The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the British Treasury have launched the Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR), which may result in a radical reshaping of the market for advice in that country.
Specifically, the FAMR will examine how financial advice, considered in its broadest sense, could be improved. In particular, it will look for ways of making advice work better for consumers and to fill the so-called “advice gap.”
The FAMR will study: the lack of advice for workers that do not have significant wealth; regulatory, or other barriers, that firms may face in giving advice, and how to overcome them; how to give firms the regulatory clarity and create the right environment for them to innovate and grow; the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies for providing cost-effective advice and, how to encourage a healthy demand for financial advice, including addressing barriers which discourage consumers from seeking advice.
The review will consider the current regulatory and legal framework governing the provision of financial advice and the guidance that’s available to consumers. It will also look at the provision of redress for consumers that are harmed by poor advice and the interaction between the regulatory framework, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. It will also look at whether differences in regulatory requirements across retail markets leads to any unintended consequences for consumers and the investment industry.
After collecting initial evidence on these issues, the FAMR will likely be focused on areas in which the biggest issues become evident. It will also seek evidence from consumers about the barriers they face in seeking advice; the value they place on it; and how easy it is to understand where advice can be found and what it means.
The consultations will be carried out this autumn, with the goal of having recommendations available for the government’s 2016 federal budget. It’s intended that this will include a package of reforms to: facilitate the establishment of a broad based market for the provision of financial advice to all consumers; create a regulatory environment that gives firms the clarity they need to compete and innovate to fill the advice gap; and a set of principles to govern the operation of financial advice, along with measures to ensure standards of behaviour for firms meet those principles.
Tracey McDermott, who takes over as acting CEO of the FCA in September, and Charles Roxburgh, director general of financial services at the British Treasury will lead the FAMR. They will be supported by a full-time secretariat drawn from staff at the FCA and the British Treasury.
The review will also have a separate expert advisory panel, led by Nick Prettejohn, chairman of Scottish Widows Group, which will include 12-15 senior representatives from the investment industry, financial advisors and consumer representatives.
“Ensuring that people have the appropriate information and advice in order to make important financial decisions is a priority for the FCA,” McDermott says in a statement. “The review is an opportunity to look at how the market is working right across the piece and has the potential to radically change the advice landscape to the benefit of both firms and consumers.”