FCA to investigate competition in investment and corporate banking services following review of wholesale markets

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) today announced plans to launch its first wholesale market study into investment and corporate banking to assess whether competition in the sector is working properly.

This follows the publication of its review into competition in the wholesale sector, which found that limited clarity over price and quality of services may make it difficult for clients to assess whether they are getting value for money, and that the bundling and cross selling of services could make it difficult for new entrants or smaller established firms to challenge established large players in the market.

Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition, said:

“We have chosen this particular area because the benefits of effective competition in the market could be significant. The UK is a global hub for investment banking, and this sector plays a crucial role in our economy, helping companies raise capital for investment, expansion and funding ongoing operations.  

“What was clear from the discussions we had with stakeholders and firms was that there are unanswered questions about potential conflicts of interest and value for money in this market. This will form part of our wider work in the wholesale markets, alongside the Fair and Effective Markets Review.”

Terms of reference for this study will be published in Spring, and will be informed by views from industry, trade bodies and clients. Feedback received to date included concerns around transparency, conflicts of interest and the impact that bundling services together has on competition, including new firms’ ability to enter the market.

During the wholesale sector review the FCA met with around 70 organisations and individuals, through a combination of round-tables and one-to-one meetings and received 40 written responses.

This provided feedback on other potential competition issues that might benefit from further investigation in the future, including:

  • How purchasers get value for money when buying asset management services.
  • The pricing and availability of data and related services.
  • Vertical integration of clearing and execution services.
  • The impact of a reduction in the number of clearing members and a lack of client clearing on over-the-counter (OTC) derivative markets.

The FCA will consider undertaking a market study into asset management and related services later in the year. However, for the other potential competition issues identified, it is expected that forthcoming regulations will affect the way competition works, so there are no immediate plans to conduct further studies into these areas.

Notes to editors

  1. The feedback statement and July 2014 call for inputs.
  2. Market studies are an important tool for examining how well competition works in financial markets and help us assess whether we should intervene in the interests of their users.
  3. On 1 April 2015 the FCA will gain competition concurrency powers that will allow us to enforce against breaches of the Competition Act and to refer markets to the Competition and Markets Authority for in-depth investigation.
  4. On the 1 April 2013 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
  5. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
  6. Find out more information about the FCA.