Financial advice market shake-up

Del BoyAndy Butterton/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A landmark shake-up of the financial advice market takes effect next week, forcing advisers to spell out their costs to customers and reducing the risk of mis-selling.

The changes will put an end to financial advice which has appeared to be "free" because advisers have previously taken a cut of the sum being invested by the customer, which has been handed over by the company providing the product.
From Monday, financial advisers will be banned from simply taking commission payments from product providers. Instead, they must clearly explain to the customer up front how much advice will cost and agree how the customer will pay for it.

The changes should put an end to an apparent "Del Boy" perception of the industry by some people. A survey from financial planning business rplan recently found that the market trader from Only Fools and Horses (pictured) is the fictional character that people believe best personifies financial advisers.

However, analysts have warned that the prospect of costs becoming much more visible will come as a surprise to many people - which could lead to more DIY investors who decide not to take advice.

Nearly 16 million people own a financial product such as a pension or a savings product that will be affected by the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), and around half are estimated to have used an adviser to buy them.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA), which is introducing the new rules, said they will ensure that the advice being given is in the best interests of the customer and not driven by how much commission advisers could make. It believes the rules will improve the quality of advice and cut the chances of mis-selling, as well as generally build trust in advisers.

The changes will also raise the minimum professional standards for financial advisers. They will need to subscribe to a code of ethics, carry out at least 35 hours of continuing professional development a year and hold a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS) from an accredited body.

Linda Woodall, head of investment intermediaries at the FSA said: "These changes are about making the cost of advice clearer. Where else would you buy something without knowing in advance how much it costs?"

Experts have predicted that the costs of advice to people under the changes could vary widely. A recent survey suggested that the potential cost to a customer of an initial financial review could be almost £500.

© 2012 Press Association
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