advisor client meeting
Aleksandr Davydov/123RF

After banning commissions, raising proficiency standards and stepping up restitution, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is now looking for even more improvements in the retail investment market.

The U.K. regulator, which has been a leader in enhancing investor protection in recent years, has launched a consultation on further improving the environment for retail investors.

The FCA said that the effort is underpinned by the need for a retail investment market that enables people to save while also allocating capital to support economic growth.

“This will be even more important as the UK recovers from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” the FCA noted.

The regulator said that while any aspects of the current markets do work well for retail investors, there are others where change is needed.

In particular, the FCA noted that consumers too often “receive lower returns than they should because of unsuitable products with high fees,” adding that “it’s essential that consumers have confidence in the suitability of advice they receive.”

To that end, the FCA is now consulting on reducing harm in the retail market — including helping the market meet straightforward investment needs, improving investor restitution mechanisms, ensuring that investors seeking greater risk understand those risks, and that investors understand the scope of regulatory protections.

The FCA also aims to address how to enhance market competition, improve protection against investment scams and ensure that investors who lose money to industry misconduct can secure compensation.

“Regulating this market will need to balance a consumer’s freedom to choose with the need to protect consumers from harm, and to foster the innovation and competition that new entrants bring with the need to stop ‘bad actors’ thriving,” the FCA said.

“‘The consumer investment market is not working as well as it should. There have been too many scams and scandals and too often consumers are offered unsuitable products or advice. As a result, many consumers lack confidence in the investment market,” said Christopher Woolard, interim CEO of the FCA.

The deadline for responses to the FCA’s consultation is Dec. 15. The FCA said that the results will help shape its efforts to improve the retail investment market over the next several years.

“We’ll be considering all contributions carefully as we open this debate on the future of the consumer investment market,” Woolard said.

Additionally, the FCA said that it is reviewing the impact of its recent major reforms, the Retail Distribution Review and the Financial Advice Market Review. It plans to publish the findings of this review by the end of this year.