzzled as to why our judges wear wigs.

The Spanish were so bold as to pose “the English are strange” as a statement rather than a question, the Portuguese think we’re crybabies, the Italians think we’re dirty and the Dutch think we’re ugly.

HLP Compliance Blog

Introducers

In a news story published August 2016 the FCA stated the following in relation to Introducers:

“Many authorised firms receive customer introductions from introducers. We are very concerned at the increase we have seen in cases in which the introducer has an inappropriate influence on how the authorised firm carries out its business. We also have concerns where the authorised firm delegates regulated activities, for example by outsourcing their advice process to unauthorised entities or to other authorised firms that do not have the relevant permissions, or are not their appointed representatives.”

In addition to this, there has been a growing view that one of the areas of fraud in both the mortgage and protection markets that is increasing more significantly than others is fraud committed due to the influence of third party introducers.

So, bearing this in mind, we have taken the opportunity to review how we manage introducer applications, resulting in a refreshed process. The Introducer Guidance document, which clearly sets out to the third party why we need them to formally apply, has been updated and we’ve made a few changes to the application form. There are now two types of application form, one for companies and one for sole traders/private individuals, which makes it more personalised. We have simplified the questions, removed as much shading as possible (to reduce ink usage) and reduced the documentary requirements for limited companies, where we will attempt to use information already in the public domain.

The new documents are available in the Members’ Area, Compliance Documents section, including a detailed Partners’ guide to the introducer process explaining more about the changes and detailing the procedure to follow in future. We are working on creating editable PDF versions and will upload these when we can.

If you are approached by a potential introducer there are some tips to ensure you stay safe. Especially take care if you are unfamiliar with the people looking to do business with you. An approach out of the blue should raise alarm bells. Individuals previously associated with or involved in financial services may have been forced out of a regulated business due to enforcement actions, panel removals, termination, etc. and if so, they could be using their knowledge to assist applicants make fraudulent applications. Nobody wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, but you need to be sure that you trust who you are dealing with to help you stay safe in your business.

As ever, if in doubt, speak to your Compliance Manager or the Membership Team at head office, who will be happy to help.