Project Innovate: themed weeks

Themed weeks aim to create engagement between the FCA and stakeholders, to help us understand developments and trends in innovation. They are a valuable way of reaching a large number of people, learning about concerns with the regulatory system and dispelling regulatory uncertainties and myths.

Robo advice forum

Project Innovate held a three day robo-advice forum on 30 September 2015 that was launched by Harriett Baldwin MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

The aim of the forum was to:

  • discuss and learn about the developments in the automated investment advice market
  • to explore the regulatory uncertainties that might create barriers to innovation
  • offer a mutually beneficial platform to learn about regulatory barriers, dispel regulatory uncertainties and understand developments in innovation.

Presentations from the industry showcased the automated advice models they use and thought-provoking panel sessions focused on the role of firms in the market, a comparison to the US market and democratisation of advice for consumers.

Over 40 delegates attended over the two days, ranging from start-ups to larger players and technology firms, and on the last day of the forum we held technical seminars and authorisation surgery sessions to help people looking to enter the market.

Key messages and output

 

  • We learnt that majority of delegates do not like the term robo-advice. Many feel that it is a misnomer. There was a general view that the future of advice is not going to be wholly automated but a combination of automated services with human involvement.
  • The idea of a regulatory sandbox for the robo-advice industry was strongly advocated for as a needed initiative to encourage innovation.
  • Pension reforms and auto-enrolment have the potential to enable customers to make appropriate choices, empowered through accessible, affordable and engaging advice.
  • Some panellists mentioned that the reputation of a firm is important in order for the automated advice market to flourish as customers place trust in incumbents.
  • There was a divided view on whether regulation is a barrier; some panellists felt that if regulatory requirements are lowered it is customers who will pay the price for this. Other panellists felt the definition of advice needs to be standardised to make the regulatory landscape simpler. There was comment that investing in technology and marketing are bigger costs than regulation.

Feedback

We asked delegates to give us feedback about the forum - 95% felt that the areas covered were appropriate, and 90% were satisfied with the forum overall.

Those that gave feedback on surgery sessions on average rated the credibility and professionalism of their experts as 5.6 out of 6.

We also asked delegates to describe the forum in one sentence and these are some of the responses we received:

“Constructive focal point for real concerns and a starting block for more dialogue”

“A good balance of people from various types of firms that have very differing objectives”

“A lot of positive energy to harness innovation and enable consumer savings”.

The FCA’s tweets on 30 September 2015 regarding the robo-advice forum received 33,533 views, with 144 mentions of #projectinnovate and 83 mentions of #roboadvice during the forum.