UK FCA targets intermediaries amid fund management shake-up

Jonathan Boyd
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The UK Financial Conduct Authority has published the final findings of its asset management market study and announced the package of remedies that it says it wants to take forward to address the concerns identified in its interim report into the sector.

As was expected, the FCA has said that fund management groups should introduce a single, all-in-fee to investors and strengthen the duty on fund managers to act in the best interests of investors, including introducing technical changes to “improve fairness around the management of share classes” and the way in which fund managers profit from investors buying and selling their funds.

Fund groups will also now be required to appoint a minimum of two independent directors to their boards to ensure that investors are protected, according to the recommendations.

The regulator is also targeting “the effectiveness of intermediaries” and as a result will launch a market study into investment platforms, and is recommending that HM Treasury, the UK’s finance ministry, considers bringing investment consultants “into the FCA’s regulatory perimeter”.

The findings of the study will be implemented across a series of stages with further consultations pending, including on aspects of Mifid II. Finally some of the measures are dependent on the outcomes of proposed working groups.

‘Competitive sector’

Andrew Bailey, chief executive at the FCA, (pictured below left), said: “The asset management sector is important to the economy, managing the savings of millions of people and in the current low interest environment it’s vital we help people earn a return on their savings.”

“We need a competitive sector, attracting investment into the United Kingdom which also works well for the people who rely on it for their financial wellbeing.”

“We have listened carefully to the feedback we received in response to our report last November.”

“We have put together a comprehensive package of reforms that will make competition work better and help both retail and institutional investors to make their money work well for them.”

Interim report

The final report confirms the findings set out in the interim report published last year, as reported. This found that price competition is weak in a number of areas of the industry. Despite a large number of firms operating in the market, the FCA’s analysis found evidence of sustained, high profits over a number of years.

The FCA also found that investors are not always clear what the objectives of funds are, and fund performance is not always reported against an appropriate benchmark. Finally, the FCA found concerns about the way the investment consultant market operates.

Responses to the interim report from industry, investor representatives and others have helped the FCA develop the package of remedies, it said.

FCA remedies

The remedies the FCA are taking forward fall in to three areas.

To help provide protection for investors who are not well placed to find better value for money, the FCA proposes to:

  • strengthen the duty on fund managers to act in the best interests of investors and use the Senior Managers Regime to bring individual focus and accountability to this;
  • require fund managers to appoint a minimum of two independent directors to their boards;
  • introduce technical changes to improve fairness around the management of share classes and the way in which fund managers profit from investors buying and selling their funds.

To drive competitive pressure on asset managers, the FCA will:

  • support the disclosure of a single, all-in-fee to investors;
  • support the consistent and standardised disclosure of costs and charges to institutional investors;
  • recommend that the DWP remove barriers to pension scheme consolidation and pooling;
  • chair a working group to focus on how to make fund objectives more useful and consult on how  benchmarks are used and performance reported.

To help improve the effectiveness of intermediaries, the FCA will:

  • launch a market study into investment platforms;
  • seek views on rejecting the undertakings in lieu of a market investigation reference regarding the institutional advice market to the Competition and Markets Authority;
  • recommend that HM Treasury considers bringing investment consultants into the FCA’s regulatory perimeter.

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