FCA clarifies inducement rules

FCA clarifies inducement rules

The Financial Conduct Authority has clarified that new inducement rules do not prevent advisers from attending conferences.

The City watchdog has published a policy statement on its plans to scrap guidance relating to inducements and conflicts of interest in retail investment advice, which it stated has been superseded by the introduction of Mifid II earlier this year.

Following a consultation the FCA has said it will scrap this guidance - and guidance on the definition of independent and restricted advice - with immediate effect.

But during the consultation process the FCA was asked to clarify how the new rules on inducements and adviser charging apply to various scenarios and industry practices.

The regulator said it has also faced a number of questions about this from advisers outside the consultation process, with a specific focus being on on how the rules apply to advisers and product providers attending and paying for conferences, as well as other scenarios such as accepting hospitality, or paying an adviser for marketing.

In response, the FCA stated: "These new rules do not prevent firms from organising or attending conferences, providing that their actions comply with applicable rules.

"We have amended our restrictions on the payments which can be received by firms providing investment advice to retail clients in the UK to apply in connection with firms' business of advising.

"The aim of this was to tackle a concern identified through thematic reviews following the implementation of the Retail Distribution Review, that firms were using various types of payment to secure distribution. We believed this undermined the spirit of the Retail Distribution Review.

"The combined effect of these rule changes is that there is a consistent inducements regime for advisers giving investment advice to UK-based retail customers on both Mifid financial instruments and retail investment products."

The FCA said it did not intend to publish any more guidance on this issue, but said it would monitor the issue as it went about its usual supervisory activity.

With regards to the scrapping of guidance on the definitions of independent and restricted advice, the FCA was asked to provide additional guidance for financial advisers that present themselves as independent and only use a single platform for their clients but it declined to do so saying the rules on this issue were clear.

Sarah McGuffick, regulatory consultant at the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (Pimfa), said: "While [COBS] would enable product providers to organise/hold training events to which advisers are invited, it is less clear whether it allows for the continuation of the practice whereby a firm/network of advisers organises a training event at which various providers give training on their products with the costs of the event being split between the participating product providers and reimbursed to the organising adviser/network.

"This approach enables advisers to learn about different types of products from different providers in a single event and is obviously more efficient than multiple single-provider events – while it is clearly accommodated by the guidance, firms' are coming to widely differing conclusions as to whether this arrangement would also fall within COBS."