Web-based adviser reveals fear of falling foul of FCA rules

The director of a web-based advice service has admitted his proposition does not offer a fully automated service as he is unsure how far it can go without falling foul of the regulator.

Today, the Financial Conduct Authority announced it is launching a consultation next month on automated advice.

The FCA said there had to be some solution from technology to meet the needs of the mass market who needed to save for retirement but could not afford to pay for advice in a fully disclosed cost environment.

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James Williams, who launched a web-based proposition at the beginning of the year, welcomes the FCA’s move because although Monibox was supposed to be fully automated but he feels they cannot offer this yet as they are frightened of falling outside the advice ‘rules’.

Mr Williams was speaking at a conference in April and said while it was apparent there is adviser appetite for launching a lower-value service, the problem is “no one wants to do it” until there is regulatory clarification.

He said: “We must be aware that health checking and full financial advice has to have some boundaries, otherwise we might be conducting business under longer time frames, similar to old style advice methods. That is why the consultation and guidance from it is so important. Once people are on our system and advice is given, on going advice can be as smooth as ever.”

At the moment, although Mr Williams is aiming for Monibox to be a completely automated service, they are giving full advice to clients who just need an automated service as they are unsure how far they can go.

He said: “We want clarification as to how an automated service can work.”

Craig Palfrey, a certified financial planner at Cardiff-based Penguin Wealth, launched a web-based advice service targeted at small-pot clients that have been left in the cold by the Retail Distribution Review in January .

The website,, provides clients with lower levels of investible assets free guidance on pensions options and a free analysis report on how their existing products are performing.

Mr Palfrey said: “Advice is not regulated until you recommend a product. We can talk about the future plans and different products available and we are not stepping over any lines to give the FCA concern.

“We are acting like the [Citizens Advice Bureau] and [the Money Advice Service]. We can argue that is what we are doing but if you want a review and get individual advice, we can offer that.”

Since full launch in January 2014 it has had almost 15,000 visitors.

Mr Palfrey said: “We are very pleased with these stats so far as we have repeatedly been told that things can take a while to pick up when you launch a new website.

“We have 12 guides available for download, 87 educational articles and blogs, FAQs, case studies, tools, calculators and much more on the site. Our guides alone have been downloaded almost 300 times.