FCA slaps £4m fine on former Axa UK broker

The Financial Conduct Authority has fined Bluefin Insurance Services for failing to inform customers about its independence in a way that was clear, fair and not misleading while it was owned by Axa UK.

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The £4m ($5.4m, €4.5m) fine dates back to between March 2011 and December 2014 when Bluefin was wholly-owned by Axa UK. It was sold to Marsh in December 2016.

The insurance broker held itself out to be ‘truly independent’ in the advice it provided and the insurers it recommended to customers.

However, the FCA said Bluefin failed to implement adequate systems and controls to manage the conflict that arose from Axa’s ownership.

Bluefin’s independence was compromised by its culture which promoted business strategies, including a policy which focused on increasing the business placed with its parent company, over treating customers fairly, according to an FCA statement.

Bluefin brokers did not disclose this policy, so customers risked being misled into believing they were dealing with a broker who would conduct an unbiased search of the market.

A spokesman for Marsh told Portfolio Adviser’s sister publication International Adviser: “We were aware of the investigation into these practices in Bluefin when we acquired the business at the end of last year. After the transaction closed we reviewed and, where appropriate, improved Bluefin’s practices and policies to align them with our own high, client-centric standards.

“During this time we have also worked with the FCA to ensure that this case was fully resolved.”

Not independent

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight, said: “Insurance brokers must promote a culture in which they act in their customers’ best interests and provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision. This is central to the relationship between the industry and its customers.

“It is also unacceptable that firms hold themselves out as independent when they are not.”

Bluefin agreed to settle at an early stage of the investigation and received a 30% reduction in their overall fine. Without this discount the fine would have been £5,748,200.

The FCA makes no criticism of any member of the Axa Group other than Bluefin.

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