Melissa Collett explains how the integrity of Corporate Chartered status is enhanced by a robust and independent complaints process
To achieve Corporate Chartered status (CCS) requires a public commitment to professional standards. With that public commitment comes benefits: using the Chartered logo as a symbol of alignment with the Chartered ethos of nurturing knowledge, client-centricity and serving society.
Chartered status also comes with responsibilities that are outlined in the CCS eligibility criteria, rules and terms and conditions (documentation available at cii.co.uk). Such responsibilities include cooperation with the CII and the requirement to notify us of any issues arising while the firm holds CCS. Two of the most significant responsibilities relate to conduct and misuse of intellectual property. These are:
- Promptly notify the CII of any investigation commenced by any other professional, statutory or regulatory body or authority into its conduct or affairs, or that of its staff (whether or not they are individual members of the CII), taking all reasonable steps to obtain any required permission for such notification to the CII. (Rule 5(d))
- The CCS entity must only use the trademarks strictly in accordance with and for the purposes authorised in these CCS rules. (Rule 11(c)).
The CII appreciates that Chartered firms can face challenges such as regulatory intervention or press coverage that may affect the reputation of its business. If this does occur to a Chartered firm, it should notify the CII as soon as possible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (failure to do so in such circumstances could represent a breach of the CCS rules). The CII can then liaise with the Chartered firm to establish whether this incident could affect its Chartered status.
If a Chartered firm is unsure if it is using the Chartered logo correctly, it should contact the CII, which can provide guidance and support.
Chartered status also comes with responsibilities that are outlined in the CCS eligibility criteria, rules and terms and conditions
If the CII becomes aware of any issues concerning a Chartered firm or a firm incorrectly holding itself out as Chartered, either as a result of an external complaint or through the professional body's own monitoring, the CII's complaints against CCS firms process will be triggered.
The CII has reviewed this process with the input of its Professional Standards Committee and this is detailed below:
- A complaint against a Chartered firm can arise when either an individual or a firm (whether they are Chartered themselves or not) is making a complaint about a Chartered firm. To qualify as a complaint, there must objectively be clear evidence of a potential breach of the CCS rules. This could include where the complainant believes that a Chartered firm is under investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority; where investigative action has been taken against members of its staff; or where there is a potential misuse of the CCS trademarks.
- In the first instance, any complaints received will be reviewed by the CII's Professional Standards team. The vast majority of complaints can be dealt with at this initial stage by the Professional Standards team contacting the Chartered firm, explaining the issue, listening to the firm and agreeing how to rectify the issue.
- If the complaint cannot be resolved, it will be escalated to the Professional Standards director for a decision. If the resolution could involve removal of a Chartered firm's CCS or is sensitive in nature, the Professional Standards director may consult with the chair of the Professional Standards Committee before reaching a final decision.
At all stages of the process, the Chartered firm that is the subject of the complaint will be given a fair opportunity to respond to the complaint made against it. The Chartered firm will be expected to promptly provide such information as the CII reasonably requests.
If the Chartered firm does not accept the decision of the Professional Standards director, the CCS rules provide for a right of review. This review is conducted by a supervisory panel comprising three members drawn from the CII's Independent Review Pool. The panel would review the decision of the Professional Standards director alongside written representations from both the CII and the CCS firm before reaching its decision.
The CII strongly believes that Chartered firms intend to do the right thing and recognises that difficulties can arise at any time. The CII's desire is to work with Chartered firms to address any issues that may arise, where possible. Through a collaborative and transparent relationship between the CII and its Chartered firms, we believe that the standing of CCS can be enhanced and lead to greater trust in it by the public.
To raise concerns about a CCS firm, email: ComplaintsAgainstCCSfirms@cii.co.uk
Melissa Collett is professional standards director of the CII