THE growing ranks of professionally certified management consultants are now protected by a new insurance scheme covering claims they may face from clients.

Demand for business consultancy services among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has risen in tandem with the proliferation of government schemes aimed at helping firms restructure.

Consultants typically advise SMEs in areas such as productivity improvement, business management and finance.

The professional indemnity policy, administered by AIG Asia Pacific Insurance, was launched last November.

It is available to consultants certified by the Singapore Business Advisors and Consultants Council (SBACC).

It covers economic losses from the services that consultants provide to their clients, as well as legal costs and any damages that may become payable.

The scheme is the first of its kind in Asia-Pacific and covers consultants for up to $250,000 in a single claim, with a cap of $5 million per year.

Practitioners who have been trained and certified by SBACC as practising management consultants (PMCs) are automatically covered under the policy.

The insurance scheme is part of SBACC's efforts to encourage more consultants to obtain professional certification, said director Isabella Loh in an interview with The Straits Times.

"This will cut down on time spent in legal disputes, and help take the professionalism of the industry to a higher level," she said.

"It will also give small and medium-sized enterprises more peace of mind when working with consultants."

The council was set up in October 2011 to raise the standards of management consultants and business advisers here.

The not-for-profit organisation certifies consultants under its PMC scheme, while also organising courses for PMCs to upgrade their skills.

Practitioners have to fulfil training requirements and are interviewed by a panel as part of the certification process. They are also required to adhere to a professional code of conduct.

With the increase in PMCs, complaints about unscrupulous practitioners have also been rising.

Some gripes involve consultants overcharging clients or inflating their expenditure to take advantage of government payouts.

The emergence of these black sheep is one reason the PMC certification scheme is necessary, said Ms Loh.

"We want to create a 'halo effect' with the PMC scheme," she added. About 600 consultants have been certified as PMCs.

The council estimates that about 5,000 to 6,000 management consultants here have not been certified.

SBACC aims to create a world-class consulting industry here in the long term, said Ms Loh. "We hope to build up our own consulting brands here in Singapore... and that companies from all around the world will come to Singapore to 'shop' for consultants."