Page 12 - Independent Schools Magazine
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 Administration & Management
 For over 20 years SFP has been recognised by schools and parents as the leading provider of instalment solutions for parents to pay their school fees monthly. A large part of the success has been constant reinvention and a relentless desire to meet the changing needs of schools and the regulatory environment in which they operate.
School Fee Plan announces approval by the FCA to offer an Appointed Representative solution to schools fulfilling a 2 year promise
Through 2016 SFP carried out extensive research with schools in order to cement its market leading position.
In 2017 SFP launched a “non- recourse” product in response to one key demand – to protect the school from bad debt in the event that a parent becomes unable or unwilling to pay their fees.
This week, SFP announced the fulfilment of its second promise
- to remove schools from the associated costs and risks that come from being directly regulated by the FCA through operating an inhouse scheme or being a credit broker to a third party provider.
“Whichever SFP product schools choose to use, they all recognise
the benefit and quality of our services and the value to their parents which has been borne out through surveys over many years,” says Roger Brown, Commercial Director.
“However, some schools continue to be worried by the ever increasing reach of credit regulation from the basic credit license requirements through to the assessment of affordability changes. Schools joining SFP’s Appointed Representative network will be able to access
all the benefits of an instalment facility and none of the risk
of direct FCA oversight. Under the AR framework, SFP takes direct responsibility for all FCA regulatory actions undertaken by
the school in promoting payment options to parents.”
The Appointed Representative solution SFP have put in place allows schools to actively engage with their parents about all of the payment options available to them. SFP will provide schools with the benefit of their FCA authorisation and regulatory expertise, becoming a source of support, training and advice as well as supplying all the tools needed to keep schools on the right side of the regulations.
“The AR model provides so many advantages to allow schools to engage with parents regarding fee payments over an agreed period but without the compliance burden”, says Thea Ross, Head of Education at SFP. “It also gives the school peace of mind, ensuring they avoid the risk of unintentionally straying into regulated activity, a real concern for many schools”
“Over the years, a fear of regulation has resulted in
many schools meeting parent demand for a monthly payment option by offering an in house credit facility. This trend has often resulted in some form of compromise, changes to the parent contract and ultimately parents paying over 9 or 10 months rather than maximising the cash flow benefit of paying fees over the full year. It also has exposed many schools
to operating outside of the regulations, even if doing so with the best intentions.”
Research shows that Schools feel the costs of direct authorisation are too great, that meeting
the regulator’s expectations
on their own without help
will be impossible or that they don’t want the additional responsibility. Add into this an annual fee and the reporting requirement of direct FCA authorisation and the benefits of AR are further clarified.
Early discussions with both existing and prospective customers of SFP have proved extremely positive with Schools clear in their need to be able to freely discuss all of their
fee payment methods with their parents at all stages
of recruitment, Appointed Representative status provides them with just that.
Hundreds of schools and over
a hundred thousand of families have benefited from School Fee Plan since its launch in 1996. The new Appointed Representative framework clearly addresses very real concerns for bursars. As promised, School Fee Plan has now delivered a fees facility that helps the school manage finance related regulation, protects them from bad debt and streamlines
the administration associated
with an in house scheme. Its immediate popularity is proof
of School Fee Plan’s ongoing readiness to ask schools what they need from a fees facility and then deliver the solution.
  12 Independent Schools Magazine
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