Consumer Duty - What is it?
On 31 July 2023, new Consumer Duty Rules came into force which place greater emphasis on financial service firms to ensure fair value and good outcomes for customers.
These rules don't apply to accountants directly, unless they provide advisory services to FCA-regulated clients, but as we have seen previously, the concept of consumer protection (GDPR and others) and especially the way firms communicate with clients could well spread to other industries soon!
We ask Laurent Guyot, CEO of Qwil Messenger what it means in terms of communication and the challenges to be solved.
Taking a step back…What is Consumer Duty?
Simply put this is the duty of advisers towards their customers. Consumer Duty are rules set by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) to ensure better consumer protection across the financial services industry..
So what does it say about communication?
Advisers need to deliver clear and understandable communications, services that meet consumers' needs and offer fair value, and support when consumers need it.
Any chosen communication channel and format should be suitable for the customer including the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.
All common sense but the challenge now is also to demonstrate it!
It is therefore up to each adviser to provide the right tools for customers, to facilitate easy, two way secure communication whilst being able to keep a record of having done (and how effective it is). Remember, the boxes of security and compliance (GDPR for example) also have to be ticked!
The aim is to provide information directly to clients in the most frictionless and timely way possible. That should be easy enough no?
Well…when the choices to securely communicate are usually encrypted email (your know, thatt link in an email to click…) combined with document portals and multiple passwords...that’s friction, friction, friction!
Customers will most certainly prefer sending a normal email or even a WhatsApp but these are not secure as you cannot be sure of the sender (which is why cyber criminals love these channels so much) nor compliant (with WhatsApp you don’t have an audit trail!). So they are not available for advisers to use.
Let’s add to the mix e-signature and video conference applications which appeared during the pandemic.
That’s hardly what customers (or staff) expect in terms of easy communication channels and neither does the FCA.
Is that where Qwil messenger comes in?
Yes. Qwil was built to solve the following three questions and Consumer Duty is a combination of all three
- How can staff communicate securely and in full compliance with clients
- How can can my staff be be more efficient in communicating with clients
- How can I manage staff and clients expectations (and have control of the data)
What started as a professional WhatsApp alternative for staff to securely engage with clients easily, now is also document sharing, e-signature, file manager and video conferencing all-in-one. So not only meeting the regulatory requirements, user expectations, but saving money by replacing a lot of apps.
In practice, Qwil can be deployed in minutes (start your free trial today), branded by the advisory firm with staff and clients invited using 2 FA on the platform and client contact books defined. It takes 30 seconds to accept the invitation and users can then chat both on mobile and desktop. Just works the way you expect it to work.
You get the familiar double ticks (so you know a message has been received and read) and of course, have a full audit trail so you can demonstrate the advice given.
It has been a game changer for many of the institutions that have used Qwil for many years (well ahead of Consumer Duty or even GDPR). The platform has endless automation and integration potential but that often comes in a second stage, first ensure two way communication is seamless!
How about vulnerable clients?
Chat is an incredibly personal way of communicating, on par with a phone call. It is communication, not correspondence. That is why over 80 billion messages are sent to family and friends over WhatsApp every day. It has completely replaced email in our personal lives.
That’s why Qwil Messenger is used by staff and customers of all ages and backgrounds. If they can use WhatsApp, they can use Qwil whether on mobile or desktop.
A vulnerable client can therefore easily communicate with their trusted financial adviser, knowing the information they disclose is not only secure but confidential.
With Qwil Messenger, support is just a chat away.
Last takeaways from Consumer Duty and client communications?
If your staff and clients can easily and securely communicate you are meeting your Consumer Duty requirements.
We like to think that Qwil Messenger will meet all your stakeholders needs but it is also important to offer options that suit everyone. If you have encrypted email, a portal and now Qwil, your bases are well covered!
When offering a new tool like Qwil Messenger, you need to make sure customers appreciate the benefits (security, all-in one platform) and the ease of use over available channels. The adoption will then be very high
It is up to you to provide tools which your staff and clients want to use!
There are already lots of tools out there - can I just try?
Absolutely - We have just launched a £1 for 60 days offer - unlimited staff, unlimited clients, chat, document sharing, e-signature, video etc All-in.
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