What is FGI and why is this cover currently in the spotlight?
Fidelity guarantee insurance (FGI) exists to safeguard your firm or organisation against theft of the firm’s own money, securities or property by an employee, partner, contractor or volunteer. FGI can also be known as first-party fraud, theft or employee dishonesty cover.
The ACCA Regulations require that member firms in public practice with more than one member of staff have at least £50,000 cover in place for any one claim, to help protect the business and enable it to continue trading following a fraudulent act.
FGI has traditionally been covered by a separate section or clause within the professional indemnity insurance (PII), with ACCA practising regulations stating that ‘FGI may, but need not, form a single policy with such PII and all such PII and FGI must remain in force for all of the period during which a relevant practising certificate is held’.
Importantly, FGI cover should not be confused with third-party fraud and dishonesty cover. Third-party fraud and dishonesty refers to theft of the client’s money, as opposed to the accountancy firm's own money, and is usually covered within the main insuring clause (civil liability) of a professional indemnity policy.
Fraud claims have increased in both frequency and value in the past few years. There are several reasons for this, but the main factor is that online banking makes it so much easier to fraudulently transfer money.
Lockton has handled numerous claims for first- and third-party fraud. In one case, a long-standing member of staff was able to transfer funds from both the accountancy firm’s own bank account and those of its clients directly into the bank accounts of their close relatives. This took place over a period of eight years and over £600,000 was misappropriated. The member of staff held a trusted position as a bookkeeper within the firm.
In order to reduce their exposure to fraud losses, some insurers have altered their policy coverage and others have applied particularly onerous terms and conditions.
A number of insurers will only offer FGI on an aggregate basis, rather than any one claim. This limits the amount insurers are exposed to in a policy period, as once the aggregate limit is eroded by losses, they will not be required to pay any more.
This kind of aggregate cover would not be compliant with ACCA regulations as cover must be on an ‘any-one-claim’ basis.
It’s important to look carefully at the policy conditions: do these state that the accountancy firm’s own accounts must be independently certified or audited on an annual basis for FGI to apply? Since most firms don’t otherwise need their accounts audited, this has the effect of excluding first- party fraud losses, thereby becoming non-compliant with ACCA’s regulations.
It’s becoming more common for insurers that offer FGI to ask for dual authorisation for any financial transactions over a certain amount. For example, insurers may insist that there are two independent signatures on cheques, or that any electronic transfer of funds is witnessed and documented by another director or employee. If this second authorisation check is not made, any subsequent first-party fraud may not be covered by the policy and insurers may refuse the claim.
Often, an insurer will ask on their proposal form or statement of fact whether the annual accounts have been audited and if dual authorisation is in place. This acts to alert the firm that these procedures must be in place for FGI cover to apply. Other insurers will simply include these terms within the conditions or exclusions of their policy wording, so this should always be checked to ensure coverage is compliant with ACCA regulations.
As fraud becomes increasingly prevalent, many insurers are beginning to leave FGI cover out completely in their accountants' PII policies.
To ensure that you have cover that meets the ACCA’s requirements and to adequately protect your firm, we recommend:
If you are in any doubt, please feel free to call the Lockton helpline on 0117 906 5057, and we will be happy to assist and provide a free health check on your insurance.
As ACCA’s recommended and approved broker, Lockton offers an ACCA insurance scheme that is backed by Arch Insurance (UK) and fully complies with the ACCA’s regulatory requirements.