The Financial Services group at Clarke Willmott offers sector-focused expertise from a range of different practice areas, notably Corporate, Private Capital and Litigation. Our staff also have recognised financial planning qualifications and practical experience of working with the regulators, giving us industry knowledge beyond that of our competitors.
Complaints are a fact of life for businesses, no matter how well run, and none more so than those that are authorised by the FCA. Some complaints are clearly justified, some are obviously not, but we generally find that they fall somewhere in between, and that the outcome will depend on the nature of the response. Whichever bracket they fall into, complaints inevitably take up a lot of time and energy that is usually more profitably employed on other matters.
We pride ourselves on our ability to positively affect the outcome of complaints for our clients by delivering clear and persuasive arguments (recognising of course that complaints must be dealt with fairly) in an understanding and courteous manner. Even where complaints are clearly justified, it is often possible to make real savings by limiting the amount of redress payable.
We would normally advise involving us as early as possible in the complaints process – preferably before the matter is referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) – because it can be difficult to recover from unhelpful statements or the ‘wrong’ arguments. Nevertheless, we can assist at any stage.
From time to time all businesses find themselves in embroiled in commercial disputes. Supported by our experienced Commercial Litigation team we are able to handle all kinds of disputes for our financial services clients, whether these are purely commercial in nature or have a particular financial services element.
Our experience covers a wide range of disputes, and includes for example disputes with insurers relating to professional indemnity insurance (PII), and disputes between authorised firms and appointed representatives over the termination of a relationship, commission clawback, non-disclosure in connection with PII, amongst other things.
We can of course also advise via our Corporate and Commercial Department on these matters and others with a view to preventing disputes – or at least ensuring our clients are well placed to come out on top.
We assist authorised clients in dealing with supervisory and enforcement action brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). We have experience of advising on, for example, FCA investigations, the appointment of Skilled Persons, and proposals to vary Part 4A Permissions. We appreciate that these actions must be approached delicately, not least because of the regulatory obligation always to be open and cooperative with the FCA. Our staff have worked with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the FCA’s predecessor, so we have an understanding of the culture of that organisation in particular.
We can also assist in the defence of claims by the FCA alleging unauthorised business or financial promotions. We notably acted for the defendant in – and successfully settled – a case involving the investment of approximately £7million on aggregate by numerous individuals in a scheme which the Financial Services Authority (the FCA’s predecessor) alleged amounted to an unauthorised collective scheme.
We offer both regulatory advice and compliance support to regulated businesses operating in the financial services sector. Our clients typically include:
- financial advisers
- lenders and hirers
- representatives and introducers
- collective investment schemes
- credit unions and friendly societies
- insurers and insurance brokers
- credit brokers and lead generators
- providers of funeral plans
- debt managers and providers of individual voluntary arrangements
- debt collectors
- aggregators and comparison sites
- claims managers
The advice we give often concerns new financial products and services, conduct of business, compliance with regulation (including the Consumer Credit Act, the Financial Services and Markets Act (“FSMA”), guidance and regulations), changes to regulation (or the regulator), data protection and anti-money laundering procedures.
We can also assist with the application processes for authorization or licensing.
Businesses operating in the financial services sector rely heavily on the contracts which underpin their activities, the form and content of many of which is regulated by statute. Our clients frequently need bespoke and detailed agreements. Some of these include:
- consumer credit and consumer hire agreements
- terms and conditions for financial products and services
- authorised representative agreements
- referral, commission and introducer agreements
- funeral plans
- agreements for processing, electronic payment and outsourcing
- joint ventures
We regularly act on corporate transactions within the sector, and advise on the effects of relevant legislation (including FSMA, the Regulated Activities Order and the financial promotions regime) on corporate activity. Our work in this area includes:
- mergers, acquisitions and disposals
- equity investment in both public and private companies
- business start-ups
We work closely with financial advisors and accountants to help them implement the succession or tax mitigation advice that they provide to their private clients.
Our services for clients who are referred to us by financial advisors include:
- Drafting wills and lasting powers of attorney
- Advising on and implementing trust arrangements for tax mitigation or succession planning
- Advising elderly clients with issues such as losing capacity or going into care;
- Court of Protection matters, such as appointing a Deputy, advising on mental capacity and welfare issues for those who do not have capacity to take decisions for themselves and managing and protecting the finances of vulnerable or incapacitated people;
- Family matters, such as divorce, child protection, financial orders, co-habitation and pre-nuptial agreements; and
- Buying and selling residential properties.
If you aren’t sure whether we can help you or your client, please call us for an informal chat. We are always happy to discuss matters with intermediaries to ensure that you get the right advice from the right person.