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The Institute of Money Advisers (IMA) and the Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) today announce a new partnership that will continue to raise standards in the fee payable debt advice sector. The initiative will include the introduction of a new professional qualification in debt advice for advisers working in DEMSA member firms.

The qualification will have its first intake of students in November 2011 and will be studied over 16 weeks covering key areas of debt advice including; budgeting, income maximisation, priority debts, insolvency, managing caseloads, and relevant legislation such as the Consumer Credit Act. It will be accredited by Staffordshire University and will provide an independent and rigorous assessment of the knowledge and skills of individual advisers in the DEMSA member firms.

The IMA launched a similar professional qualification for advisers in the free advice sector in 2010 and has so far seen almost 300 advisers achieve this qualification.

The DEMSA and IMA partnership will also include Continuous Professional Development for individual advisers requiring them to undertake ongoing training and development.

DEMSA has long been committed to raising standards across the fee charging debt advice sector. As well as working closely with the OFT to lead the drive towards higher standards, DEMSA recently introduced a more robust complaints mechanism for clients who receive advice from their member firms and has appointed Caroline Siarkiewicz, the Executive Director of the IMA, to sit on its Compliance and Disciplinary Panel.

David Blocksidge, Head of Debt Management Team, Consumer Credit Group at the OFT comments: “We are highly supportive of the proposal for the IMA to work with DEMSA to improve standards in the fee charging debt management sector. DEMSA has an OFT approved Code of Practice which its members abide by and we welcome DEMSA’s approach to seek to improve the training and competences of the staff working for its members.”

Steve Meakin, Chair of the IMA said: “The agreement with DEMSA represents a significant step in continuing to improve standards of advice in the fee charging sector. The IMA’s ‘Certificate in Money Advice Practice’ was introduced in 2010 for advisers in the free advice sector and has played a key role in establishing a benchmark for high quality advice. I believe that our work with DEMSA in introducing a new qualification and CPD scheme will mirror what has already been achieved in the free advice sector.”

Michael Land, Chairman of DEMSA adds: “As the principal trade body in the sector, DEMSA members are at all times required to provide informed, clear and appropriate advice which is always in the best interest of their clients. DEMSA members do already make significant investments in training and development however, introducing a formal qualification will act as an important vehicle for raising debt advice standards across the sector.”

DEMSA appoints retired High Court judge as Chairman of Compliance and Discipline panel

August 18, 2011 Comments Off on DEMSA appoints retired High Court judge as Chairman of Compliance and Discipline panel

The Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) has appointed The Hon Sir Harry Ognall, DL as Chairman of its Compliance and Discipline panel.  Sir Harry is a retired High Court Judge. Before his appointment to the Queens Bench division of the Court, his practice involved a wide variety of criminal and civil cases, including corporate fraud. He has also previously acted as an arbitrator in the motor insurance industry.

Sir Harry will join Richard Wharton, Director & General Secretary of DEMSA and Caroline Siarkiewicz, Executive Director of the Institute of Money Advisers on DEMSA’s Compliance and Discipline panel, as well as Patricia Harter of West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service and Michael Fox, a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.

The OFT is consulting on revised guidance for the debt management industry in order to ensure stricter compliance in the sector. DEMSA has also embarked on a revision of its own Code of Conduct in order to give every assurance to consumers of the high level of service they can expect. This revision will include changes to the disciplinary structure governing the conduct of its members.

DEMSA’s Compliance and Discipline panel meets to consider a complaint about one of the members from either creditors or clients, which has not otherwise been resolved in a complete and satisfactory manner. The panel is empowered to award redress, and to impose a variety of stringent sanctions such as fines, restitution and requiring changes in operational practices. The panel may also report complaints to regulators who would review suitability for holding a Consumer Credit or other license. In his new role, Sir Harry will lead the process of revising the DEMSA Code’s disciplinary provisions involving the panel and will monitor the application of these provisions so as to ensure their ongoing fairness and efficacy.

Commenting on his role, Sir Harry said: “I believe that the panel will prove to be of real advantage, not only to the present and future members of DEMSA but also to creditors and, crucially, the consumer. It will instil further confidence amongst clients and creditors that there are proper measures of redress open to them in the event of dissatisfaction.”

Michael Land, chairman of DEMSA, said: “We work closely with the OFT to help set and promote high standards in the industry and we hope that the revisions to both the OFT Guidance and the DEMSA Code will ensure these standards continue to rise. We are grateful to Sir Harry who accepted this role only after careful consideration and discussions with the OFT, who are themselves supportive of this move to strengthen the compliance procedure. His great legal experience will help DEMSA’s members continue to provide the best possible service to their clients.”