On 1 November 2022, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) published a speech by Therese Chambers (Director of Consumer Investments, FCA) on key priorities for the financial services industry. In its speech, the FCA stated that it wanted to see more consumers investing their money safely and that the new Consumer Duty (“CD”) and the Consumer Investment Strategy (“CIS”) bring about important changes to meet this aim, including driving successful consumer outcomes and ensuring consumers are provided with good financial advice. The FCA’s speech focuses specifically on the application of the CD to financial advisors, highlighting how financial advisers play a major role in delivering a better market.
key highlights of the speech
The CD and the CIS set higher expectations for the standard of care that firms provide to consumers to ensure better outcomes for retail customers. Therese Chambers discussed the CD and its application to financial advisers, with a focus on the four CD outcomes:
- Inadequate disclosure has been a recurring topic in previous FCA reviews. In implementing the consumer communications outcome, the FCA are keen to ensure that firms support consumer understanding of their products and services in the communications they deliver to retail customers.
- Firms need to provide consumers with the correct information, at the right time, to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their investments.
- Financial advisers must explain in a transparent manner, the nature and extent of their advisory services, the related costs and charges and the suitability reports undertaken.
Products and services:
- The application of the products and services outcome varies dependent on the activities of the firm.
- Firms that provide advisory services to customers will need to consider the CD in the design and delivery of their advice and to understand the varying needs of different retail customers.
- In considering the products and services that will meet customer needs, firms need to pay close attention to the risks retail customers are exposed to. The products and services outcome contains an explicit obligation to consider whether a product or service is likely to cause foreseeable harm to a retail customer.
- Firms subject to the price and value outcome need to ensure their products and/or services offer good outcomes in terms of both price and value.
- For financial advisers, the adviser charges that consumers pay must be reasonable when compared to the overall benefits they receive.
- Financial advisers need to ensure their charging model offers fair value for different groups of consumers, which may require adaptations to a charging model for specific groups of consumers where it is identified that those groups of consumers are not receiving fair value.
- The FCA expects firms who are subject to the consumer support outcome to provide support that meets consumer needs and expectations.
- Financial advisers who have committed to delivering ongoing services, should ensure services are delivered well (particularly due to how much of a financial advisers’ fee revenue comes from ongoing charges).
- In the instance things go wrong and consumers complain, there needs to be a good level of support from firms in resolving such complaints and ensuring customer outcomes are met.
The FCA expects firms to deliver good customer outcomes and be able to evidence that they have met those outcomes. Firms will also need to demonstrate that they have not contributed or actively been involved in causing poor customer outcomes.
The FCA has highlighted the Consumer Duty in its priorities. We are working with our clients to identify if they are in scope of the Consumer Duty and can advise firms on how to comply in practice. For more information, guidance, or advice on the key highlights of the FCA’s speech on key priorities for the financial services industry, Cleveland & Co External in-house counsel™, your specialist outsourced legal team, are here to help.
To read the full speech please click here.
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