Following the publication of the Investment Platforms Market Study Final Report and Consultation Paper 19/12 proposing new rules in March this year, today we have published Policy Statement 19/29 setting out final rules. We also confirm the outcome of the review of progress that firms and industry have made to better enable investors to switch platforms through a not-for profit, industry-led joint-venture called STAR. We also confirm next steps.
Our market study
Investment platforms are increasingly being used by consumers and financial advisers to access retail investment products and manage investments online. Our Investment Platforms Market Study (IPMS) explored how investment platforms compete to win new customers and retain existing ones, to help us assess how we can improve competition within this market and develop better consumer outcomes.
We published our Final Report in March this year. It found that, while competition is generally working well, some consumers and financial advisers find it difficult to shop around and switch to a platform that better meets their needs. Consumers can find it difficult to switch due to the time, complexity and cost involved - driven in part by exit charges and difficulties switching between unit classes.
To address these issues we took forward a number of proposal to improve the switching process:
- We published Consultation Paper 19/12, which consulted on rules to make it easier for consumers to switch platforms without having to sell their investments. Today we have published Policy Statement 19/29 confirming our final rules in this area
- We also sought wider views on how we might introduce a restriction on exit fees
- We also welcomed and supported industry efforts to improve the switching process. We said we would review industry progress later this year
Industry progress to improve the switching process
STAR is taking forward the implementation of an industry agreed framework that aims to improve the switching process for consumers. The framework sets expectations for end-to-end standards, customer communications, and provides oversight and transparency through the publishing of information related to switching times.
Since publishing our Final Report, we have closely monitored industry’s progress, through STAR, to improve transfer times and customer communications.
Since the Final Report STAR has made progress by:
- signing-up 52 members with representation from across the retail distribution industry
- embedding its governance framework
- setting up a number of working groups to agree switching standards for different investment transfers
- remaining on track to provide information on transfer times to the FCA later next year
We, along with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR), continue to support STAR’s aim and works. The framework STAR is implementing is aligned with our desired outcomes to improve the customer experience, reduce the time it takes to complete transfers and ensure consumers can move to a platform that better meets their needs.
In the coming years, industry standards will need to deliver these positive outcomes for consumers and support competition in the retail investment and pensions sectors. Given the importance of achieving these outcomes and the benefits of wide industry representation, we encourage firms in the retail investment and pension sectors not already involved in STAR to take part.
We do not propose to take forward further action now, given the continued industry progress since our Final Report. Our view is that the final rules for platform transfers published today and our ongoing work on exit fees is where regulatory change is needed most.
There are many parties involved in the investment transfer process. All firms involved, including platform service providers and firms offering comparable services pension providers, fund managers and their agents must comply with our rules to execute re-registrations within a reasonable time.
We will continue to attend STAR Steering Committee meetings as an observer member as part of our monitoring of industry progress.
We will carry out a review of progress in 2022 and will consider taking forward further action if consumers’ experience of the switching process does not continue to improve. In 2022 we expect to be able to see the impact of the implementation of the standards on the switching progress for consumers. By this time, we also expect to see the outcome and any impact in the market from the new rules published today and the outcome of our policy work to restrict exit fees.
In February 2016, supported by FCA Supervision, the leading investment and pension trade associations established the Transfers and Re-registration Industry Group (TRIG) to drive forward best practice in the transfers and re-registration of customer assets.
In June 2018 TRIG published a framework to ‘deliver fast, efficient transfers for the benefit of consumers’. It set expectations for end-to-end transfer timescales, customer communications, oversight and transparency.
In October 2018 TRIG appointed STAR to take forward the implementation of the Framework.