pa opinion – the rdr fun

The problem with a deadline is that too many people think of it as the end of a task, when all too often it is only the beginning.

pa opinion - the rdr fun


Take the busy bees of LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) diligently working to deliver the "best possible Olympic and Paralympic games experience for everyone involved".

Presumably, many think LOCOG will heave a huge sigh of relief if the opening ceremony on 27 July goes off without a hitch.

But in reality, until the closing ceremony of the paralympics on 9 September is signed, sealed and delivered and all the glitter and firework ash swept up, the committee will be holding their collective breath.

What has this got to do with financial services?

Well, the same is true of D-day for RDR.

While firms are working towards a 1 January implementation date (or if they are real swots a 1 September pre-implementation date) the start of 2012 will only herald the beginning of the new-look financial services industry and then the fun will truly start.

From various conversations I’ve had in recent weeks, advisers and DFMs alike have now changed the focus from gaining the right qualifications (most have now got them, or are almost there) to looking at their business models and working out any changes that might need to be made.

Some interesting debates have started to arise from this.

Notwithstanding the platform issue, which the FSA is yet to consult and publish guidelines on, questions over whether to position their business as independent or restricted and whether to engage in the outsourcing of investment decisions or not are top of the agenda.

A conversation with a big wealth manager lately centred around if they could feasibly present their discretionary service to private clients on an independent basis, or would have to brand it restricted because they want to include individual securities and bonds within clients portfolios and perhaps even the odd derivative.

Discretionary = restricted?

It sounds barmy I know but according to said wealth manager, because the FSA’s definition of independent is to offer only what it views as retail products (basically anything packaged or collective) to offer anything above and beyond that you must call yourself restricted.

"The FSA expect there to be very few types of investment products sold to retail clients that do not fall within the definition. If you are indpendent you advise on packaged products only. So for that reason you cannot be independent and discretionary," the wealth manager explained.

For discretionaries that do not deal with private clients this should not be an issue because they deal with intermediaries, not the end client directly.

But the FSA has also tried to circumvent this scapegoat and have put the onus on advisers not to blindly "shoehorn" clients into centralised investment propositions such as model portfolios or discretionary investment management.

That guidance paper was only issued at the start of April and it is as likely as night follows day that it will not be the last.

Plenty more tinkering to come

I’m not sure if it is alarming or not that the majority of firms are just getting round to addressing business model issues. But now that they are it stands to reason that more and more questions will rise to the surface.

Richard Leigh, joint managing director and co-founder of London & Capital, summarised the situation well: "It is like all of these things, there is going to be some tinkering. For example the FSA has the phrase ‘treat your consumer fairly’, which is open to so many different ways of interpretation.

"An IFA is by default an entrepreneur. As a salesman they will interpret thing to the best of their advantage. The FSA needs to make sure its interpretations are really black and white with no shades of grey. As soon as you give shades of grey to a salesman it opens it up to his own interpretation. If you want to regulate our industry your guidelines have got to be specific."

In the absence of specifics most will do what they always do, and I for one look forward to those interpretations, even if as anticipated they come post-1 January 2012.



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