By Victoria Bischoff 25 March 2010
Financial services firms that force staff to promote and sell products to consumers in order to meet sales targets will be reformed, under plans revealed in the budget this week.
The government has said it will set up a ‘working group’ to consider how staff targets and incentives might lead to poor outcomes for consumers and employees.
This is building on the Retail Financial Services Forum’s remit to make financial services work better for consumers.
The group will meet with a number of banks, consumer groups and trade unions, to discuss the need for reform, before reporting to the Chancellor in time for the Pre-Budget Report.
Unite Union has welcomed this investigation into bank sales culture, describing it as a ‘victory’ for staff in banks across the UK.
Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer said: ‘There is now an opportunity to eradicate the murky practices which put pressure on staff and customers. This new examination by the Government is a win for consumers and a win for those workers on the front line of the banking sector.’
‘Unite members feel uncomfortable with having to pressure customers to invest in products which they often don’t feel they need, simply because the staff have to meet unreasonable sales targets,’ he added.
Consumer champion Which? recently sent out mystery consumers to 37 branches of banks and building societies, and found just four gave consumers good advice to consumers investing a lump sum. Meanwhile, the remaining 33 banks often recommended inappropriate products, failed to properly explain the risks or simply couldn’t get the basics of good advice right.
Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, said: ‘Banks and building societies need to buck up their ideas and make sure that their sales practices don’t exploit consumers by encouraging their staff to recommend inappropriate products’.
A spokesperson for the British Banker’s Association said they are not currently aware of any invitation to the new group on remuneration and incentives, but they will be pleased to participate if asked.
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