Our regulation mini-series continues: we hear from a different type of funeral director in a different part of the country, as Nottinghamshire funeral director Simon Hall talks about what he's doing for Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation, and the support available.
Malcolm Flanders [00:00:04] Welcome to the Partnership Podcast. We're closing out our series on Financial Conduct Authority regulation, by giving you an even wider view on how funeral directors feel about regulation, and what moves some of you are already taking. Previous episodes in this series heard from our head of regulatory compliance, Mairi Rodger, and southeast funeral director Maria Stibbards. Today, we'll be hearing from Simon Hall, of D.J. Hall Funeral Directors based in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. We'll be talking about the guidance and support that's out there now, how Simon sees the future, what lessons can we learn from at-need regulation.
Malcolm Flanders [00:00:49] So, Simon, nice to see you. How are you?
Simon Hall [00:00:51] I'm very well, thank you, Malcolm. How are you?
Malcolm Flanders [00:00:54] I'm not bad, thank you. Can't complain for this dreary Tuesday afternoon, but I appreciate the time you're spending here, because I know you're very busy at the moment, so thank you. Our last episode looked at modern changes in the context of a business that's been going for more than a century. Can you tell us a little about D.J. Hall's history, how it's evolved over time to get to where it is today?
Simon Hall [00:01:19] My father, David, started his joinery business around 55 years ago, in Southwell, but then very quickly, with the encouragement of his grandfather, started arranging funerals and gradually did more, and more, and more. And here I am today running the business. I joined my sister. She's still a director, but she's not actively involved. And we're just helping our community the best we can.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:02] Sounds like it. Wow. So have you been a funeral director ever since you left school?
Simon Hall [00:02:08] I started, I'll say at 12, and was one of the first students at the IFD college.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:17] Oh, goodness me. Wow.
Simon Hall [00:02:19] And then I sort of taken course, after course, after course, over that period of time, which is around 40 years, which is quite a long time, now, I think really, when I look back, I've seen a lot of changes.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:36] Oh, I bet you have. 40 years, wow, you're looking good on it anyway. So well done. Goodness me. And you did tell us you're particularly busy at the moment, aren't you? And it's not so much Covid, it's other natural causes.
Simon Hall [00:02:48] It is.
Malcolm Flanders [00:02:49] Alright, well, let's crack on. Now, you and I met recently at the SAIF Education Day, down in Leicester, where we heard plenty about FCA and CMA regulation, including having multiple plan providers answering questions. How did you find the day itself?
Simon Hall [00:03:07] If I'm honest with you, Malcolm, I really enjoy Education Day. It's a good opportunity for independent funeral directors, and it was great to meet up with old friends, and hopefully make a few new ones.
Malcolm Flanders [00:03:22] Good. Yeah. And I think it's two years since they've held that event, isn't it? Because of Covid, so I think everybody was quite pleased to see each other face to face.
Simon Hall [00:03:30] Yes, indeed.
Malcolm Flanders [00:03:32] And how did you find the panel? Because, unusually, we had four plan providers all on the stage at the same time. How did you find that session?
Simon Hall [00:03:42] I quite liked the idea of the panel, and I thought it was very generous of SAIF to give all the companies an opportunity to be on that panel. And it was interesting and informative.
Malcolm Flanders [00:04:00] Good. Yes, and deliberately so. And I think, quite rightly, this is an industry thing that's happening, of which all plan providers are affected. So I think that was the thinking behind what SAIF did. And certainly the session was well received from those funeral directors that I spoke to. OK, so we more broadly, and I suppose we do know a lot more about FCA regulation than we did a year ago. How do you see it impacting how you offer plans, and have you taken any steps towards regulation already?
Simon Hall [00:04:38] It's a difficult one, Malcolm, really. We've had the CMA regulation, and we're still continuing on that journey.
Malcolm Flanders [00:04:46] Yeah, I bet.
Simon Hall [00:04:47] I expect that journey will be something similar. I think it's a good thing, and it's a good opportunity for funeral directors. And I very much welcome the regulation, if I'm quite honest, and various funeral directors, particularly with the CMA, were doing just the same as what we would normally do anyway, which is looking after the families that we serve. Just more structured.
Malcolm Flanders [00:05:20] I'm with you. And in your business today, who tends to sell the funeral plans if you get a customer enquiry, either over the telephone or approaching you direct?
Simon Hall [00:05:30] Generally, that will be myself, usually, getting that conversation with the client or the family member. And I'm very much hoping, you know, that we'll continue with what I feel is right for my clients, really, which is the appointed representative way for me.
Malcolm Flanders [00:05:56] Right. Interesting, so you've already given that some thought then, because I know we talked about that the SAIF Education Day last week. And in terms of that, had you considered the other two options at all, which is, you know, I think directly authorised it is probably not appropriate, but there is the introducer model, but you feel quite strongly that the appointed representative model is the better one for you?
Simon Hall [00:06:24] Yeah, the appointed representative, I think, is much better. It suits the way we do business in our company better. And I think it will ultimately be better for our clients and the community that we serve. I'm strongly of the opinion is that is the way I would like to go.
Malcolm Flanders [00:06:46] Good. OK. And so in that context, were any remaining questions that you had, were they answered at the SAIF Education Day by the panel?
Simon Hall [00:06:57] Yes, I think so, Malcolm, if I'm honest, but I think, like I sort of said earlier, we're on a journey and who knows where it's going to take us?
Malcolm Flanders [00:07:11] That's fair enough. At least you're keeping an open mind to that, because you've got to run a business at the same time, haven't you?
Simon Hall [00:07:17] Yes indeed, yeah.
Malcolm Flanders [00:07:19] OK, now FCA regulations, as you know, ultimately only impacts the selling of funeral plans, not the core of your business. So how have you found some of this year's CMA changes, that touch on your at-need work, and are there lessons you can carry over into the FCA world of regulation? So I'm interested in your view of the experience of the CMA and, if you like, the requirements that you've had to put in place.
Simon Hall [00:07:46] Well, my view is that I actually strongly welcome this CMA regulation. I think it's been a long time coming. I think, broadly speaking, and quite honest with you, I don't think we're quite there yet with it. I think the CMA have got a little way to go before it's right, but it's a start, and it's a step in the right direction, and I'm quite happy to go with it. And they're just putting in place stuff that I have, or at least tried to implement, myself, in the fact that I've always believed in treating people fairly.
Malcolm Flanders [00:08:35] Right. Okay, I get it. So from your perspective, do you think the principle of the transparency of prices, either on your website or in your windows, is actually the right one?
Simon Hall [00:08:46] I believe it is. I do believe it is, Malcolm, it's the right approach. As much transparency as possible, in all things really, pricing, service, et cetera, et cetera.
Malcolm Flanders [00:08:59] Right. No, I get it. Thank you. Okay, and in terms of Golden Charter's role in supporting you, and your business, towards regulation, how's that been? Has your business manager helped, and have you made the first step of this by signing in, to say, the updated portal that we've now got at mygoldencharter.co.uk.
Simon Hall [00:09:19] Nick is my representative for Golden Charter.
Malcolm Flanders [00:09:23] Right, that's Nick Dawson, isn't it? Yeah?
Simon Hall [00:09:25] It is yeah. And I found it to be very helpful. I have signed into the updated portal. And to be honest, you know, I found all the support so far to be very good. And I can't knock Golden Charter at all. They are on a journey, as we are, and I suspect as well, to a degree anyway, the FCA are as well. Because there's thousands of funeral directors within the UK, and one size doesn't necessarily fit all.
Malcolm Flanders [00:09:58] Okay, I appreciate that. And from you as a business, aside from Golden Charter, where else do you go if you need any advice, or help, just in terms of running your business?
Simon Hall [00:10:12] Well, I tend to look towards SAIF, and also I'm a member of the Federation of Small Businesses.
Malcolm Flanders [00:10:24] Oh, yes, yeah.
Simon Hall [00:10:26] So they're kind of my two points of compass, if you like, and they're two associations I would look to, really.
Malcolm Flanders [00:10:38] And finally, then just just sort of close the conversation up. Is there anything else we, Golden Charter, can do for you? I suspect Nick Dawson's probably going to make an appointment with you soon to talk through the options formally. But is there anything you think we could be doing more of for you?
Simon Hall [00:10:56] Yes, you are right. Nick is going to make an appointment with me soon, and really all I ask from Golden Charter is to continue doing what you are, and what you have already been doing, really, with small independents. And that's all I ask personally.
Malcolm Flanders [00:11:15] Fantastic. Alright, Simon, thank you. Alright. Really appreciate that sort of honest conversation with you. And I know you're very, very busy, but thank you for your time today, and good luck with it over the next few weeks, and months, and beyond.
Simon Hall [00:11:33] Thank you, Malcolm. Pleasure.
Malcolm Flanders [00:11:40] Thanks for listening to the Partnership Podcast. You can hear our entire series on regulation to date at goldencharter.buzzsprout.com. FCA regulation begins in July 2022, and we'll keep updating you as it approaches, and no doubt there will be lots to talk about afterwards, too. In the mantime, you can also contact me if you have anything to contribute or suggest, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again, and I'll talk to you next time on the Partnership Podcast.