The Partnership Podcast

The Funeral Director Agreement with Edward Poole

November 04, 2020 Golden Charter Season 1 Episode 15
The Partnership Podcast
The Funeral Director Agreement with Edward Poole
The Partnership Podcast
The Funeral Director Agreement with Edward Poole
Nov 04, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Golden Charter

Independent funeral director Edward Poole gives his view on signing Golden Charter's Funeral Director Agreement, and on the wider impact of regulation on funeral directors and families.

Show Notes Transcript

Independent funeral director Edward Poole gives his view on signing Golden Charter's Funeral Director Agreement, and on the wider impact of regulation on funeral directors and families.

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:05] Welcome to the Partnership Podcast, your guide to what's happening in the UK funeral profession, and right now, there is a lot happening. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:12] On top of COVID-19 and the [00:00:14]CMA's at-need work, [0.9s] it's a vital time for pre-need regulation. The Funeral Planning Authority has laid down expectations for the entire pre-need sector, and meeting those expectations is a journey the entire sector has to make over the coming months. In doing so, we also have to be gearing up for future regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority, which is coming very soon. The FCA expect major companies like Golden Charter to be the first to apply when regulation takes effect. And that could mean applying as early as next June. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:00:45] What that means today is that our contracts for sellers need to be put in place now. That's why many of you have received Golden Charter's funeral director agreement, which we are rolling out to everyone who sells our plans. The agreement formalises the relationship you have with Golden Charter, as currently set out in each funeral plan's terms and conditions, and sets us all up for life under the current FPA rules and code of practice, and for future FCA regulation. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:13] Today we're going to explain the agreement by talking to one of those independent funeral directors who have already signed their agreement, about what it means for him, how we approached and examined the agreement itself, and how he sees the wider profession shaping up as regulation starts to impact us all. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:37] So I'm delighted to welcome Ed Poole today of AJ Sellman in Cannock. Afternoon, Ed, how are you? 

Ed Poole [00:01:45] I'm very well, thank you, Malcolm. How are you? 

Malcolm Flanders [00:01:47] I'm good. It is a Friday after all. So let's start, first of all, with you know, I suppose from your perspective, how do you feel about the introduction of strengthened FPA regulation for the funeral plan market generally? 

Ed Poole [00:02:03] I feel comforted by it. Over the course of the last 10 years, there's been a lot of new entrants coming into the industry and some of them, unfortunately, have brought it into disrepute. And this gives me confidence that with the introduction of a strengthened FPA and the future FCA regulation, at least as funeral directors we will all be operating within the same parameters. 

Ed Poole [00:02:27] And hopefully this will obviate the horror stories that the likes of ITV and the leading newspapers have used to broadcast and publish horrible stories, which hasn't done in our industry any good at all. I feel when I started out as a funeral director, the funeral director was given a lot of esteem by the public. But they have been bombarded with a lot of not very nice press and that watered that esteem down. That press is very one sided I feel, and I think that a strengthened FPA regulation will just help balance that. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:03:16] I get it. Thank you, Ed. What does this mean for you and your business specifically then? And I'm interested, you know, from a business perspective, how you feel about actually signing up to the agreement. 

Ed Poole [00:03:28] Well, I'm sure we'll talk about, you know, the details of the agreement a little bit later on, but in terms of signing the agreement, not a lot has changed. You know, I used to play a lot of rugby and a coach of mine said something which has stuck with me throughout my life: "If you train as you always train, you'll play as you always play." We have always given our clients, we've made them aware of their rights, that they can cancel the funeral plan, Golden Charter's fees, different methods of payment, giving them options. And so we're just doing what we've done before and carrying on. You know, we've been going for 150 years and we've been going for 150 years for a reason. 

Ed Poole [00:04:17] And I just feel that knowing that all funeral directors that sell funeral plans will have to sign this agreement or something similar – they’re going to have to do it – we’re all going to be on a, dare I say, it's quite a topical thing to say, a level playing field. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:04:34] Yeah, yeah, understand. So my next question is really around the industry then, do you think industry will benefit from increased regulation? 

Ed Poole [00:04:45] Yes, because I think it will give the public more confidence in what we do. And hopefully some of that esteem will be restored. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:04:57] Yeah, sure. Okay. And if we just turn it round for a moment then, how do you feel about responsibility being placed on funeral plan providers to be held accountable for the behaviors of funeral directors and third party sellers in terms of selling plans? 

Ed Poole [00:05:12] I think initially… ultimately that gives me confidence. I know with the likes of Golden Charter, they've got a specialist compliance team and them having the responsibility means that the guidance for how we conduct ourselves and what we've signed up for, it limits the deviation there could be. Because if you had a set of principles or guidelines that were published by SAIF or the NAFD, then that's open to interpretation. Whereas this is quite clear for how funeral directors should conduct themselves. 

Ed Poole [00:05:53] I can fully understand why perhaps, first hearing that, a funeral director might object to it because, you know, we all own our own business and a benefit of having your own business is you work for yourself. And signing the agreement, you could interpret it's ceding a little bit of control of your business, which doesn't sit well with a small business owner. However, if you've got nothing to hide, it shouldn't be an issue. 

Ed Poole [00:06:25] Because you know what's being ensured within this, is that there isn't any detriment to the plan holder. As long as you've been upfront and honest with them, there shouldn't be an issue at all. Golden Charter aren't going to come in, again as long as there isn't any detriment, and tell you how to conduct a funeral, who to hire, what you can charge.

Malcolm Flanders [00:06:50] We won't. 

Ed Poole [00:06:52] So, and I think just, you know, we've been with Golden Charter for many years. I've got a lot of confidence in the staff there, and benefited greatly from their expertise. So in a nutshell, it gives me confidence. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:07:10] Okay. Thank you, Ed. And that's brought us nicely on to the customer themselves. Do you believe the strengthened rules will protect customers? And in what way will your families down there in Cannock, and future customers be protected? 

Ed Poole [00:07:28] Well, I think it protects people interested in taking a funeral plan from rouge funeral directors. There are some people, or funeral plan providers, out there that I think bombard prospective clients and it will eradicate that. 

Ed Poole [00:07:48] And, you know, this agreement is making sure that the client is informed that they have a choice, that they are aware of their rights and to assure them that their data will be protected. I believe we've always done that with our clients. So not a lot is changing. But if our client, as a result of reading about this regulation, are assured by that, then I'd like to think that will add to the peace of mind that they already have from taking out a funeral plan. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:08:24] I get that. Absolutely. Okay. So do you think, I was going to ask sort of why this then might be a good thing for your families? Do they necessarily need to be aware we've got this agreement? To your point, that you'll carry on doing what you've always done? 

Ed Poole [00:08:41] I don't think that they necessarily do, not all of them. But some of them might read about this in the paper and get that assurance. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:08:49] Just turning to the handbook, which was sort of rolled out in parallel with the actual agreement, will you be doing anything differently? I know you've talked about it's what you've always done, but the handbook seeks to sort of give you a bit more practical guidance on how to apply some of what's in that agreement. So having seen the handbook, how useful do you think that will be to you and your staff? 

Ed Poole [00:09:14] Well, I think the handbook is quite straightforward. I think it's a benefit to me because when involving other staff members with funeral planning I can hand that to them. They can absorb in their own time. So it helps me with training. I think the handbook clearly sets the framework that we can work within. 

Ed Poole [00:09:41] And I hope that the handbook, like part of the agreement, is that, you know, all marketing material must be agreed with with Golden Charter. You could look at that, as in, well right that's going to inhibit me with what I do. I actually see, and this is what I've always done with Golden Charter, it might force some people to have a marketing conversation with Golden Charter and make them realise the broad spectrum of expertise there are, and to exploit them. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:10:17] That's a good point, and that's one of the things we do try and promote through our business managers around the UK. They are very much there to act as a conduit to access that marketing expertise. That's a good point. Thank you. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:10:30] Now, if I may if I could just turn to the process, because as you can imagine, we have over a thousand funeral director businesses that sell our plans throughout the UK. So this has been quite a carefully planned exercise. What's been your experience of signing the actual agreement and how do you understand the support that's being provided, just in terms of the process you went through, to the point you signed it? 

Ed Poole [00:10:54] Well, if I come back to initially when I read the documents, I didn't like it. But then, to be fair to the document, any legal agreement that I've ever signed, on reading it first time, I haven't liked it. I think a legal document can be, on the first read, come across as quite threatening because ultimately setting out this is what we expect from you, this is what we'll do. And if you breach the agreement, this is what the consequences will be. And initially on the first read, that's threatening. 

Ed Poole [00:11:32] Coming back to what I said earlier as a small business owner, in charge of my own destiny, the thought of having my wings clipped on us, doesn't sit particularly well. But then when you look at things in the broader context and what's happened in the marketplace, the reputation of the industry, I'd like to think everybody would agree with me, that this is what's needed and it's going to happen anyway. And, you know, the agreement with the CMA is going to probably be a lot more legally loaded. 

Ed Poole [00:12:08]  There were just a couple of things initially, within the agreement, that I wanted to ask further questions. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:12:16] I was going to ask you that, Ed, with those specifics,  how were those handled for you, in terms of answering any specific points or concerns you have? 

Ed Poole [00:12:27] In terms of handling the points, you know, my area manager dealt with those very well. They were dealt with quickly. I had a detailed response back and I was happy to sign after that. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:12:43] And just out of interest, did you consider taking legal advice or were you happy having read the document and had your questions answered? 

Ed Poole [00:12:52] I'm quite confident reading legal documents. And I didn't feel that I needed to refer that to a solicitor. I've been involved with solicitors in many areas throughout my life. All good, I've never violated the law, I shall promise you, so I'm used to the jargon and the lingo, and following the pattern of a legal document and how it relates backward and forth.

Malcolm Flanders [00:13:27] Yeah, sure. OK. Thank you. So just turning back to the customer for a moment what stands out with you about our approach, the Golden Charter approach, to upholding the commitment to do the right thing for customers, which is at the heart of this agreement? 

Ed Poole [00:13:44] As I said earlier, it is just making sure that all funeral directors with Golden Charter inform customers, give them the choice, make them aware of their rights and give them peace of mind that their data is going to be stored and dealt with correctly. 

Ed Poole [00:14:03] I don't know what other plan providers are doing, but just subjectively thinking, I know what's coming with the FCA and I feel that Golden Charter are being proactive to prepare us for that environment in a couple of years’ time. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:14:19] Sure. OK. Thank you. And finally, if I asked you for a sentence or two to describe your confidence in Golden Charter's approach here, and the sort of partnership we have with you. What would you say? 

Ed Poole [00:14:32] Two words, very confident. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:14:35] Thank you. Nice and succinct. Ed, that's fantastic, thank you very much for your time. And I do appreciate you joining me on a Friday afternoon. 

Ed Poole [00:14:47] You're welcome. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:14:53] Thank you for listening to the Partnership Podcast. If you have any questions we haven't covered here, whether you have received the agreement already, or want to find out more about it, your local Golden Charter Business Manager can help. As always, you can contact me on [email protected] with any suggestions or requests for the podcast and get our entire back catalogue at or on any podcast app. 

Malcolm Flanders [00:15:20] Graeme McAusland, the FPA's Chief Executive, spoke to us in the summer about the changes he's made which led to the agreement being created, and his episode is available among our archive online. Subscribing to us on an app will let you download episodes and listen to them offline whenever you like. We want these podcasts to be as convenient as possible for you. Until next time, stay safe and I'll talk to you again on the Partnership Podcast.