Simoney Kyriakou  

Death by 1,000 papercuts: simplified advice and all the rest

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

Well, well well (three holes in the ground), the FCA has been busy, hasn't it?

As if it has waited all year to open up the doors on its regulatory advent calendar, the financial services industry has been treated to a flurry of paperwork this week. 

Barely had the industry had time to read through the final policy statement: Consumer redress scheme for unsuitable advice to transfer out of the British Steel Pension Scheme, on November 28, when the FCA published a 'Dear CEO' letter to professional indemnity insurers the same day.

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In this, the FCA outlined its expectations of these firms in relation to the BSPS redress scheme.

While getting our heads around this, along came the regulatory fees and levies: policy proposals for 2023-24 document, published on November 29. 

The 35-page consultation paper sets out the FCA's proposed policy changes to the way it will raise FCA fees from 2023-24. 

According to the paper, the City watchdog has put forward a £5,000 application fee as an appropriate contribution towards the costs of processing applications to add new financial promotions products.

Simplified advice

Just as advisers were getting their heads around that, the FCA published its £18mn or so fine for Julius Baer International, "for failing to conduct its business with integrity, failing to take reasonable care to organise and control its affairs and failing to be open and cooperative with the FCA".

And the same day, out come the proposals on simplified advice. What a day to be alive. 

It is something that trade bodies such as Pimfa have been discussing with the FCA for months, if not years, but few people seem to have expected the regulator to issue its paper so soon. 

But when it published its whopping 117-page long paper on November 30, it seems to have been an early Christmas surprise for some.

One industry stalwart told me: "It took us by surprise. Nobody expected [the FCA] to move so quickly."

Indeed, advisers who have flagged things to the City watchdog in the past have come to expect a more leisurely pace.

Put it this way: I remember the first simplified advice paper I ever read from the FCA. It was 27 pages, and I was young, but not old enough to remember those which had gone before. 

So why has the FCA issued its Broadening access to financial advice for mainstream investments paper now?

Who knows? Maybe to get in before the government carry out their planned overhaul of the financial services regime?

Anyway, among the proposals is the relaxation of the independent and restricted adviser definition

The FCA stated it would introduce an additional rule in COBS 6.2B where “advice under the core investment advice regime is capable of constituting independent advice, despite the firm not considering a full range of financial instruments”.