In the event that a customer wishes to make a complaint, this can be made verbally, by telephone or in person, or via a written communication delivered in person, via post, e-mail or fax. In the first instance, the complaint should be handled by the account manager responsible for the account, in consultation with the Compliance Officer, and resolution of the complaint sought. If the complaint is capable of being resolved the same business day as it is received, any agreed course of action should be taken and a file note made and inserted on the customer’s file, together with any copy correspondence.
Primus Capital must disclose information to its clients regarding access the Financial Ombudsmen Service (FOS) where applicable in the case of eligible complainants. For all MiFID business the below policy must be kept to. When Primus deals with an eligible complainant then all references to FOS must also be met.
In the event that a complaint is not capable of resolution the same business day as it is received, a brief written explanation of the substance of the complaint should be provided by the account manager responsible for the account, together with any written correspondence from the customer concerned. At this point in time, an entry should be made in the Complaints Register and the date of receipt of the complaint recorded in the Complaints Log, an example of the format of which appears in appendix one.
If the complaint has not been resolved by the close of business on the second day, the account manager concerned is responsible for ensuring that a copy of these internal procedures are sent to the customer and receipt of the complaint acknowledged in writing within 5 business days. The name and job title of the person handling the complaint must be advised to the customer.
In order to ensure that complaints are fairly, consistently and promptly dealt with, the Compliance Officer must be consulted, and any proposed course of action or correspondence signed off by him. The Compliance Officer will be responsible for ensuring that any complaint is properly investigated and that the required timetable set by the FCA rules is adhered to.
In the event that a complaint identifies a systemic, recurring or specific problem, the Compliance Officer will advise the Managing Director of the problem and seek to resolve it via discussion and the implementation of any conclusions arrived at.
Where a complaint has been resolved, a final response should be issued to the customer, unless it was resolved by the close of business on the business day following receipt, in which case no letter need be sent. A final response is a written response from the company which accepts the complaint and, if appropriate, offers redress (appropriate redress may not involve financial redress, it may, for example, simply involve an apology); or offers redress without accepting the complaint or rejects the complaint and gives reasons for doing so, and which informs the customer that, if he remains dissatisfied with the company’s response, he may now refer his complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (“FOS”) which, should he wish to do so, must be done within 6 months.
In any event, within 4 weeks of receiving a complaint, unless the customer has already indicated in writing acceptance of a response by the company (provided that the response informed the customer how to pursue his complaint if he remained dissatisfied), and in the event that a final response has not been issued, a holding response must be sent to the customer explaining why the company is not yet in a position to resolve the complaint and indicating when the company will make further contact (which must be within 8 weeks of receipt of the complaint).
Within 8 weeks of the receipt of a complaint the company must send to the customer a final response or a response which explains that the firm is still not in a position to make a final response, giving reasons for the further delay and indicating when it will be able to provide a final response, and informs the customer that he may refer the complaint to the FOS if he is dissatisfied with the delay, enclosing a copy of the FOS’s explanatory leaflet.
In the event that a customer takes more than a week to respond to a communication, the 4 and 8 week time-frames will be extended by the amount of time in addition to a week that the customer takes to respond. Any final responsemust inform the customer that he may refer the complaint to the FOS if he is dissatisfied with it, (and that he must do so within 6 months should he wish to refer it), enclosing a copy of the FOS explanatory leaflet, unless the company has already done so.
A record of the complaint must be retained by us for 3 years from the date of the receipt of the complaint. A report must be made to the FCA twice a year, as at 31 March and 30 September via the FCA’s Firms on Line electronic reporting system. This report specifies the total number of complaints received by the firm which were not settled by the close of business the business day after the receipt of the complaint in accordance with rule DISP 1.5.4.
The Complaints Log must be updated.
A complaint will be deemed to be closed where the company has sent a final response or where the customer has indicated in writing acceptance of the company’s earlier response.
All investment employees are required to sign a copy of these internal complaints procedures to confirm that they have received, read and agree to be bound by the requirements placed upon by them by these procedures as part of their contract of employment.
Poor customer understanding of financial services means that competitive forces alone will not ensure fair treatment or adequate customer protection.
TCF does not seek to create new rules or obligations, nor is it about creating check lists. It is, quite simply, a process which will enable Primus to keep the customer central to everything we do.
The FCA identified a product life-cycle as a simple framework that most firms could use to structure their thinking about different aspects of TCF. It means considering TCF in respect of a firm’s activities in:
- product design;
- marketing, including the production of promotional material and disclosures;
- the sales process and the information provided to customers as part of the sales process;
- the way that employees are remunerated;
- information and customer support after the point of sale;
- complaint handling;
- management information.
To meet TCF requirements, Primus will have to keep our systems, controls and management reporting across all activities under regular review. While the product life cycle is not entirely appropriate to the activities of the firm, it will act as a useful guide to dealing with our customers. The issues we will have to consider include:
- Developing and marketing products for specific target markets, based on a clear understanding of the likely needs and financial capability of each group of customers.
- Providing clear, fair and not misleading communications during promotions, advice, sales and after-sales activity.
- Making charges transparent.
- Balancing the commercial objective of increasing sales with TCF.
- Being clear to customers about what the firm, its products and services offer.
- Honouring representations, assurances and promises that lead to legitimate customer expectations.
- Identifying common underlying causes of complaints and taking immediate action to eliminate the root cause.
- Monitoring and responding appropriately to changes in the wider environment that may affect products and impact on particular classes of new or existing customers.
- Considering what management information is needed to measure the firms TCF performance.
Implementing our TCF Strategy
We do not deal with Retail clients. As such, our TCF processes will be proportionate to our client base. We started from asking ourselves whether our structure will positively support the principle of TCF as well as comply with detailed rules.
In formulating our strategy, we took account of our current and planned:
- products and services,
- customer base and strategy.
We will consider the impact on the customers at whom they are aimed, thus ensuring that products will meet our customer’s needs.
Remuneration can be an important factor in achieving business objectives, but a failure to manage and control the risks inherent in particular remuneration structures can threaten a firm’s ability to treat its customers fairly. Commission driven structures are an important spur to employees to focus on customers, though poorly managed ones can create risks which need to be effectively managed. We will always consider the potential impact on customers of our remuneration policies.
The effectiveness of our MI systems will be one of the issues that FCA will expect to discuss with us in the context of supervisory work on TCF. When considering the reports produced about all aspects of our work, we will consider what further information such MI gives us about our relationship with our customers.
Good complaint-handling does not mean always finding in favour of the customer, nor does it involve being biased in their favour. It is about treating customers’ complaints fairly and efficiently and learning whatever lessons there are to be learned.
Taking TCF into account when managing strategic change
When considering possible strategic change, we will start by considering the implications for treating customers fairly at outset.
Senior Management understanding
It is important for Management to understand what TCF means in practice for Primus, and to demonstrate that they are monitoring its impact on the business. This may involve:
- resolving how TCF applies to business and customers;
- embedding TCF into our strategy and culture;
- assessing how the principle of TCF has been considered and delivered at every level of the firm;
- reviewing our performance against our TCF obligations, and addressing any shortfalls.
Strategy and principles
Management will consider how best to communicate what TCF means for Primus and our customers. This will take into account factors such as:
- our actual and target customer base and their needs, knowledge, sophistication and attitude to risk;
- the risk and complexity of the products and services we offer relative to our customers knowledge and understanding;
- past promises or commitments made or implied to our customers, and what is required to fulfil these;
- distribution channels used and their suitability for our products, services and customers;
- business Directors that will be part of delivering products and services to our customers, and how they may have an impact on the risk of not treating customers fairly.
We have and will continue to assess all parts of our business to understand where there is potential risk to the fair treatment of customers and to identify any areas where we may not be meeting our obligations.
Where action is needed, Management will agree and implement a plan to address priority areas. Mechanisms will be devised to allow us to track that progress is being made as planned.
During any marketing or sales activity, financial promotions of any sort, including bespoke material such as illustrations, will be clear, fair and not misleading.
It is important for us to be satisfied that all employees who may have an impact on whether customers receive fair treatment, including those involved in sales, marketing, complaints handling and compliance have the necessary skills and competence.
Accurate and timely record keeping:
It is important that we maintain adequate records of customer profiles and instructions, and on each stage of the sales process. This is essential for management to be able to respond fairly should disputes arise.
Flow of information between Primus and our clients:
It is important that our customers remain clear about the nature of the services being offered by the firm, even if they have a close and long-standing relationship with us.
We will review all aspects of our business and organisational structures to identify risks that might have an impact on our ability to treat customers fairly.
Vulnerable Persons Policy
AIM OF THIS POLICY
The aim of this policy is to outline the practice and procedures for PCL staff to contribute to the prevention of detriment to clients who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. The policy covers all staff within the firm and in particular those operating in areas that deal directly with customers.
DEFINITION OF VULNERABLE
The FCA has developed the following definition to guide work in this area:
“A vulnerable consumer to be someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”
Vulnerability occurs in a variety of forms, which may be permanent, temporary, or even sporadic, dependent on its nature. In many circumstances the individual may not recognise themselves as ‘vulnerable’. We recognise that vulnerability may not be simply due to the situation of the consumer but caused or aggravated by the actions or processes of the firms they may deal with.
Clients who might be considered as being in vulnerable circumstances could include:
Clients with mental capacity deficiencies (including language or communication), including mental illness and dementia; Clients under stress or subject to financial shock of all types, such as employment concerns, bereavement (or potential bereavement), marital or relationship difficulties; Clients with a physical impairment that may not allow them to engage with automated, or other standard process requirements (such as photographic ID, phone key pad recognition, or internet applications); Clients with severe and long-term illness (both life-limiting and where recovery is expected); Clients who are “under banked “or “financially unsophisticated”; Clients with low income; Clients already in a distressed financial situation; Those acting on behalf of others as ‘carers’, including those operating a power of attorney; Those without access to the internet or other digital media; Clients who are financially inexperienced; and those with poor language skills.
On occasions new customers, or existing clients where there has been a change in circumstances, will be in vulnerable circumstances or that the nature of their circumstance may limit or remove the availability of facilities to the extent that the firm might be unable to accommodate their requirements. PCL staff must remain mindful of the potential for enquiry by these clients and the potential for any change of circumstance in respect of existing customers.
IDENTIFICATION OF CLIENTS IN VULNERABLE CIRCUMSTANCES
Vulnerability is broad and may occur at any time. It will usually involve the interplay of characteristics of the individual, their circumstances, and static or transitory status. We only deal with customers in vulnerable circumstances where we are aware of their needs.
Mental capacity deficiencies – The FCA provides clear guidance on the identification of mental capacity issues in their Handbook, specifically under CONC 2.10.8 Appended to this policy.
Stress or financial shock – may be identifiable (facial expression, posture or stance etc.), but otherwise may be revealed through conversation before and during interview
Physical impairment – may be identified visually, or through interview. Severe and long-term illness – may be identifiable through conversation or through interview. “Under banked” or “financially unsophisticated” – may be identified through interview and their credit profile
Low income – may be identified through interview and credit profile In financial distress – may be identified through interview and credit profile
Carers – may be identified through interview or conversation
Digital exclusion – identifiable through interview or via routes of engagement with firm. Inexperience – age may be a factor in exposure to financial products. Poor language skills – may be audible or identifiable via routes of engagement with firm.
The nature of the need area to be addressed and additional safeguards will be applied as appropriate to ensure fair treatment.
ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF RISK
Primus do not discriminate against clients in vulnerable circumstances by way of adjustment to fees or any refusal to assist purely on the grounds of the client’s circumstance (unless that circumstance creates a situation which is likely to lead to detriment or a risk that removes affects the ability to provide to client with services). We will review our practices periodically for consistency and to determine adherence to the stated policy. The following examples illustrates mitigating actions for clients with mental capacity deficiencies (for the avoidance of confusion “competent person” means an individual without the limitation presented by the client):
Capacity Issue: Language
Risk: Client cannot fully understand important features of their agreement with Primus Capital, their recommendation or the consequences of that recommendation
Mitigation: Client to instruct a competent person to act as interpreter.
Capacity Issue: Other communication problem created by disability
Risk: As above
Mitigation: Client to instruct a competent person to act as interpreter. Client to nominate a reasonable communication medium suitable for their disability.
Capacity Issue: Mental incapacity (temporary) e.g. intoxication, mental illness
Risk: As above plus the potential for reckless disregard for consequence
Mitigation: Client to instruct a competent person to communicate on their behalf. Legal agreement must be reached outside of any period of incapacity. Client should be encouraged to seek independent professional advice. If legal agreement cannot be reached outside of any incapacity, client must provide “Power of Attorney” for a competent individual to act on their behalf.
Capacity Issue: Mental incapacity (Permanent)
Risk: As above plus the possibility that any agreement might be unenforceable as a result of known incapacity.
Mitigation: Client must provide “Power of Attorney” to a competent individual to act on their behalf
RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES
Responsibilities of Primus:
To abide by the FCA’s principles and rules in this area
FCA Principles for Business and Individual conduct rules (treating customers fairly).
To ensure staff are aware of this policy and are adequately trained to identify and deal with clients who are or may appear “vulnerable”. To support individuals in relation to identified risk and vulnerability. To provide means of reporting any instance where they believe that a client might be in vulnerable circumstance.
Responsibilities of our staff: To be familiar with this policy and procedures, and be able to recognise where additional support or sign-posting to other agencies may be required. To take appropriate action in line with the policies of Primus. To report any instance where they believe that a client might be in vulnerable circumstance, and act accordingly in line with the policy. To complete the mandatory CISI training on vulnerable clients.