TR14/10 - Developments in the distribution of retail investments: Purchasing investments without a personal recommendation or with simplified advice

This report summarises the findings of our thematic review examining the distribution channels firms are using to sell investments to customers in the retail investment market. It also explains how the review has informed a Guidance Consultation that clarifies the regulatory framework for retail investments and explores barriers to market development.

Who should read this paper?

Our report is aimed at firms involved in the distribution of retail investments. It may also be of interest to people thinking about purchasing an investment product, particularly where they intend to make their own investment decisions.

Thematic Review TR14/10

What was the scope of the review?

Our review was based on visits to 13 firms from different sectors, and with a range of established and newer business models (including online). We looked at how firms had designed their models and whether they supported good consumer outcomes. We also considered how the regulatory framework was influencing the approaches taken by firms. 

What did we find?

For services where customers purchase investments without a personal recommendation, we found that most firms had considered their customers’ needs and tried to design their services to help them make informed decisions. This included the range of investments they offered and the supporting information and tools for customers.

However, we found that uncertainty about the regulatory requirements for these services, or an over-cautious interpretation of how they applied, were leading some firms to leave out features that could reduce the risk of poor customer outcomes.

We found that a number of firms had decided not to develop simplified advice services due to uncertainty about how to apply our suitability rules, and the risks and potential liabilities from delivering this advice online.

What are the next steps?

The findings from this review helped to inform a guidance consultation, ‘Retail Investment Advice: Clarifying the boundaries and exploring the barriers to market development’. The consultation aims to clarify aspects of the regulatory framework for retail investments and tackle potential barriers to the market developing further.

The thematic report summarises the findings from our review and shares positive examples of how firms are approaching the design and governance of their distribution models.

Firms should review the content of the guidance consultation and the thematic report, and consider the implications for their own distribution models.

How can I find out more?

GC14/3 Retail Investment Advice: Clarifying the boundaries and exploring the barriers to market development

The motivations, needs and drivers of non-advised investors: A qualitative research report

Project Innovate

The Financial Conduct Authority consults on guidance to clarify the boundary between different investment advice models