HMT Treasury’s Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR) explores how consumers could access guidance and advice on their finances more easily.

The final report provided 28 recommendations designed to:

  • Provide affordable advice to consumers;
  • Increase the access to advice; and
  • Address industry concerns relating to future liabilities and redress, without watering down levels of consumer protection.

Changing definition of financial advice

One aspect of the review looked at how financial advice and guidance is provided and how easily consumers can access it to help them make decisions about their finances. The review found an advice gap for consumers who either have smaller amounts to invest or want specific advice about retirement. Specifically, the review suggested these consumers would benefit from a high quality, specialised and detailed guidance but found firms are reluctant to offer this service because of uncertainty about the boundary between providing helpful guidance and making a personal recommendation. The uncertainty stems from two separate definitions of advice in the UK:

  • The description of a personal recommendation in MiFID; and
  • The more broader definition of advice in the Regulated Activities Order (RAO).

HMT published their policy statement in February 2017 confirming they will change the definition of financial advice for regulated firms. This means that regulated firms will only be giving advice when they provide a personal recommendation. So they can offer the detailed guidance, recommended in the FAMR report, and not require authorisation for that activity. However, if they are only authorised to give advice on investments they will need to remain authorised, even if they do not intend to make personal recommendations.

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There are no changes to the wider RAO definition of advising on investments for unregulated firms meaning these firms will not be able to provide the FAMR recommended guidance services to consumers. The changes will be implemented on 3 January 2018 to align with MiFID II and the FCA have consulted on the relevant rule changes in CP17/28.

Further FCA work

The FCA is working on a series of further proposals on the measures it will take to address the recommendations set out in the FMAR Report.  Consultation Paper 17/28  considers:

  • proposals for Handbook changes arising from the changes to the advice definition;
  • guidance on personal recommendations;
  • guidance on experiences arising from the FCA’s Advice Unit; and
  • guidance on the treatment of insistent clients.

The FCA is expected to publish a policy statement on this in early 2018.

In addition, Final Guidance (FG17/8) has now been published which addresses:

  • how firms can offer streamlined advice; and
  • the standard types of information required for the fact finding process.

The Final Guidance also incorporates elements of guidance which was previously published (FG12/10 on Simplified Advice and FG 15/1 on Retail Advice) whilst material on what constitutes a personal recommendation will now be incorporated into PERG.

Lastly, the FCA and The Pensions Regulator have issued a joint Guide for Employers and Trustees which gives information on how support can be provided without the need for authorisation.

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