FCA returns to decumulation advice probe

FCA returns to decumulation advice probe

The Financial Conduct Authority has said it will carry out an investigation into the suitability of pension decumulation advice.

In its business plan for 2020-21 the regulator said one of its key priorities was making sure consumers were able to make effective decisions in the pensions and retail investment markets.

The FCA said: "Our view is the investment distribution process, and the support network around it, is not working well enough for consumers to make effective decisions about their investments.

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"We want consumers to have access to high-quality advice and support, and be aware of how to protect themselves from scams and fraud."

The FCA said it would continue to assess the suitability of defined benefit transfers, but would now also start assessing the suitability of decumulation advice as well.

It had already said in February it was concerned the growing trend of consolidation in the advice market was incentivising advisers to recommend products with ongoing fees, when they might not be suitable, in a bid to boost revenue streams.

It said it would begin to look into this practice but this was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It added it would also continue with its Retail Distribution Review and Financial Advice Market Review evaluation, to make sure they were "meeting consumer needs".

Allowing consumers to make effective decisions was one of the FCA's three priorities in this area.

The FCA said: "At present we see significant risk of harm in [the pension and retail investment] markets, in part driven by the way consumers have been given additional responsibility for complex investment decisions, through the shift to defined contribution pensions and the government’s 2015 pension freedoms.

"Consumers are also exposed to significant market volatility caused by coronavirus. We want to make sure they are supported to make effective investment choices in a fair market."

To help tackle this, the FCA is proposing a consumer harm campaign to help consumers make better-informed investment decisions.

It plans to run this over five years to the tune of £2.3m, which will be allocated proportionately across all fee-blocks in the 2020/21 year.

Another priority for the FCA was making sure products were designed to meet consumers’ needs, deliver value for money, and were marketed in a fair, clear and not misleading way.

The third priority was to make sure firms had higher standards of governance, a stronger grip over networks of individuals in their distribution chains and that the regulatory system can better tackle the cost of misconduct in this market.