The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is looking to address some now-known Donald Rumsfeld unknown, unknowns by launching a new review of the financial advice market.

Nearly three years since the first office, email and paper-based distribution review invasion left many a compliance officer shell-shocked, the FCA hegemony along with Her Majesty’s Treasury is turning its attention elsewhere after nobly accepting RDR 1.0 created unintended collateral damage.

In terms of WMDs, the regulator has woken up to the realisation that financial advisers are just one powerful distribution weapon, and that by making the rules too tight on that side it’s potentially fuelling a new arms race that could prove damaging in other ways.

If left unchecked to build weapons in bunkers in places like York, Edinburgh, Kingswood, Manchester, Bristol, and London the regulator could find it’s best intentions returning to haunt it.

Some of the unforeseen (or ignored/put aside) consequences of RDR have driven the regulator to re-deploy a reconnaissance mission to explore if a second assault on the industry is required.

The attack will be on three fronts… not land, sea and air, but investments (savings/ pensions/ retirement), mortgages, and general insurance.

Hats off to the regulator – humble enough to accept the limitations of the earlier raft of reforms and swallowing its pride to readjust as events and market dynamics warrant.

Rather than Shock and Awe, RDR created collateral damage that left some in the industry suffering from Shock and Gawp, while on the consumer front-line Shock to the Poor manifested through the establishment of an Advice Gap no man’s land.

RDR II it seems will be precision bombing rather than an all-out assault.

The new review appears to be focusing on two areas:

  1. Addressing the side effects of RDR I to identify the ways some people are excluded from accessing advice since the reforms came into force; and
  2. The changing role/influence of technology and if disruptive technologies can fill the gap and what rules need to be in place to prevent unwanted consumer outcomes.

The full terms of the review are:

  • The advice gap for those people who want to work hard, do the right thing and get on in life but do not have significant wealth;
  • The regulatory or other barriers 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 and emerging technologies to provide cost effective, efficient and user friendly advice services; and
  • How to encourage a healthy demand side for financial advice, including addressing barriers which put consumers off seeking advice.

The review will explore the regulatory framework for financial advice and the role of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

The initial reconnaissance (call for submissions) will be broad in nature before honing in on understanding where the advice gap is most acute.

The outcomes could be just as sweeping as RDR I.

HM Treasury and the FCA will work towards the following as a result of this review.

  • A package of reforms to:
    • Empower and equip all UK consumers to make effective decisions about their finances
    • Facilitate the establishment of a broad based market for the provision of financial advice to all consumers
    • Create a regulatory environment which give firms the clarity they need to compete and innovate to fill the advice gap
  • A set of principles to govern the operation of financial advice
  • Measures to ensure standards of behaviour for firms within all types of financial advice markets are in accordance with those principles
  • Proposals as to whether the regulatory perimeter for financial advice should be amended, taking into account European legislation
  • An examination of the role that might be played by regulatory carve-outs such as a so called safe-harbour
  • A consideration of the proportionality of rules and their impact on affordability and availability of financial advice and products
  • Indications of:
    • The resources needed for implementation of these proposals
    • A framework for evaluating how successful reforms have been in closing the advice gap, post implementation initial work and evidence gathering will be undertaken over the summer with a view to producing a consultation document in autumn 2015; the consultation exercise will close by the end of 2015 with a view to producing proposals ahead of Budget 2016





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