Emma Ann Hughes 

Next big financial mis-selling scandal revealed

Emma Ann Hughes

Emma Ann Hughes

Regulation in 2019 focusses on the concept of preventing naughty providers or advisers pushing a product to people for whom it isn't fit for purpose.

The Financial Conduct Authority has produced reams of red tape to prevent pensions, investments, mortgages and protection policies being promoted to those who would be better off without such products.

The regulator has rightly recognised due to sales targets and inappropriate marketing some people ended up worse off as a result of their run-in with the regulated world of financial services.

However, a recent masterclass organised by Financial Adviser showed the nation's regulatory bodies need to recognise the fact many people are now buying financial services because of social media influencers.

One financial adviser at the masterclass revealed he had a new client come through his door recently who had just inherited £1m of assets.

But before he even shook hands with his new financial adviser he had invested £400,000 of this pot.

The adviser's new client had ploughed £400,000 into peer-to-peer lending to small and medium-sized enterprises.

The client was only darkening the financial adviser's door because he wasn't sure what to invest the remaining £600,000 in.

How can you be unsure what to invest £600,000 in, yet confident enough in peer-to-peer to SMEs because of what you have read about it to write a cheque out without speaking to anyone who is qualified to advise on finance?

The nation's leaders and regulators need to realise today's equivalent of a dodgy salesman knocking on your front door are paid posts disguised as unbiased endorsements on social media.

Action needs to be taken to address the rise of so-called influencers - and people pretending to be the likes of consumer champion Martin Lewis - pushing how rich they are as a result of some unregulated financial offering.

This week Mr Lewis dropped his legal action against Facebook over a series of advertisements that ran on its platform, falsely claiming he backed several investment schemes.

The MoneySavingExpert website founder argued the fake endorsements damaged his reputation but dropped his case when Facebook agreed to introduce a scam ads reporting button.

As part of the deal, Facebook will also give £3m to Citizens Advice.

The organisation will use the money for a scheme to identify and fight online scams and support their victims.

It will include work to develop tools to help the public identify such fraudulent activity.

Mr Lewis needs a round of applause, but it is sad that he was the one to have to take the likes of Facebook to task over this.

The FCA does have rules surrounding what regulated financial services providers and advisers can and can't say on social media channels.

However, more needs to be done by the regulator to recognise why people are willing to invest in vehicles unprotected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme just because of chatter on the likes of Twitter and Facebook.