This week the BBC, among others, reported that the details of millions of people’s pensions are being sold to “fraudsters and cold-calling firms”. The news comes amid several warnings from industry experts that the introduction of pensions freedoms (which allow anyone over the age of 55 to withdraw their savings and invest them where they like) will be “an open season” for fraudsters.
Predictions such as these from industry experts are unfortunately not a rarity, but often amount to little more than headline-generating. While Identity theft insurance, forex, mortgages, bank account fees and now pensions have all been labelled as the “next PPI scandal”, they have rarely made the leap from finance to front page.
PPI mis-selling of course, has almost become synonymous with the pre-crisis behaviour in certain sections of the industry and indeed figures released by the FCA this week from the second half of 2014 reveal that the fallout remains, albeit decreasing steadily, several years since the scandal broke.
Naturally, given events in recent years, the reporting of complaints against financial services can border on the overcautious, especially as the industry as a whole has taken many steps to improve its reputation and levels of customer service.
The data from the FCA however raises some broader questions about what the industry is doing to improve outcomes for customers. According to the figures (taking PPI out of the equation), top most complained about products and services in the second half of 2014 were:
- Current accounts –385,818 complaints (up 22%, compared to the previous 6 months)
- Other general insurance – 318,326 complaints (down 0.16%, compared to the previous 6 months)
- Credit cards –109,487 complaints (down 14%, compared to the previous 6 months)
- Savings, including cash ISAs, and other banking - 84,352 complaints (up 5%, compared to the previous 6 months)
A mixed picture emerges, with some products and services marking improvements, but for an industry still trying to recover its public image, any rise in complaints can set back this progress.
In its role as a provider of financial education, ifs University College believes professional qualifications are key to raising standards. This applies to both before complaints are even received and dealing with them once reported. Qualifications such as the Certificate in Retail Banking Conduct of Business (CertRBCB®) are designed to allow institutions to improve their levels of service in the first instance, while the Certificate in Regulated Complaints Handling (CertRCH®) ensures frontline and customer-facing staff have the necessary skills and competencies to deliver the best possible solutions for their customers. Many institutions have already put their staff through these qualifications, which are playing an important part in satisfying customer grievances.
The industry has invested millions into analysts, research and indeed experts to predict and prevent any future predicaments. Perhaps further investment into professional qualifications would complement this work.