The Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR) was launched in August 2015 with the aim of exploring how consumers could access help with their finances more easily.
The final report was published on 14 March 2016 with 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.
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).
In response, HMT consulted in September 2016 to amend the RAO to align with the MiFID definition to provide more clarity for firms.
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.
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. The FCA will consult during 2017 to make the relevant rule changes.