The key issues surrounding the Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR) are, according to leading experts from across the industry, a need for greater clarity, access and consumer engagement to address the lack of understanding and confusion around the distinction between guidance, and advice and the different forms of advice that are available.
These were discussed by attendees at a recent TISA event on FAMR. TISA is a not-for-profit membership association operating within the financial services industry. Its membership comprises over 150 firms involved in the supply and distribution of savings and investment products and services.
The main speaker at the event was The Savings and Investments Policy (TSIP) Programme Director Charles McCready (pictured above). The TSIP project works with a wide range of financial service companies, trade bodies and consumer groups to develop pan-industry proposals.
McCready provided an insight on the market response to FAMR. He said that the highlighted issues included a general lack of consumer understanding of both the need to manage personal finance and how to do so, as well as how to develop appropriate guidance and advice services that align with consumer needs, providing support in a cost effective way.
The backdrop is a need to help consumers manage their finances. TSIP pointed to recent research from the Money Advice Service (MAS) which concluded that 40% of adults are not in control of their finances. This leads to higher levels of debt, low levels of saving and financial insecurity in both working life and in retirement. Furthermore, MAS also found that 12 million people are not saving enough for retirement, with two-thirds not knowing how much they need to save, or if the amount they are putting aside is sufficient.
McCready said: “Whilst TISA has focussed its response on proposals for guidance services, much of the industry is also trying to address access to financial advice and how these services are provided as this remains a challenge for both the Government and financial services. Much of the focus of the FAMR is centred on how to fix the ‘advice gap’, and the industry responses show that there are significant opportunities to both simplify the advice services that consumers receive, whilst simultaneously developing those services that fits people’s needs and their appetite to pay for advice.
“At the heart of the proposed changes lies the need for greater clarity and simplification around the rules of advice and the options available to consumers. There is also a growing appetite amongst the financial services industry to align advice regulations with MiFID and EU regulations and remove some of the additional requirements placed on them in the UK. This would move us closer to a single EU set of standards, retain consumer protection and facilitate a reduction in additional compliance costs that could be passed onto the consumer. We have also heard a strong call for the interpretation of rules to be made clearer so that the FCA, the financial services industry and FOS are all operating under the same understanding of those rules.
“Additionally, there is a critical role for technology to play through greater use of online tools, particularly for information and guidance services, to help consumers understand how to better manage their finances. In an ever changing environment, it is important to find new ways to appeal to younger savers who have new perspectives and attitudes to savings. FAMR is a particularly important initiative in seeking to address the key issues that are affecting the financial health of both households and individuals.
“We want to work with HMT, FCA and FOS to help the industry provide appropriate guidance and advice support for consumers, enhance their financial wellbeing, and encourage a savings culture.”
TSIP is directed by an Executive Committee formed of 19 leading financial services companies including Aviva, AXA Wealth, BlackRock, BNY Mellon, Columbia Threadneedle, EY, Genpact, Henderson Global Investors, Invesco Perpetual, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Legal & General, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, Northern Trust, Old Mutual, Openwork, Pinsent Masons, RBS and TISA.