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FAMR five years on - can the advice gap be closed?

FAMR five years on - can the advice gap be closed?

Last month marked five years since the final report of the Financial Advice Market Review was published.

The review was commissioned by HM Treasury to find measures to close the advice gap and enable the development of affordable and accessible financial advice - but in the five years since not much has changed and by some measures the advice gap has actually grown.

And earlier this year the government was forced to admit one of the measures introduced following the review - the pensions advice allowance - was not working and would be reviewed.

This week, FTAdviser digital editor Damian Fantato is joined by Personal Finance Society chief executive Keith Richards and Prakash Chandramohan, strategic policy director at Tisa, to discuss what can be done now about the advice gap.

They discuss whether the answer is more advice or more guidance, what role advisers and providers have to play in closing the gap and what barriers exist to preventing the advice gap from being closed.

Richards, who will stand down from the PFS in June, said that following the UK's exit from the European Union the Financial Conduct Authority was starting to think "more flexibly" about how advice could be regulated - in particular over streamlined advice.

He said: "My personal preference is we've got to get away from trying to call anything advice. Advice is professional advice and after that it's regulated information and it might be intuitive for consumers to recognise the difference between getting good information that empowers them to make informed decisions versus advice which is almost certainly something that you pay for as a professional service.

"We are now starting to see the regulator at least flex their thinking about whether or not there should be safe havens for people who want to offer 'regulated information' [...] but that means that regulated professional advice firms can adopt that as well.

"That's why I think there is a blend and professional advisers have a big role to play in that future landscape, as do the banks and as do the product providers."

Chandramohan agreed that the advice gap would not be plugged with greater provision of full, regulated financial advice.

He said: "We don't see the advice gap being solved by 40m now getting advice who weren't getting advice. That's just not going to happen.

"We see the closing of the advice gap meaning people who are more empowered, making better financial decisions, getting one-off support. To be able to empower consumers, they do need more help from providers, they do need more tools, more personalised support.

"These are the things that are scalable, that can be provided for free and that's going to be really important to hit the 40m people who are not getting the support with their financial affairs."

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