FCA review finds that most mortgage customers get suitable advice but “scope for improvement”

A Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) review into the quality of mortgage advice has found that although most customers receive suitable advice, further work is needed to improve standards.

The FCA report, Embedding the Mortgage Market Review: Advice and Distribution, is part of a long-running programme of work by the regulator looking into the mortgage market and follows last year’s Mortgage Market Review (MMR) which introduced new rules for firms.

The review of the quality of advice provided by lenders and intermediaries is published in conjunction with independent research into consumer behaviour conducted by ESRO, on behalf of the FCA.

The two studies found that:

  • Many lenders have taken significant steps to provide advice for the first time. These firms, and those that have always provided advice, should now focus on delivering consistently good outcomes for customers.
  • There was no evidence of systemic customer detriment.
  • Some firms were failing to take reasonable steps to obtain sufficient, relevant information about customers’ needs and circumstances before making recommendations. Although 59 percent of advice provided to customers was assessed as suitable (with only a small number of cases assessed as demonstrably unsuitable), the basis for 38 percent of recommendations was unclear.
  • The consumer research highlighted that some customers place the greatest importance on the initial monthly payment to the detriment of other factors. This can dictate whether they think a mortgage is a ‘good deal’ or not.

Linda Woodall, acting director of supervision at the FCA, said:

"A mortgage is a significant undertaking for anyone. It is vital that customers are able to get suitable advice and a positive experience when deciding on their options. Some firms were able to provide this, but not all.

“Although we welcome the considerable work of those firms delivering advice for the first time, and particularly those that have proactively identified issues within their own processes, there is still scope for improvement. We’ll continue working with firms to ensure they deliver good outcomes for consumers.”

Following the review, the FCA will continue to work with industry to address the issues identified. Individual feedback to firms visited as part of the study has already been given, together with actions required as a result of the findings. Some firms assessed had already independently identified issues with their advice processes, and were making changes to improve their service to consumers.

The review also found that many lenders had made significant efforts to deliver advice for the first time by investing in systems, front-line staff and operational capability. Some firms were relying on highly structured processes. This often resulted in lengthy, stilted and repetitive conversations with consumers which limited the adviser’s ability to engage effectively and properly assess needs and circumstances. By contrast, other firms delivered advice with little or no structure, resulting in inconsistent quality of advice and a higher chance of unsuitable recommendations. The best performing firms have demonstrated that it is possible to strike an appropriate balance.

The review of advice and distribution forms part of the FCA’s wider programme of mortgages work. Its thematic review into responsible lending commenced in  April 2015 and from autumn this year, the FCA will begin a wider assessment of barriers to competition, with a view to launching a market study in early 2016 on those aspects of the mortgage market that are not working in consumers’ interests.

Notes to editors

  1. Thematic review TR15/9: Embedding the Mortgage Market Review: Advice and Distribution.
  2. ESRO’s independent customer research report Understanding consumer expectations of the mortgage sales process.
  3. The MMR was introduced on 24 April 2014.
  4. On 1 April 2013, the 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). On 1 April 2014, the FCA took over responsibility for consumer credit regulation.
  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.