The latest is of course the Consumer Duty Rules – which come into effect this year. But how different is this new set of rules to the others that have gone before and what must employers prepare for and focus on? Is it just more of the same?
We have been here before. You finally get on top of the FCA’s latest regulatory and certification regimes and rules – and along comes a whole new set to deal with. I’m thinking:
- Retail Distribution Review
- MiFID I&II
- Financial Advice Market Review
Under Consumer Duty, outcomes will be the main focus and senior management and the board will be on the hook should firms fall short
What many of the above have in common and at their core is:
- Ensuring fair and satisfactory outcomes through delivery of quality and suitable advice and products.
- Advisers upholding minimum standards of competence integrity, conduct and delivery standards – at expected levels
Put aside the products themselves and focus on delivery and these two points – and we see a renewed determination at the FCA to focus on the people in the industry – how they behave – how they perform – their fitness and propriety to perform their roles – and the standards to which they deliver them. The ultimate objective being the protection of consumers and markets.
These are things that have long been in place through TCF and RDR – and it is tempting to assume that Consumer Duty rules is just more of the same but with bigger teeth.
However – that would be an underestimation. One of the key differences is that – in the past when under investigation, firms could demonstrate to the regulator that all the right policies, training, frameworks and controls were in place. Boxes had been ticked, responsibilities for ensuring competence conduct and quality had been delivered.
What wasn’t being demonstrated clearly was whether these measures were in fact delivering fair outcomes for consumers. Under Consumer Duty rules, outcomes will be the main focus and senior management and the board will be on the hook should firms fall short.
Setting customer outcomes and identifying that customers are getting suitable advice and results – not just automatically renewing products without full assessment of their ongoing suitability for example – will become automatic requirements.
But before there are outcomes there is the Adviser and their advice. Whether they have acted appropriately and to expected standards and – by extension whether the firm has ensured that. That part hasn’t changed at all.
A senior executive at the FCA recently said – “Where we identify serious misconduct that breaches that duty, we will use our full range of powers to tackle that … issuing fines, removing permissions and securing redress for consumers. And we will hold firms, including senior managers and boards, to account for delivering these outcomes.”
Time then is running out as is the FCA’s patience as fines hit record levels. In fact – the deadline for firms to have board-approved implementation plans was the end of October 2022. Any firm taking the rather relaxed view that Consumer Duty doesn’t represent much of a departure from TCF, does so at their own peril. The more prudent firms out there will be looking at strategies and technologies to help them meet guidance requirements not just for the Q4 deadline just passed, but well into the future as Consumer Duty beds in.
One of the biggest problems I see – is that in my experience many firms already aren’t doing all this to satisfactory RDR and TCF standards. Let alone to the standards of Consumer Duty.
Those firms wanting to catch up before they can hope to move forward – might urgently consider getting in place a solid framework of process and technology that:
- Defines and delivers accepted benchmarks for behaviour, competence and quality/suitability of advice
- Sets benchmarks and then KPI’s for staff through which these can be properly assessed and monitored
- Defines training/CPD plans – at an across-the-board level and individually
- Identifies risks through behaviour performance delivery and quality and mitigates them through the setting of relevant individual T&C plans.
So how can we help you?
HRComply provides an online platform through which all of this can be automated, monitored and planned with relevant access to staff at all levels – that:
- Keeps all your records and complete audit trails in one place.
- Allows you to set training and mitigation – either in any individual assessment – or separately. Then tracks completion against target timelines
- Enables setting of checklists and KPI’s for all aspects of assessment – meeting observations, call assessments, file checks, 1:1’s, client outcomes, performance and conduct evaluations etc.
- Distributes all assessments and creates work flows giving you complete analysis and oversight of completion, triggering alerts where there are shortfalls on completion or standards.
- Pulls together seamlessly all your T&C, Conduct, Quality and performance assessment and monitoring.
- Delivers to your bespoke needs at a non-bespoke price.
- Does not require subscription to lots of different modules. Just one complete solution giving you exceptional value and return on your investment.
As with all of the FCA regulatory framework around Training, Competence and Conduct – so much of this is basically common sense. Best practice is just that – best for the business, best for staff and customers. Of course – most firms want to deliver on this and often already are – but as with all regulation they are required to prove it. Without having robust defined processes, methods of assessment and records/audit trails of T&C – and now both delivery and outcome – that will prove difficult.