Law firm warns Wheatley to tread carefully

The partner for City law firm Pinsent Masons called for “balance” after last week’s announcement by Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the FCA, that the regulator would investigate how asset managers use client fees to fund research and other services.

Ms Gogna said: “Any proposals will need to define a clear path as to how the UK will ensure that it takes into account its position in the global framework.”

Mr Wheatley, who was speaking at an FCA asset management conference in London, told delegates the regulator was set to publish a consultation paper and launch a thematic review into how firms passed on research fees to investors.

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Although he did not confirm when this would be launched, he called for greater transparency in the sector and a “frank and open” discussion on how and where dealing commission was spent.

Mr Wheatley said one of the FCA’s “specific concerns” was that some asset managers were “pushing the definition of research” by using client commissions to cover non-eligible costs and services.

He stated that the industry had to establish whether it was internationally competitive, whether charges and fees were transparent, and if there were inherent conflicts of interest within the system.

Mr Wheatley said: “Then the discussion is about how best to get there. Is evolution enough or do we collectively need to be more revolutionary?”

He also revealed that UK fund managers were now responsible for a record £5.4 trillion in funds at the end of 2012, up 6.5 per cent on 2011.

Patrick Connolly, head of communications for Somerset-based Chase de Vere, said: “We receive constant calls for greater transparency but to date it hasn’t happened. Investors don’t know where their money is going so I would welcome this review.”

Industry view

Daniel Godfrey, chief executive of the Investment Management Association, said the trade body had been conducting its own review into the market with a “clear objective” to ensure value for money, transparency and accountability.