Code of Ethics

INTRODUCTION

The Financial Intermediaries Association of Southern Africa (FIA) is an association representing financial services intermediaries in South Africa, advocating the highest level of professionalism and conduct from its members. In so doing, it binds its members to the FIA’s Code of Conduct (the Code) as a condition of membership.

The FIA acts as a mouthpiece for its members, seeking to constructively engage with stakeholders including clients, government, regulators, financial services providers, the media and other relevant entities.

The FIA promotes the practice of good corporate governance following the principles contained within the King III Report, adherence to Black Economic Empowerment and the principles of the Financial Sector Charter.

The FIA promotes professionalism and insists that professional conduct is derived from and is sustained by competence and ethical behaviour.

The objectives of this Code are:

  • To ensure that the FIA leadership and its management complies and practices good governance within its operations, covering both its strategic and operational activities.
  • That the FIA executive and management hold themselves directly accountable, both individually and collectively for failed governance process and protocol; to the regulators and other stakeholders.
  • To protect, promote and advance the image, standing and common interest of professional financial services intermediaries in South Africa. To consistently promote the improvement and standard of financial products, financial advice and intermediary services provided within the industry. By enforcing the Code the FIA strives to remain recognized and trusted as an important contributor to the South African economy and society at large.
  • To promote and uphold high ethical standards and good business practices within the financial services industry, thereby ensuring the maintenance of good image and reputation of the industry as a whole.
  • To inform current and potential clients that the FIA’s Code of Conduct is a self-imposed standard that distinguishes its members from average industry expectations.
  • That they stay relevant to the needs of the financial services industry as well as being congruent with legislative and regulatory changes,  and that they are kept alive through inclusion at strategic, operational and risk management levels.

THE FIA CORE VALUES

As an organization:

  • Professionalism: Members aspire to propagate and elevate levels of professionalism amongst themselves and in so doing, ensure that clients engaging with FIA members experience a high degree of work ethics, positive interactions and ultimately a value added outcome.
  • Service: Service excellence is a highly valued and respected professional quality. Members recognize that a sustainable existence is dependent on strong client relationships, culminating from excellent service delivery.
  • Leadership: The FIA leads its members with measured courage and contribute meaningfully to the enhancement of the financial services industry and its stakeholders.
  • Trust: Trust is sacrosanct and a non-negotiable fundamental value that is upheld by the FIA and its members. Client trust manifests in the fact that our members are all appropriately authorized or mandated in terms of applicable legislation and must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.

AS AN OFFICER OF THE FIA:

FIA officers must;

  • act in good faith and proper purpose towards the FIA and its stakeholders
  • exercise their powers conferred for the benefit of the FIA
  • avoid conflict of their own interests and the FIA’s
  • not use the FIA’s, neither its stakeholder’s information for their own gain
  • retain their independence of mind and action
  • not bring the FIA, neither any of the FIA’s stakeholders into disrepute

Self-regulation

An industry with effective self-regulation is perceived as offering fair value and good service to clients. Self-regulation is about FIA directors, management and members being committed to self-imposed guidelines regarding ethical and professional business conduct and practices.  Moreover — as individuals — they commit to being responsible, accountable, fair and transparent in all their dealings with and within the FIA and its stakeholders.

A relationship of good faith and trust forms the basis of sound contractual interaction between members and their clients.  It is with this in mind that FIA members are compelled to comply with the requirements of the Code.

THE FIA CODE OF ETHICS

1. FIA directors, management and members of the FIA undertake that:

  • they will observe and comply with the requirements of the Code.
  • they will create public awareness of their membership of the FIA, their self-regulation measures and the Code. The commitment of the FIA directors, management and members is underpinned by achieving high ethical standards within the industry and is acknowledged to be essential to their professional practices.
  • they will at all times, and in relation to all other parties, conduct their business activities in the utmost of good faith, honesty, integrity and transparency. They will consistently uphold the interests and needs of their clients before any other consideration.
  • they will ensure that any information acquired by a member from a client will not be used or disclosed unless the written consent of the client has been obtained to do so, except in the course of negotiating, maintaining, renewing or servicing the client’s financial needs or where required by law.
  • where business entails the assessment of acceptance of any risk by an underwriter, members will obtain all material information from the client that is reasonably available and communicate same to the underwriter.
  • they will at all times comply with legislation relating to the financial services industry. In particular, they will only offer advice and render intermediary services in respect of financial products for which they are authorized or mandated in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, 2002. They will not act in a manner which may harm or prejudice the image of the industry, the FIA or its members and will not, without prior authorization, express the FIA’s views in public. They will ensure that their employees fully understand the member’s obligations under the Code, and any other guidelines that may be issued.

2. The FIA undertakes to:

  • Improve and promote the image and standing of the FIA itself, as the representative body of its members.
  • Protect, promote and advance the common interests of its members.
  • Take concerted measures as may be deemed appropriate whenever the business of the members of the FIA may be affected by the action or proposed action of government or any other authority.
  • Insist on high standards of professional conduct by all its members, to protect the integrity and status of financial services intermediaries and to take such steps as are necessary, including disciplinary action against defaulting members and/or the termination of membership.
  • Promote and actively pursue corrective action against any party partaking in any activity that tarnishes the image of the industry and apply appropriate measures in protecting such image.
  • Assist stakeholders and regulatory authorities to eradicate unauthorized and undesirable practices within the financial services industry.
  • Promote agreement and cooperation between members on matters of mutual interest and to provide the mechanism for the examination and reconciliation of any differences through processes of mediation.  Failing mediation, the FIA will encourage the necessary steps for arbitration as opposed to a direct approach to a court of law — these steps being necessary in the interests of preserving business relationships.
  • Consider and make representations in regard to existing and future legislation relative to the financial services intermediaries.
  • Launch advertising campaigns to inform the general public of the benefits of dealing with financial services intermediaries.
  • Apply for membership of other national or international bodies or organizations having similar objectives.
  • Provide members with written or other material which can assist them in their profession, including the provision of acceptable business practice through applied good governance process and measures.
  • Facilitate ongoing training for members to improve themselves in their particular field of operation.
  • Establish organizations, trusts and funds for the benefit of members, employees and their dependents.
  • Promote in general, all activities and take all steps deemed necessary, that are regarded to be beneficial and in the best interest of the members and the public at large; and
  • Support any actions which can promote all or any of the aforementioned objectives.

3. General

  • The Code covers all financial services provided by the members of the FIA.
  • The Code exists within the legal and regulatory environment in which FIA members operate and will in the first instance be subject to such regulatory measures.
  • If a FIA member fails to comply with the Code or other generally accepted practices of good corporate governance such as the recommendations found within King III, the Membership Executive Committee will investigate the matter and may impose sanctions on such a member.

4. Monitoring and enforcement of the Code

Compliance with the Code will be monitored in order to ensure that self regulation takes place as per the requirements of the Code.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE FIA

  • The FIA will create awareness with regard to the need for compliance with the Code amongst its members as well as promote good corporate governance practices covering financial and non-financial reporting.
  • The FIA will create awareness about the Code amongst consumers and the FIA stakeholder at large.
  • The FIA will post the Code and any subsequent amendments or additions to the Code on the FIA website as well as periodically advertise the Code in various public medium.

The Membership Executive Committee will:

  • Receive allegations/complaints about non-compliance with the Code, for investigation.
  • Receive allegations/complaints about non-compliance with generally agreed practices of good governance, for investigation.
  • The Membership Executive Committee will follow all such processes and procedures as prescribed by section 18 of the Rules of the FIA.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF FIA MEMBERS

FIA members will:

  • Put appropriate procedures and systems in place to comply with the Code including creating awareness amongst employees and mandated intermediaries.
  • Put appropriate procedures and systems in place to apply various recommendations set within King III to creating awareness amongst employees and mandated intermediaries.
  • Accept that they will not be in compliance with the Code, neither King III, if their employees and mandated intermediaries fail to comply with these provisions when acting on their behalf.
  • Co-operate with the FIA and/or the Membership Executive Committee when investigating potential non-compliance with the Code or aspects of King III (as deemed appropriate).
  • Apply corrective measures when required within an agreed timeframe.
  • Accept the decisions and/or sanctions of the Membership Executive Committee, the FIA and/or the appointed individual in cases of appeal.

REPORTING ON NON-COMPLIANCE

  • Alleged non-compliance with the Code or aspects of King III (as deemed appropriate) must be reported to the Membership Executive Committee of the FIA.
  • A complaint regarding non-compliance with the Code or aspects of King III (as deemed appropriate) by a FIA member must be in writing.
  • The complaint must be lodged within 6 weeks of the incident occurring.

5. Review of the Code

  • The Code will be reviewed regularly, and at least every three years, and/or on an ad hoc basis when and if deemed necessary.  Moreover, it will be reviewed by a subject matter or market related expert to assure the integrity of its content, including its relevance.
  • The review process will take into account any changes in objectives and needs in the insurance environment at the time of review.
  • Any amendments or a new Code will be approved and adopted by the FIA Board and the Advisory Council.
  • Any amendments / updates to the Code will be provided to all the FIA stakeholders within 30 days.