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Platforms defy FCA concerns over white labelling

Platforms defy FCA concerns over white labelling

Platforms have said they will not be changing their white labelling services despite the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) warning of possible inducements stemming from the practice.

In the interim report of its platform market study out on Monday (16 July), the FCA warned white labelling, and other services such as continuing professional development, was likely to be a non-monetary benefit because it benefits advisers but not clients - so it ran the risk of falling foul of the regulator's inducement rules.

The FCA has also said white labelling could act as a barrier to an adviser switching to another platform.

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But platforms have said they will continue to offer the service and have disputed the FCA's claims.

A spokesman for Standard Life said: "There are no material costs associated with white labelling, which we do not consider a material benefit of the platform service we offer.

"It is also clear to the client that the service is being provided by the platform, so it is difficult to see how it could be considered a material inducement or barrier to switching."

He added: "It is our intention to enable this choice to show the client a professional and robust relationship with ourselves as platform provider in partnership with their chosen adviser firm."

An Aegon spokeswoman said: "Aegon’s new platform allows an intermediary to brand the digital customer experience on the basis that it is an extension of the service they offer. There is no charge for this."

Meanwhile Aviva and AJ Bell said it was too early to say whether any changes would be made.

The FCA's comments about white labelling follow its claims earlier this year that offering transfer value analysis services was "unlikely" to fall on the right side of inducement rules designed to stop conflicts of interest that act against what is best for consumers.

Following these comments, LV, Scottish Widows, Prudential and Standard Life all stopped offering TVAS services, while Novia and Old Mutual Wealth began charging for their services.

Bill Vasilieff, chief executive of Novia, lamented the fact the FCA was clamping down on an increasing number of additional services which providers offer.

He said: "It is hard to see where it ends because they started this line of argument with TVAS services and now we have got to charge for it, which we have done, but it is helping the IFA run their business.

"If you take it to its conclusion based on what a platform does, it is providing tax wrappers, providing a view to the client and the IFA, taking money in trading and everything else on top of that is an inducement.

"Until we are clear where it finishes, we won't be doing anything to change our service."

As part of its platform review the FCA looked at a wide range of tools and services platforms provide advisers to help them carry out and run their businesses which, with very few exceptions, advisers do not pay for, meaning they should consider the FCA's non-monetary benefit rules when considering which services to use.