FSA outlines challenges to retail firms

Clive Briault, managing director of the Financial Services Authority has outlined the challenges facing retail firms during his first speech in Northern Ireland.

Addressing financial advisers and mortgage intermediaries at the AIFA & AMI Regional Conference in Belfast, Briault spelled out the FSA’s primary objectives for the retail distribution system, which centre on the quality of advice available to consumers and the fair treatment of consumers by firms.

The speech also gave firms an update on depolarisation; the challenges posed by A-Day – the government’s changes in pension rules; the Treating Customers Fairly initiative and the current picture of the quality of advice given by advisers.

Briault says: “I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to address firms in Northern Ireland directly; something we at the FSA are keen to do more often.

“The retail financial services market is not yet operating in a consistently effective and efficient way.

“On the mortgages side, our early findings report a mixed picture in terms of standards.

“On the investments side, the market is in a state of flux with both product providers and distributors facing a range of challenges which include adapting business strategies to reflect a depolarised world and a lack of consumer confidence.

“To tackle this we strongly believe that good quality financial advice plays an important role in ensuring that consumers have expert help in making a complex range of choices on important financial decisions.

“The provision of financial advice is a large industry, and with rising incomes and wealth, and evidence that many individuals are not investing enough for their retirement, there should be plenty of scope for the advice market to expand significantly.

“The challenge here for advisers is to demonstrate to more consumers that there is value to them in paying for these services.”

The FSA is also continuing its range of activities to make it easier to do business with.

These include a major programme of improvements to the small firms section of the FSA website; payment of the FSA, Financial Ombudsman Service and Financial Services Compensation Scheme fees and levies in instalments; a programme of geographical roadshows and the firms online system, with the new Integrated Regulatory Reporting system which enable firms to report electronically.