Weaker returns in traditional asset classes is driving many retail investors to take on more risk than they can handle, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says.
In a new report that examines the state of various financial sectors, the FCA pointed to excessive risk-taking in the retail investment business as a key threat.
Amid low rates, many retail investors have begun taking on more risk in a search for higher returns, the report said.
“As consumers are more exposed to investment risk, a downturn could expose them to potentially significant losses,” the report said.
In particular, the FCA said, “the most significant consumer harm has come directly from growing consumer exposure to investment risk.”
In some cases, investors have fallen for fraudulent products in their search for returns, the FCA said, while others have been put into unsuitable products that expose them to “more risk than they expected or can afford.”
In response, the regulators have taken steps to prevent certain high-risk products from being marketed directly to investors.
Alongside excessive investment risk, the FCA report also highlighted concerns about household debt levels, insurance pricing and the emergence of new payments firms that aren’t covered by traditional consumer protections.
According to Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA and its interim CEO designate, the regulator’s research finds that, “many of the harms we are seeing are created by a significant number of smaller firms we regulate or firms beyond [the FCA’s jurisdiction].”
He noted that the findings will help guide the FCA’s regulatory efforts in the months ahead.