Every year or so the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance & Financial Services has a dinner with the trades unions representing workers in the financial services sector. Although there is spread of unions and staff associations active in the sector, dominated by AMICUS, they work together under the banner of Alliance for Finance.
The dinner has the habit of turning into abit of a platform for a group of Labour peers to show off their trade union credentials and the latest dinner last week was a particularly bad example of this habit with many of the Alliance for Finance representatives left feeling they hadn't had much of a chance to get their point of view across because they had been listening to speeches from members of the group – rather the opposite of how these events are meant to work. That said, they did air their concerns on a few key issues.
Top of their list was the pressure that bank and building society counter staff and call centre workers are put under to reach sales targets that the unions frequently consider to be unrealistic. Representatives from right across the sector felt that many of these targets could only be reached if customers were over-sold – if not blatently mis-sold – financial products. They felt this was now especially true of some things that are not caught in the Financial Services Authority net, such as credit cards and other debt-related products.
Running neatly in parallel with this fear is their concern about the lack of consumer education on personal finance. The unions are very supportive of the drive to include this in the national curriculum and were mildy critical of the Financial Services Authoirty for not doing more on this front.
Both of these issues have been recurring themes when the All Party Group has met the unions over the years. Things maybe moving on the consumer education front but no real work has ever been done on looking at the contribution that overly aggressive sales targets have made to the various mis-selling scandals over the last 20 years. Perhaps the unions could consider funding a university department to carry out some research into this so that they can come back next year with some hard evidence to prove the point.
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