The FCA published a press release on 3 August setting out key themes and insights from the early phases of its work with the Treasury on the joint review of the advice/guidance boundary. This follows a previous update via a speech in March (see our earlier blog post here).
The FCA observes (in summary) that:
- Firms must actively engage and provide flexible forms of support that can adapt to different types of financial decisions (the solution will not be changes to regulated advice alone).
- To provide more support to more people, firms and consumers must manage risk rather than eliminate it.
- The review will need to focus on outcomes and design a regulatory system where commercially viable models of support can emerge.
- The review should leverage the Consumer Duty, to set clear expectations for the support that firms provide their customers and ensure that consumer protection remains at the core of any future regime.
The FCA has simultaneously published a webpage offering information to help firms which want to support consumers more without providing a personal recommendation. The FCA stresses that the information does not represent any change to regulatory requirements but highlights the different ways firms can support consumers under the existing regulatory framework pending any changes that might be implemented following the review. The FCA gives examples in particular relating to:
- Support given to a consumer which will not be investment advice to begin with.
- Other forms of support which may involve the giving of advice without amounting to a personal recommendation.
- Compliance with the Consumer Duty in a way that does not amount to providing a personal recommendation.
Finally, the FCA has announced that it has decided to roll the development of proposals for a "Core Investment Advice" regime into the broader advice/guidance review. This follows the closing of the consultation paper CP22/24 at the end of February, which had detailed proposals for a new regime aimed at facilitating greater consumer access to simplified advice on investing in mainstream products (specifically within stocks and shares ISAs).
The FCA has now updated the consultation paper webpage accordingly, with the decision made in light of limited support from industry for the initial set of proposals. The FCA will take onboard the feedback received as part of the broader review, allowing it to support the more substantial changes that are being asked for and considered there.
The FCA plans to provide a further update in a policy paper this autumn.
We believe some FCA-authorised firms may be hesitant to provide help to consumers due to an overly cautious interpretation of the current regulatory framework, and because they are concerned about the regulatory requirements that apply if they provide a personal recommendation.