Financial Conduct Authority  

Multi-million pound levy and a 6-month Fos delay: the week in news

Multi-million pound levy and a 6-month Fos delay: the week in news

'Twas the week before Christmas and in the aftermath of a landslide general election an advice giant sought to defend its charges and the regulator emerged victorious against an insistent client.

It's time for the week in news. 

1 SJP defends charges 

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St James's Place defended its charging structure this week after a year at the receiving-end of media and industry scrutiny.

In a quarterly newsletter sent to clients a local partnership under the SJP brand defended its pricing in response to "several articles in The Times this year" which had cast doubt over charges and culture within the business. 

The advice firm said: "Considering we believe more in what value we provide for our charge we appreciate sometimes we may not focus on a physical cost, so this point is worth highlighting simply because on cost alone we are largely comparable to anyone else you may have chosen to work with. 

"As we are focused on value, we believe that what we provide to clients is excellent value, research supports our belief by discussing value rater than cost alone."

2 FCA victorious in 'extortionate' DB advice claim

The regulator successfully defended itself against an "insistent client" who claimed its rules requiring consumers to seek advice on pension transfers were "unnecessary". 

In a complaint escalated to the Complaints Commissioner a consumer argued they did not need advice on a defined benefit transfer and claimed the FCA's rules in the sector would instead leave them "exploited by IFAs for advice". 

Under the Pension Schemes Act 2015 anyone seeking to transfer funds worth more than £30,000 out of a defined benefit scheme must seek independent financial advice first. 

The consumer claimed they faced "extortionate" rates for pension transfer advice and would struggle to find an adviser willing to execute the transfer on an insistent client basis, but the commissioner ultimately sided with the FCA. 

3 FCA eyes advice for mass market

The watchdog said it was looking to create new advice services for mass market consumers with the help of open data this week. 

In a paper published on Tuesday (December 17) the FCA backed open finance as a means to giving consumers greater control over their mortgages, investments and pensions. 

The regulator said the concept of allowing financial institutions to share data about their client had the potential to deliver "transformative benefits" to consumers and help widen access to advice.

It said open finance could create "new advice and financial support services for mass market consumers making financial decisions, making it easier to share comprehensive information with advisors".

4 Busy year at the ombudsman sees six month case wait 

It emerged this week consumers were facing a wait of at least six months at the Financial Ombudsman Service for pension transfer complaints.

A source told FTAdviser it would be half a year before the complaints were allocated to an adjudicator as the ombudsman confirmed it had endured its busiest year in the last half a decade.