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FCA reports fresh hit to bank adviser numbers

by Michelle Abrego on Jan 13, 2014 at 15:25

FCA reports fresh hit to bank adviser numbers

Bank and building society adviser numbers have been dealt a fresh hit over the second half of 2013, according to new figures from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

An update on adviser numbers from the regulator has shown that in the bank and building society sector, they have fallen by 23% from August 2013 to date, from 4,604 to 3,556. Numbers had already been in decline in the run-up to the retail distribution review (RDR), dropping from an estimated 6,655 in the summer of 2012 to 4,810 by the end of that year.

Financial adviser numbers have risen only marginally from August 2013 to date, from 21,684 to 21,881. The total number of advisers, including discretionary investment managers and stockbrokers, has fallen by 4.5% over the same period, from 32,690 to 31,220. That follows a rise from 31,132 as at December 2012.

FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley (pictured) said: 'The falls we have seen are not in the IFA space. Generally the IFAs say that the RDR has been a benefit for them and they've seen revenue increases.'

He added that the FCA was exmaining concerns over an advice gap. He said the regulator wanted to discover whethere there is 'an unmet demand resulting in lack of investment from people that otherwise need to save'.

'The single biggest difficulty in how the market has evolved has been the advice gap.'

Nick Poyntz-Wright, FCA director of long-term savings and investment, added that the regulator was conducting an 'exploratory piece of work' on non-advised and simplified advice and how each could play a role in mitigating any gap.

The regulator is hoping to publish its reponse in the second quarter of the year. Poyntz-Wright said the FCA was also looking to see how firms develop non-advised solutions to reach lower-net-worth clients. 'We're keen to make sure the market works effectively for customers, including those customers that perhaps thought the cost of advice is excessive in proportion to the wealth they have got,' he said.

He added the FCA had not yet reached a conclusion on whether pre-RDR trail was negatively affceting consumer outcomes. 'We are not yet at a state that it is such a factor that we need to take action,' he said.

Poyntz-Wright acknowledged that the regulator's attempts to explain the post-RDR definition of independence had failed to dispel confusion in some parts.

'We are hearing the confusion around, "Well, what does this really mean?",' he said. We have made our best efforts to be completely clear but it doesn't seem to be completely working,' he said.

45 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Man of Kent

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:27

Any news out there?

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Alex Morrison WM

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:36

No shocks here then! RDR has decimated this industry. I know that some people think the banks were all bad. But, as one of the 23% (ex Santander and previously Nationwide) I still feel this leaves a gaping hole.

A lot of the customers I dealt with had low sums invested, typically well less than £50k. But that money was just as important to them as someone with half a million, and they still need advice. A lot of these people will now be left drifting with no guidance, except from some call centre staffed by people with no credentials and no incentive to help. Shame really.

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Sascha K

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:37

MoK: My foot hurts a bit.

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Irritable Vowels

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:38

If you want news: it's drizzling gently on Fleet Street at the moment. And the Sainsburys has shut because they've got a power cut. They're throwing all the chilled food away.

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Chartered Financial Planner

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:38

The total number has FALLEN by 4.5% if my math is right?

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Julian Stevens

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:45

A heck of a lot of people tried to tell the FSA that this would happen but, as usual...............

I agree that not all bank advisers were bad. Much of the systemic mis-selling arose from managers driving their sales forces with a stick and a whip to achieve ever more fantastic targets for which the appropriate customer base just wasn't there.

A way forward out of this state of affairs lies largely in your hands, Mr Wheatley. And, whilst you're at if (assuming you do intend to try to sort things out), a large slice of respite for the crushingly hard-pressed IFA sector wouldn't go amiss either.

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Daniel Grote - Citywire

Jan 13, 2014 at 15:56

@Chartered financial planner

Apologies, that has been fixed

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Martinifa

Jan 13, 2014 at 16:03

"'exploratory piece of work' on non-advised and simplified advice", so spending more money to look into the impossible. There is no such thing as simple advice and Stakeholder was clearly a great success. Give me strength, will anyone actually listen. We seem to be going around and around paying for the same people to do the same reports to produce the same inevitable outcome.

So looking above there are 21,881 advisers left in the UK. Within the next ten years a good 75% of these will retire. How many new advisers joined the industry last year? Me thinks there may be a bigger advice gap to come, which the regulator should be far more worried about.

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Jonathan Kirby

Jan 13, 2014 at 16:06

Typical FCA spin, try and dress it up as good news.

Just finished my 12 page report and 100+ pages of KIID, terms Client agreements, fee agreements etc., for two ISAs for a couple. In total it has taken me the best part of a day and a half so far and this is for existing clients of 30 years standing.

We need a simple easy structure NOW if the advice gap isn't to get larger as such cases certainly don't increase my income.

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Ian Lees

Jan 13, 2014 at 16:20

How interesting, the actual numbers of Financial Advisers ( Tied Restricted and Independent ) are . . .according to the FCA . . . .21,881. Adair Turned is unaware of how the masses will be able to obtain advice . . . . .and auto enrolment - the employee tax on employers . . . already gaining momentum . . . .and the unauthorised advice available form their Company - who have to pay for advice over and above the additional cost of administering and subjecting their employees into forced pensions - poor performing managed and withprofits funds . . . . and the MP's have not yet noticed the intended consequences of their peddling of policies of meddling . . . . .

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Jonathan Kirby

Jan 13, 2014 at 16:37

The number of IFAs quoted by the FSA under a freedom of information request pre RDR in 2011 was 28,835 so we have lost a quarter!

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Jonathan Kirby

Jan 13, 2014 at 16:50

This fiddling of the figures reminds me of air traffic controller David Gunson's line about statistics for ATC's only going back to 1978 as the previous year two jumbos collided at Tenerife killing 560 people.

You draw a line above it and hope no-one remembers.

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Julian Stevens

Jan 13, 2014 at 16:54

According to Adair Turner, such a consequence of the RDR was inevitable and presumably therefore, by the same token, was anticipated and is an acceptable price to be paid for all the great things achieved as a result of the FSA's RDR.

BTW, could somebody remind me just what all these great things are, because I'm hanged if I can call them to mind.

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Belmarsh Solitary

Jan 13, 2014 at 17:05

As Bernard Levin used to point out, with every step you take the view changes slightly. So now a year after RDR Adair Turner notices that the disappearance of mass market advice 'could be inevitable'. Was this not obvious to him two years ago, and if it was, was it one of the objectives of RDR? In which case why did he not say so? And if it was not obvious, is it a view that he now welcomes? Or does it tell him that a false step has been taken? The removal of commission as the most convenient method of paying for regulated advice is a very serious mistake and the losers are the general public.

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IDH

Jan 13, 2014 at 17:35

The FSA/FCA seems to always be missing the point about professional advice - we are taking the responsibility, if it goes wrong we pay redress. The fines to banks, the increase in exam standards etc - is this not all because financial decisions are complex and difficult. But they seem to think it's OK for the majority of the UK to do it themselves - then what happens when it goes wrong. Most people pay c. £500 pa for house insurance on which they never claim, but paying £500 pa for financial advice is not a good idea? The consequences of a bad financial decision for most people can be easily big as a burglary or subsidence etc.

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Julian Stevens

Jan 13, 2014 at 17:55

The problem with commission wasn't commission itself, it was abuse of the commission system. Disclosure didn't eradicate abuse in certain quarters for the simple reason that it was easy to tuck away disclosure of the commission amount in small print at the foot of page 7 of an illustration. All too often, clients never got that far and thus were unaware of the sum involved or just what it actually meant.

This could have been solved not by outlawing commission altogether but instead by way of Customer Agreed Commission with an explanation of its impact, e.g. The commission payable to the firm for which your intermediary works will be £XXX, the effect of which on your investment will be either to reduce the amount actually invested in your name by an equivalent amount or Your investment will be subject to a year-by-year declining scale of encashment charges in the early years.

Now, before certain champions of full disclosure, transparency and all that leap up howling that tapered exit charges were/are such a terrible iniquity, commission is still permitted under EU regulation. A comparison of two illustrations, one with an Adviser Charge and no early exit charges and the other with the same amount of commission with early exit charges shows the latter virtually always to show higher projected values beyond year 5.

Given that nearly all investment products should be approached as a 5 year proposition (as a minimum), then why wouldn't anyone of reasonable intelligence choose commission in favour of an equivalent adviser charge? All they have to do is hold the investment for 5 years and they'll be ahead.

But the regulator, or at least the regulator in its previous incarnation, refused to recognise this, refused to listen to any representations on the subject and instead remained manically obsessed with the idea that all commission is bad and that it must therefore be banned. The stupid thing is that the vast majority of clients, as a result, will actually be worse off under the new system, at least as far as Investment Bonds are concerned (I'm thinking prmarily of Offshore Bonds, BTW, though the considerations same apply to many pension products and With Profits isn't dead yet, far from it).

But hey, ho, the regulator knows best and this is progress so we must all just get with the program and learn to do things the new way.

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Christopher Petrie

Jan 13, 2014 at 18:21

I recall in 2011-12 suggesting several times that RDR would be the enemy of the banks, and potential friend of the IFA. And took some stick from some people at the time for that viewpoint!

As the figures keep on coming through however, it seems that analysis has turned out to be pretty accurate. The Naysayers and Doomongers (including Earnst & Young I seem to recall?) have been confounded and IFA numbers are (slowly) rising, not falling.

From conversations I have, most IFAs have settled into the new system ok, including previous Refusniks. Probably time to drop the subject and move on now. More interesting things to talk about.

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Charles Rickards

Jan 13, 2014 at 21:41

When the regulator makes decisions it needs to consider the outcomes for all consumers, not just the select few. The advice gap will haunt them as the media cottons on and they will be lambasted for the disservice they have done for the majority of consumers.

With regards to Pre RDR trail, if the regulator can guarantee that clients will not be worse off as a result of any ban, I am accepting of this. But if the greedy providers are going to pocket and profit from the savings, then this is immoral and not treating customers fairly!

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Eugen via mobile

Jan 13, 2014 at 21:46

@Jonathan Kirby

Why do you need 12 pages report for an ISA?

What you need is to have a financial plan for your clients and if the recommendation was 'Mr client you will make use of your ISA allowance for the next 6 years' - you just implement it every year, no need to write a suitability report every year.

Some people tend to over complicate things. Regarding KIIDs, you only email KIIDs for the funds you recommend first time. We rarely change funds (one or two at the annual review) so there is not so much need for sending KIIDs.

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Julian Stevens

Jan 14, 2014 at 09:04

Wouldn't a far better, not to mention fairer, approach to pre-RDR trail commission have been to stipulate that it can continue to be paid subject to agreement from the client/policyholder? That way, intermediaries who provide regular reviews, i.e. earn their trail agreed with their clients at outset, could continue to provide them without having to impose fees. Why is the regulator so implacably opposed to the idea of Customer Agreed Commission?

One can imagine clients asking why they must now pay fees in place of trail for reviews and being rather less than happy to be told that the reason is that the regulator has decreed unilaterally that, from now on, providers will be allowed to keep it without providing anything in return such as an uplift to or discount on their ongoing policy charges.

Why has the regulator steadfastly dismissed all representations on the subject? The answer, of course, is simply because it can, without reference to any outside body. My guess is that an Independent Regulatory Oversight Committee, if only we had one, would very probably agree that CAC is an entirely reasonable and practical proposition that's fair to all parties and that forcing providers to stop paying it to intermediaries is, in effect, a restriction of trade. Rather than start paying fees, most clients, I anticipate, will simply forego their annual reviews and their investments will, as a result, slowly drift off course. How is that supposed to promote better outcomes for consumers, supposedly the regulator's principal raison d'etre?

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Jonathan Kirby

Jan 14, 2014 at 09:16

@ Eugen

Tell that to our Network.

They want a full report pre-approved for a FUND SWITCH even if it is from bundled to unbundled share classes.

Obviously we have queried these things but are told that the FCA publicly may say they are relaxed but when it comes to procedures within the Network will accept nothing less than full advice on every single thing we do.

PS 12 pages is cutting everything to the minimum that has to go in and I use 10pt type face unless my clients have difficulty reading.

Everything these days is done to please the regulator and the client has to play second fiddle which is what really bugs me as I put my clients needs first..

@ Christopher Petrie

In two and a bit years we have lost 6,954 IFAs/Restricted WOM.

That is not an increase.

As stated above it depends where you draw the line.

I also understand shipping loss of life figures start after the Titanic.

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Knowledgable insider

Jan 14, 2014 at 09:45

Many of the comments on here are logical, valid and well presented however, and unfortunately, what we are dealing with here is a bureaucracy that, like all such organisations has at its main objective self preservation of its own jobs. Have you noticed how every few years the FSA/FCA come up with yet another major initiative? That on its own suggests that all previous ones were wrong and didnt fix 'the problem' - how many organisations do you know would keep the architects of such failed initiatives over and over again? The fact is that these bafoons couldnt give a hoot about the end user (the investing public) and even less about the advisory industry as long as they remain in high paid jobs. So, complain as much as you like , nothing will be done until and unless we ever get a government with the will and the spine to kick these gravy train merchants into touch and replace them with an organisation with a more intelligent outlook on where the industry is best placed to provide a more simplistic approach,

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Smudger 2

Jan 14, 2014 at 10:02

@Christopher Petrie, there was a rise in the UK population in the 40s and 50s but it didn't make World War 2 a good idea.

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Walter White

Jan 14, 2014 at 10:22

We are paying for the sins of the advisors of the 70's 80's & early 90's who basically abused the commission system & the naivety of the general public

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Ian Lees

Jan 14, 2014 at 10:39

@WalterWHite - you are paying for the disguised and hidden charges by product providers ( insurance companies in the main ) who used commissions - as the " encouragement . . . known as the . . . .Chair and the Whip method, . . .for by and on behalf of product providers - to FLOG their overpriced product ". With profits are one example - where the hidden fees and charges - and the failure of investment returns - by insolvent insurance companies . . .using policyholders bonuses - to deflect their incompetence, their high salaries their huge pension pots - thanks to the policyholders - desire to make . . . .their savings through investment products such as endowments pensions etc., For example remember MIP's . . . .Insurance Bonds . . . . using the " tax efficient benefits " as the story behind their reasons for sale ?

Reckless ripped off . . . and no Corporate Governance. Low Cost Endowments - used and abused by Financial Institutions such as Halifax ( now owned by LloydsTSB Group . . . . .interest only mortgages . . .which rely so heavily on property prices going up . . . . .pensions in with profit policies - where bonuses are destroyed e.g Equitable Life . . . and Adair Turner and his motley crew - failed to control or regulate. Meddling MP's are also to blame for their Failures . . . . and in particular their lack of knowledge . . .the Andy Hornby's of Parliament . . . . . lacklustre, lazy and so incompetent - resulting in losses for savers and investors. The public . . . .can have no confidence in these reckless . . . . losers !

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Christopher Petrie

Jan 14, 2014 at 10:54

@ JK and Smudger

My point is that IFA numbers are clearly now stable, and it's also quite true to say the Armageddon some people predicted just didn't happen. Did it?

As for the 12 page report for an ISA - as others have said, that's just plain stupid. The FCA doesn't require that. If a Network does, then blame the Network for such stupidity and wasting your time, not the Regulator. That's one of the reasons I cannot imagine why anyone would be in a network these days - all the downsides, and few (if any) benefits.

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Jonathan Kirby

Jan 14, 2014 at 11:01

@ Christopher Petrie

If you recall the smug Hector saying a 10 to 20% fall would be acceptable then even he must admit that 25% is unacceptable.

As for the 12 page report the Network are adamant that this is driven by the FCA not them.

I agree that it would be easier doing your own thing, but at age 64 in four months time what is the point?

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Walter White

Jan 14, 2014 at 11:10

@ Ian Lees I agree with you that the method of pushing poor products was endemic in the 80's & 90's - however, that was not a reason to recommend them to clients if you knew all along how poor the products were, & how high the charges were.

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Charles Rickards

Jan 14, 2014 at 11:20

@ Walter - in the 80s and 90s many financial products were sold by tied adviser/salespeople who did not have a choice in what they sold. It was a best fit model. I still believe that in most cases as long as a need was being met, an expensive product is better than no product. The issue over commission was made worse by the greedy few, who put their needs ahead of those of their clients. And that is at all levels.

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Walter White

Jan 14, 2014 at 11:27

@ Charles Rickards - I do agree with you, the whole industry was crooked, & the most crooked probably made the most money - but that does not excuse anyone involved!

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DG

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:15

An interesting line of discussion has been opened here.....

On the subject of KIIDs, it is my understanding that such a document has to be presented to a client BEFORE an investment is made. This is irrespective of whether it is the same fund being sold and bought back as in, for example, an investment fund to an ISA switch; this is because the latter is regarded by the FSA/FCA as replacement/new business.

This view is the same as Jonathan Kirby’s (network) but somewhat at odds with Eugen’s posting of 21.46 as each of his six subsequent ISA’s would require a KIID to be issued if not necessarily a full suitability report.

Do others have any views on this matter? Seems rather pointless to me but when did common sense ever play a part in our activities these days?

This article also seems to reinforce my interpretation, assuming it’s correct!

http://www.ifaonline.co.uk/professional-adviser/feature/2175307/don-t-forget-kiids

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Walter White

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:18

@ DG - why would you NOT simply print off a KIID to ensure clients have up to date information regarding the fund... its simply good customer service!!

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Smudger 2

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:26

@Chris there will always be survivors of Armageddon but they may envy the dead. Financial services for the majority of Britain has gone, now there is only a remnant of financial services and wealth management for the wealthy.

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Martinifa

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:34

Hindsight is a great thing ladies and gentleman and debating who did what, when, for what reason and why has no real value, as it’s in the past and there is nothing anyone can do. There will always be good and bad, fact of life. This was true in the 80’s,90’s and will be for ever more.

What is more important is where we go from here. The fact is as an adviser you most likely have never had it so good. There is more than enough business to go around and as for the mess advice gap, did you actually deal with these consumers anyway? You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

The only difference is that know you charge a fee, I really cannot understand what is so hard about this. If they have money to invest, they have funds to pay your fees. Life cover and other insurance needs can pay commission, which means that where the mass market sits, you can still look after them. Maybe this is a little simplistic, but in the main is correct. If you really are that concerned offer a pay as you go option, via standing order payable monthly to spread the cost of your fees.

The trail commissions should be allowed to continue where clients have signed to state they are receiving on going service. The trail should be refunded to the client’s policy if this is not the case after an agreed transition period is over. This would be I am sure agreeable to all and TCF and adviser friendly.

Lastly, what RDR has managed to do is bring increased revenue to HMRC via the VAT, which I have for some time believed was a major part of the true hidden agenda.

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Walter White

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:43

it strikes me the advisors who struggle with fee based advice, are the ones who were quite happy when charges & high commissions were hidden somewhere within mounds of paperwork from a life company... the same ones who complain about a 12 page client report because it is 'too much information' !

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Jonathan Kirby

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:48

@ WW

Who said we are struggling with fee paying? I didn't.

12 pages of report and over 100 pages of other terms and conditions KIID, risk analysis etc., etc is too much for anyone.

My favourite FSA/FCA rule is COBS 2.1 Client's best interests.

Producing all this costs money and to charge a suitable amount is not in our client's best interests as it is disproportionately high.

Less bumph = less cost = COBS2.1

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Ian Lees

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:49

Financial Services - Now carries . . . . . a Government Wealth Warning !

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DG

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:51

@ Walter White

Not really the point I was making though was it?

The question was.......what do other professional advisers (which I assume you’re not) who comment on these pages believe to be the actual KIID rules. Gossip, opinion and mere tittle-tattle is of no use and there’s clearly a difference of opinion out there.

Furthermore, as I thought I explained, I do, in fact, issue KIIDs for every fund that a client acquires as it’s no great hardship to produce them. That nevertheless does get away from the point that the KIID is probably a lot less informative than the fund’s factsheet which doesn’t need to be issued as a regulatory requirement. However, if both the KIID and factsheet were to be issued how many more pages would poor Mr Kirby and everyone else have to produce and how much of it would actually be read? That’s not a question you need to answer by the way!

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Walter White

Jan 14, 2014 at 12:58

@ DG - my understanding is it HAS to be provided for every investment sale - top up or not. I do not understand your reluctance to provide the document!

Your mistake was to say 'an interesting' line of debate has been opened - it was not interesting.

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Ian Lees

Jan 14, 2014 at 13:29

@MartinIFA - Hindsight and evaluating the history - demonstrates who did what ? - and when ? - and How ? Their movement in the industry - they have destroyed .. .and the destruction on UK Businesses . . . . Lack of investment means lack of investment in infrastructure by insurance companies and fund managers in the UK . . . because UK Plc is Bankrupt . Put simply the part each individual like Sants . . . .and his colleagues . . .. played in the destruction of Advice - under direction of the Conservative Government . . . . the lack of debate by Labour or Liberals - and reducing advice to the " Tied Agents" and " Restricted " Advisers, under Service and Servitude of their Masters ( often referred to as their Principal ) . . . and the on going destruction, of confidence in . . ..the Regulation - the " authorised advisers ", . . . ." The Advice Process ". This in turn destroys Savings destroys investments . . . including pensions . . . .which has a devastating effect on financial services companies investing in UK companies . . . .now and for the future.

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DG

Jan 14, 2014 at 16:57

@ Walter White

Goodness me, these pages don’t ‘alf attract ‘em!

Didn’t say anything about “reluctance” to supply KIIDs......merely, like many others here, I question the usefulness of bombarding investors with [KIID] information that is of little interest to most people and that can’t be simply added as an appendix to a more useful fact sheet.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting issue, as it clearly is viewed in different ways by different individuals, and therefore worth an airing. Sorry you disagree.

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Julian Stevens

Jan 14, 2014 at 19:02

Several of my longstanding clients have actually asked me if I can spare them the tons of paper needed to justify what we've already discussed, with which they're entirely happy and which, as far as they're concerned, are entirely superfluous to their decision to proceed with my recommendations. Sadly, I have to tell them that I have no discretion in the matter. The regulator and the enforcers of its regulations have decreed that this is how it must be done and there's no scope for any negotation. Responses to accusations of faults in the recommendations process and the documentation thereof are routinely ignored or summarily overruled.

"Suitability" letters these days have become increasingly divorced from what clients actually want, much less what they want to read and try to understand. In other words, divorced from practical reality. They're just huge, largely unnecessary wads of documentation to try to bomb-proof any recommendations against future challenge.

Whatever happened to clear, straightforward and concise summaries of what's been discussed and agreed? Lost in over-prescriptive and excessively bureaucratic regulation. Why else are we seeing falling adviser numbers and an increasing advice gap? The world of regulation has gone completely, self-servingly bonkers.

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Ian Lees

Jan 14, 2014 at 19:24

Under Financial Services now, with all the Tombs of paper . . . . .with the wait for paper - and the weight of paper now required . . .who needs a " . . . . paper weight ? "

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Ian Lees

Jan 18, 2014 at 09:07

As a result of the RDR - and the destruction of Independent Financial Advice - the bank advisers who are used to being Tied Agents and or Restricted Advisers are likely to swell the numbers of Tied Agents . . .for the masses - through insurance companies or insurance company conglomerates like Tenet Group ( owned and run by Stranded Life Aviva ( who operate badly a direct sales operation against IFA's) Aegon and Friends Life . . . . .Tenet appears to be the old M and E network - and as in the past the insurance companies pin their hopes on this market trader - to bring in the money> Currently it appears to be another Big Black Money Hole . . .so those with their money in with profit funds at stranded life . . .may see their bonuses, or their investments . . . go down even further.

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Ian Lees

Feb 17, 2014 at 12:14

It seems that Advisers are disappearing faster than Shergar . . .and it is interesting that the FSA and FCA were ( and probably still are ) unaware of their " intended consequences - of reducing adviser numbers - by stealth, and as that was slow destruction by cost , destruction by introducing huge volumes of reports, volumes of administration - and like the restrictions on parking - the cost of parking goes UP ! The same economics applies to adviser numbers - fewer advisers - higher costs - and the advice Gap widens . . . . Advice . . .The FCA Black Hole . . . . . . with costs and charges form regulators FSCS compensation . . .the few will now be required to fund / pay . . . I hear office space in Edinburgh might become a lot cheaper as banks like Bank of Scotland move to Leeds ( ex Leeds B Soc head office ) and RBS . . . . .

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