» First UKAS accreditation for retail financial products

11 July, 2013

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) has granted the UK’s first accreditation for retail financial products to the Fairbanking Foundation. The grant was made 4th July for the Foundation’s Fairbanking Mark following the successful completion of a 12 month pilot project.

According to Antony Elliott, the CEO of The Fairbanking Foundation, “the Fairbanking Mark scheme was devised to help the Foundation achieve its charitable objective; to encourage banking providers to improve the financial well-being of their customers. By creating an accredited certification scheme that formally evidences and makes public the extent to which a banking product helps customers manage their money and reach financial goals, the Foundation has done just that.”

Antony Elliott added “The use of certification is a potentially significant development when the words ‘financial sector’ and ‘regulation’ are so often combined. It is difficult to get innovation and improvement in the interests of customers for a variety of reasons in the sector, so it is time to try something new. A crucial part of the effectiveness of the Fairbanking Mark scheme is its validity and credibility - as perceived by the both the banking community and ultimately the customer. To this end, seeking to become formally accredited as a product certification body by UKAS has been an invaluable step.”

The Fairbanking Foundation was formally presented its certificate at the House of Lords on the 10th July 2013. Presenting the Foundation with its certificate, Lord Lindsay, Chairman of UKAS said. “Congratulations to the Fairbanking Foundation for achieving the UK’s first accreditation of its kind for retail financial products. Although working in this sector is a first for UKAS, accreditation has a strong track record in delivering confidence to users of accredited services, as well as making a real financial difference to the UK’s economy, with the total benefits estimated to be in excess of £1bn a year. UKAS’ accreditation of the Fairbanking Mark scheme should provide a real motivation to the financial sector to offer products that meet its customers’ needs, underpinned by the assurance and confidence that accreditation brings.”

Beyond the challenging issue of perception, the process of gaining accreditation itself has been extremely useful to the Foundation. Robert Armstrong, Quality Director of The Fairbanking Foundation said, “The UKAS experience has been very helpful indeed, and certainly not just in ultimately equipping us with a clear icon of our credibility. The thoroughness of the process we have gone through to gain formal accreditation has been helpful in making sure our procedures, systems and checks are as rigorous and impartial as possible.”

The Fairbanking Mark scheme grants those products submitted that are successful with a 3, 4 or 5 star rating, indicating the level to which they have been assessed to help improve the customer’s financial well-being. Each product is tested against a range of relevant criteria which have been derived from extensive customer research and the application of academic behavioural theory as being critical to the improvement of financial well-being. A crucial part of the testing is independent research carried out with a significant number of existing holders of the product to ensure that the product’s relevant features have indeed been sufficiently effective.

Five products have already been through the Fairbanking Mark scheme and have succeeded in gaining a Fairbanking Mark since the scheme was established in 2011, including two current accounts without an overdraft, a current account with an overdraft and two savings accounts, although none yet has attained a five star rating.