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Watchdog warnings & renters at risk: the week in news

Watchdog warnings & renters at risk: the week in news

The UK may have taken small steps towards lifting some lockdown restrictions and revamping the economy this week as the government pushed forward with a trial track and trace app on the Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile the virus continues to shake up the financial world, as the City watchdog accelerated its sandbox to help firms fight the pandemic while ordering claims firms to be "reasonable" in light of capacity issues triggered by the crisis. It’s time for the week in news.

1 Watchdog warnings

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The Financial Conduct Authority told CMCs to offer extra time to firms before escalating a complaint to the ombudsman on behalf of clients this week, saying it expected claims firms to consider the “current operational challenges” faced in light of the pandemic.

It also announced it would accelerate its plans to pilot a “digital sandbox” to allow firms to trial services and products in a digital testing environment, especially those tackling coronavirus-related challenges.

But the crisis has also put a halt to some of the regulator’s work. Just this morning, the FCA announced it had pushed its suitability review of retirement advice to 2021.

2 Labouring lifeboat

It was also a busy week for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. FTAdviser reported hundreds of pension claims against troubled wealth manager Greyfriars Asset Management had now landed at the scheme’s door.

The claims against the firm, which was declared in default in April, relate to self-invested personal pensions, pension advice and personal pension opt outs.

It was also revealed this week that APJ Solicitors was preparing to bring about 850 claims against recently defaulted Sipp provider Liberty Sipp after clients lost money when their pension funds were placed in high-risk investments.

3 Renters at risk

A warning was sounded over renters as research from Citizens Advice showed more than 13m had been unable to pay, or expect to be unable to pay, at least one bill due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The charity said almost 11m expected to miss a bill which could lead to eviction or enforcement by bailiffs once the financial protections brought in to help consumers during the crisis come to an end.

As many as 2.6m private renters are at risk of eviction, the charity warned.

4 Consolidator soldiers on

It is not all doom and gloom for businesses, however, as advice consolidator Fairstone has continued its buyout programme despite the pandemic, adding £200m funds under management with its latest double buyout.

Fairstone announced this week Yorkshire-based Brantwood Financial Planning and Durham-based Advanced Financial Services had been added to its programme — a move which will bring more than 700 clients to the firm when the acquisition process completes.

In the first quarter of this year three companies were acquired using the model, which sees the consolidator take a stake in an adviser before integrating and then purchasing it. 

5 'Reckless' freedoms

And in more non-virus related news, the industry received a shock last week when well-known pensions guru Tom McPhail announced he was leaving not only Hargreaves Lansdown but financial services altogether to join an electric bike company.