It’s probably fair to say that funeral directors across the country have gone through one of the toughest periods in history and dealt admirably with all that has been thrown at them.

As well as the devastating impact of Covid 19 on our communities, most funeral directors are also dealing with the requirements of CMA and adjusting to a future life of regulation of funeral plans by FCA, who will regulate the sector from July 2022.

Funeral Solution Expert (FSE), working with the support of Funeral Service Journal and NAFD, decided to assess the mood amongst independent funeral directors across the UK; How they are feeling about upcoming regulation, how they feel about their funeral plan providers readiness, and what they feel the impact will be on their business long term.

Over 120 funeral directors responded to our survey, representing 9 different funeral plan firms, some with their own plan, those with a plan from a single funeral plan company and firms which offer plans from more than one provider.

Thank you

We also raised £500 for Hospice UK in the process, with FSE donating £5 for every completed survey up to the first 100. So, a massive thank you to all who took the time to take part – and to our research partners Trajectory and Matter Communications who helped deliver the fieldwork.

Find out more about our charity work 

Awareness and confidence


Whilst there was a strong awareness about regulation and high confidence levels in their plan providers preparedness for what is to come, funeral directors were much less certain about the consequences of regulation and our findings suggest they have an unfulfilled need for compliance support.

87% of funeral directors say they are aware of FCA regulation, with 55% saying they understand the consequences.

This positivity is further underpinned with high expectation scores about their plan providers preparedness and capability to achieve authorisation. On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is extremely confident) an average score of 8.92 suggests high levels of confidence.

Despite this positive feedback, there is still a sizeable proportion of funeral directors who don’t fully understand what regulation means and how it will impact them. 32% saying they were aware but not sure of the consequences, and 13% saying they had some awareness but don’t understand what it means.

The most significant consequence of regulation is well known with 89% aware that a plan provider failing to achieve FCA authorisation will have to cease trading. But other consequences are less well known including those who fail to secure authorisation must transfer existing books of plans (21% unaware of this) and the need for ongoing annual training to maintain competence (35% unaware of this).

Confidence in the positive impact of regulation


Despite concerns about preparedness and required support, the majority of funeral directors feel positive about the impact of FCA becoming regulator. 43% said they were pleased and 38% were content. Just 5% stated they were unhappy, with 13% not bothered.

Most FDs asked were also positive about the effect that FCA regulation might have on their funeral plan business. 49% thought it would be positive, 43% felt it would have little difference and just 9% thought it would have a negative impact.

Information and support


The survey reinforces how reliant funeral directors are on their plan providers for FCA support now and in the coming months. While plan provider satisfaction scores were generally high (with one standout provider), guidance provided so far about funeral plan regulation was almost universally the lowest score.

Three quarters say they will need some or a lot of support to ensure their policies and processes are in place to permit them to continue selling plans. A third saying they wanted expert compliance support.

Questions for plan providers


Whether funeral directors use one plan provider or offer more than one plan, the following are key questions that will need to be answered.

Is your existing funeral plan provider intending to submit an application for FCA authorisation and when? The first window for applications closes on 1st Nov 2021 – beyond that time firms will need to pay more to submit an application.

What are their plans for transferring books of business in the event of exiting the market? This question is relevant as all providers are expected to have such a plan, whether they successfully gain authorisation or not.

What FCA compliance support are they going to provide you with before, during and after the deadlines and what level of FCA compliance experience and expertise do they have?

Are they making any changes to their funeral plans to adhere to FCA regulation?

Opportunity to consider the options


Whilst this is an uncertain time for many, there are some funeral directors assessing the opportunity to either switch plan provider, to start selling plans for the first time or maybe even to become directly authorised to continue and/or set up their own plans.

FSE’s research report also provides funeral director opinions on their satisfaction with their funeral plan provider from redemption values and proposition features to service levels.

Funeral Solution Expert has years of funeral plan experience as well as a specialist compliance partner that can support funeral directors. If you need any help or guidance, or want to understand more about the options available to you, please do not hesitate to contact us: information@funeralsolutionexpert.co.uk

 

The source of this article is Funeral Solution Expert / Trajectory: Sept 2021. If you wish to quote any aspect of this article or research please use the following reference: ‘Independent funeral director research: Funeral Solution Expert / Trajectory – Sept 2021’.