The APCC Professional Standards
The APCC has developed a framework of Professional Standards setting out best practice guidance for compliance consultants. The most recent Professional Standard was in March 2010 with the introduction of the Professional Conduct Standards.
The Professional Standards framework covers the following areas:
- Professional conduct
- Experience and qualifications
- Healthcheck reports to clients
- Procedures on change of appointment
Professional Standards will be developed in other areas as the need for them is identified. Members are therefore encouraged to enter into an active dialogue with the APCC when they identify such a need. In addition each member firm and their personnel are expected to comply with the Code of Ethics.
Complaints: If the professional and ethical standards of our member firms do not meet the reasonable expectations of their clients, other member firms or the regulator the APCC will investigate that member firm. Before you ask the APCC to investigate a complaint against a member firm you should give the member firm an opportunity to address your concerns; we expect member firms to investigate promptly and thoroughly any complaints they receive about the firm's services. If you do have a complaint against a member firm you should write to the person nominated within that firm to receive complaints or, if you are unsure who that is, write to the managing director or principal of the firm, setting out clearly what your complaint is and, where appropriate, what steps you would like the firm to take to resolve the problem. If it is not possible to resolve the problem at this stage, then you can write or email the APCC who will then investigate the matter. The address to write to is “The Secretary, Association of Professional Compliance Consultants, 145 – 157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY” or email Beverley Robertson.
The APCC works with Members to ensure they meet the Professional Standards. In the event that they are not able to do so then, regrettably, their membership will be terminated until such time as they are able to meet these standards.
Development of Professional Standards: Each Professional Standard is prepared in draft form and issued to members for comment. These comments are then used to update the draft and where the comments are substantive the consultation process is repeated until broad agreement is reached. The Professional Standard is then adopted by the Steering Council and member firms are notified accordingly.
Professional conduct: This standard was adopted with effect from 9 March 2010. The purpose of these Standards is to provide guidance to Members Firms on the minimum standards that the Association expects all its members to meet on a continual basis. This covers such areas as standards relating to the firm as a whole, standards relating to client matters and standards related to the firm's consultants. Additional supporting documentation for these standards include:
Experience and qualifications. These are recommended minimum standards for the experience and qualifications of members consultants. The APCC considers that each member firm should maintain an experience and qualification matrix (or equivalent) which documents that within the firm it has sufficient expertise to support the different areas in which it provides advice.
Procedures for dealing with failing clients: Where regulated clients are not able or willing to maintain appropriate regulatory standards consultants need to have procedures in place to recognise this issue and to develop an appropriate response.
Conflicts of Interest: The APCC requires that its member firms have a conflicts of interest policy which sets out how the firm deals with these conflicts. This documents lists a number of examples of conflicts of interest which the firm may have and which therefore each require an appropriate procedure in place setting out how the firm manages the conflict.
Healthcheck reports to clients: This standard was adopted on 10 January 2007 with effect from 1 February 2007. The need for this standard was identified when it became clear that the scope of these reports and any limitations on the scope (either due to specific client instructions, commercial pressures or other reasons) was causing confusion in the market. In particular the FCA view of what constituted a health check report, which in general is a full scope review of all compliance areas within a regulated firm, was not necessarily fully communicated to regulated firms. Regulated firms have in certain cases relied on healthcheck reports without recognising the impact of scope limitations. Healthcheck reports themselves do not always set out any applicable scope limitations and this has allowed users of the reports to over-interprete the findings of these reports.
Procedures on change of appointment: This standard was adopted by the Steering Council in September 2006. The standard is to ensure that where a compliance consultancy firm ceases to act for a client due to a professional disagreement (e.g.. the client disagrees with the advice given by the consultancy firm or accepts the advice and refuses to act on it) that there is a procedure in place for the material facts relating to an engagement to be communicated to the succeeding consultancy firm.