FSA Retail Conduct Risk Outlook 2012

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1 March 2012 FSA Retail Conduct Risk Outlook 2012 Summary The FSA has published its Retail Conduct Risk Outlook (RCRO) for The RCRO sets out the FSA s assessment of the 15 most significant retail conduct risks for the coming 18 months. These are risks arising from a firm s conduct in their direct relationships with consumers, or where they have a direct duty to retail customers. The RCRO covers the prevailing macroeconomic and environmental factors impacting firms and consumers as well as the identified key risks. Environmental themes. The RCRO outlines a number of environmental factors that will impact firms over the coming months and years. These factors include: Regulatory change as a driver of a firm s strategy Changes impacting life insurers including Test Achats case and Solvency II implementation General insurers low investment returns and price competition Retail intermediaries changing regulatory environment and difficult market conditions The Risks The RCRO highlights 15 broad risk categories. Within those categories risks are categorised as current, emerging or potential. Those of most interest include: Aligning business models and treating customers fairly reducing risk of mis-selling Complexity in retail investment products worries over mis-selling and product development robustness Firms responses to regulatory change includes RDR, Solvency II and Mortgage Market Review General insurance concerns raised include rise in use of add-ons and new payment protection products Governance of funds in life offices management of with profits funds Investment risk profiling use of platforms Mortgages FSA continue to monitor unfair treatment of consumers Pensions and retirement planning issues relating to decumulation, SIPPs and transfer values. For the full report visit: The Chartered Insurance Institute

2 Background The FSA s Retail Conduct Risk Outlook (RCRO) sets out the priority risks arising from firms conduct towards retail customers. Last year was the first time that the FSA had split its risk outlook, with one document concentrating on conduct risks and another covering prudential risks. This reflects UK financial regulation changes with the splitting of the FSA into the so-called twin peaks regime, consisting of the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that will come into being in This year s RCRO differs from 2011 in that it presents the Regulator s view of the 15 highest priority conduct risks over the next year. The paper considers the environmental factors that are driving firms and consumer behaviour. This provides the context for the 15 risks the FSA identify as key for the coming year. The Key Risk Drivers Consumer Related Challenges The outlook for the financial services industry is closely linked to the prospects for the UK macro-economy. In a challenging economic environment, households have seen their incomes and personal finances affected by macroeconomic changes, such as high inflation, and many remain vulnerable should conditions change. Real household income declined in 2011 as a result of price and tax increases. For some households, flat debt levels and low interest payments on secured debt are helping offset this fall, with a decrease in the share of income spent on debt interest payments. Having reached the pre-2000 long term average, the savings ratio fell from 2009 to Last year saw this trend change, perhaps in light of increasing economic uncertainty. The RCRO details FSA commissioned research into areas of concern for consumers in their relationship with retail financial services providers. Whilst there were some examples of good practice, the majority of respondents felt that providers fell short of their promises and that this had resulted in an erosion of trust. Key concerns as highlighted by the research are given below: Pressure selling: The general consensus was that providers, especially banks, are too proactive in terms of sales. Consumers are also conscious of up-selling products that are not necessarily suitable for them. Some consumers also felt that staff had inadequate levels of product knowledge and training. Lack of ongoing service and focus on new customers: Consumers felt that firms priority is on immediate product sales rather than building an ongoing relationship. Poor complaints handling: The majority of consumers thought there was no point in making a complaint. A single point of contact was cited as something that would help improve matters. Complexity and volume of communications: Consumers commented that communications from providers were too large in volume and full of jargon. Changing terms and conditions: There were instances where consumers had suffered detrimentally as a result of changes made without notice or for reasons not included in their policy. Firm Related Challenges Firms face a number of differing environmental challenges over the coming months and years and these provide a context against which the 15 key risks identified by the FSA can be viewed especially as they may well influence a firm s interaction with consumers or what consumers might need from providers. The RCRO outlines a number of recurring themes: CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 2

3 Regulatory change continues to be an important driver of firms strategies and business models across a number of sectors. The unprecedented extent of concurrent changes affecting life insurers continues to put significant pressure on their business models, accelerating the contraction of the sector. Various factors will exert upward pressure on life product pricing: including the European Court s Test-Achats decision on gender pricing of insurance premiums, low nominal interest rates, increasing longevity and Solvency II capital requirements. General insurers earnings remain under pressure from low investment returns and increasingly intense price competition in core markets (e.g. motor) compounded by the increasing importance of distribution through aggregators. Changes in the regulatory environment remain a key concern for financial advisers, with market conditions remaining particularly challenging for mortgage intermediaries, and changes to regulatory requirements affecting GI brokers. The Risks For the first time the FSA s RCRO groups risks into 15 broad categories, with the aim of making clearer those risks they regard as high priority. Within each category risks are then classified as either: current issues (clear consumer detriment); emerging (evidence of poor conduct but no consumer detriment yet); and potential (may emerge in future depending on conditions). For those issues of most interest to our members we provide details of the FSA s analysis. Aligning business models to fair treatment of consumers Firms reward schemes (emerging): Such schemes, as well as growing a business, could lead to consumer detriment. Firms should remember their treating customers fairly responsibilities. Changing business models in the life insurance sector (potential): There is a risk that non-core parts of the business receive less investment. Also some insurers are looking to adopt aggressive growth strategies. This could have a negative impact on consumers (mis-selling etc). Finally the change in the product mix could cause problems if not properly communicated or if new products are less suitable. Complexity in retail investment products and services Structured investment products (current): Concerns raised over potential mis-selling and robustness in product development. Traded Life Policy Investments & Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes (UCIS) (both current): both have seen consumers suffer detriment. There will be a conduct review of the rules relating to UCIS later in the year. Firms responses to regulatory and/or legislative change RDR: The FSA has identified two risks o o transition (emerging): the FSA will continue to monitor firm behaviour in the run up to the deadline. business model change following RDR (potential): here the FSA raises concerns over sales biases, increased consumer costs relating to ongoing service, provider influence and strain on advisers compliance functions. CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 3

4 Solvency II (potential): The FSA speculates that insurers may change their product offering as a response to Solvency II. Mortgage Market Review (potential): There is a risk that firms might try to increase written business before new requirements come into force, resulting in poorer quality mortgage approvals. Pensions reform (potential): There is the possibility that advisers could incorrectly recommend an employee to opt out of a workplace scheme, meaning they miss out on employer contributions. Gender pricing in insurance (potential): The primary concern here is that firms may fail to make appropriate changes to their systems and controls to ensure that the pricing is in line with the new requirements. There is also the risk that consumers might not receive sufficient information on the changes. General insurance Consumers focus on initial premium (emerging): The varying quality of general insurance policies makes it more complex for consumers to find the right deal and means that they cannot rely on shopping around based only on the headline price. Products of limited value (emerging): The FSA has raised concerns about firms designing insurance products, bundled with other services, which are of limited use to consumers. Add-ons (emerging): Some firms incentivise staff to sell add-ons (which have high profit margins) without explaining the cover properly. Payment protection products (potential): Firms have developed new forms of payment protection products and the FSA has warned firms that the failings identified with PPI should not be repeated. Governance of funds in life offices Management of the risk profile of Life Assurance Funds (emerging): The FSA has raised concerns that some insurance firms have poor governance and control practices relating to their unit-linked funds. Consumers could as a result make decisions that do not match their risk appetite. With profits funds operation (emerging): The inherent complexity of the product, lack of transparency and potential conflict of interests inherent in the operation of with-profits products can increase the risk that firms may not manage the funds appropriately and result in them not meeting the policyholder s needs and expectations. Host authorised corporate directors covers worries over conflicts of interest. Inadequate complaints handling includes complaints in major banks and PPI mis-selling Investment propositions Use of platforms (emerging): Concerns include Advisers may not adequately consider the suitability of the overall investment solution (product, funds, platform and advisory services) for individual consumers, instead adopting a one size fits all approach. Also IFAs may consider the platform as the default option and inadequately consider the whole of market when advising individual clients. Centralised investment proposition (emerging): There can be a number of benefits to adopting a centralised investment proposition however the FSA raises the risk of clients being shoe-horned into a one-size-fits-all solution and also it questions the transparency of fee disclosure. CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 4

5 Investment risk profiling Consumers may not understand the risks they need to take to achieve potentially higher yields. The potential for unsuitable sales therefore remains high. Investor compensation protection cover the Investor Compensation Scheme Directive (EU legislation). Mortgages The FSA continues to monitor firms who have employed inappropriate strategies to maintain revenues and/or secure new business. They are also monitoring unfair treatment of consumers in arrears and unfair terms in contracts. The FCRO also highlights concerns on issues around the maturity of interest-only mortgages, inappropriate use of innovation and fraudulent practices in buy-to-let (where regulated contracts should have been entered into). Pensions and retirement planning Self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) (emerging): The FSA has three main concerns relating to SIPPs: poor controls creating the potential for consumer detriment generally; capital adequacy; and UCIS being held within SIPPs. Enhanced transfer value pensions transfer (emerging): Enhanced Transfer Values (ETVs) are incentives paid to deferred members of a defined benefit (DB) pension to transfer to a personal or stakeholder pension. Expectations are for continued growth in the ETV market as DB pension schemes continue to de-risk. Work in this area has already uncovered poor advice. Updated rules on pension transfers are expected later this year. Decumulation: The RCRO identifies the potential for mis-selling income drawdown products, as advisers are likely to need to consider other variables (capacity for loss, risk, higher costs, etc) that are not typically considered when an annuity is purchased. Consumers have the potential to suffer detriment if they are sold an income drawdown type product when an annuity would have been more appropriate to their circumstances. This risk has the potential to affect all those people entering retirement in the near future. Product bundling This primarily covers current account bundles. Projections Systems and controls weaknesses in the network model The FSA s ongoing supervisory activity continues to identify emerging risks arising from control and oversight issues in network firms. These issues relate to the oversight of appointed representative activity, monitoring procedures and levels of compliance resource within networks. As the RDR implementation deadline moves closer, pressure is likely to increase on firms to complete the implementation of adviser charging and to have progressed sufficient advisers qualified to Level 4 standard to deliver their business plans. This may place further strain on compliance and systems resource in the short term and may have a financial impact beyond CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 5

6 Next Steps The FSA calls on firms to review the RCRO and assess the relevance of risks highlighted and whether appropriate systems are in place. The FSA will also be publishing its Business Plan shortly. This will set out the regulator s programme of work for the year ahead to address the risks highlighted by the RCRO. CII Group Policy & Public Affairs March 2012 The CII is the world s leading professional organisation for insurance and financial services, with over 100,000 members in 150 countries. We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of technical expertise and ethical conduct in the profession through research, education and accreditation. In 2012 we are celebrating our Centenary as a Chartered body. For more information on the CII and its policy and public affairs function, including examples of the range of issues in financial services and insurance that we cover, please see: Please do not hesitate to contact us: Daniel Pedley, Public Affairs Manager, tel , CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 6

7 Annex A Insurance Sector Map 1. Key environmental trends in the RCRO of particular relevance to the Insurance Sector (sections 4.3 and 4.4 in Chapter A) Life Insurance Sector (section 4.3 in Chapter A) The unprecedented extent of concurrent changes affecting life insurers continues to put significant pressure on their business models, driving ongoing restructuring in the sector and possibly accelerating its contraction. For example, high asset price volatility and low economic growth continue to create short to medium-term balance sheet pressure. They also limit the demand for life investment products by consumers, with a negative impact on insurers revenues. The trend of net business outflows from the sector highlighted in the RCRO 2011 continued, reflecting a mix of long-term factors (e.g. increased payouts as more people retire and live longer, reduction in sales of policies over the last decade and high and/or rising levels of lapses) coupled with increasing competitive pressures from alternative savings and investment providers. Annuity providers remain particularly vulnerable to renewed widening of credit spreads on bond portfolios and continuing increases in longevity. Regulatory initiatives will significantly influence the life insurance sector. The combination of RDR, Solvency II and the introduction of the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) brings opportunities to some firms but also represents a significant challenge for the sector. GI and Protection Sector (section 4.4 in Chapter A) General insurers earnings remain under pressure from low investment returns and intensified price competition in core markets (e.g. motor), which has been compounded by the increasing role of aggregators. Critical illness, health and income protection lines may also be exposed to demand-side pressures. Demand may particularly reduce where cover is linked to debt products, such as personal loans that may fall in popularity as households attempt to deleverage. Intermediaries (including mortgage and insurance brokers) generate the largest share of home insurance and protection premiums. Banks play an increasingly important role in the distribution of certain types of life and protection products. Continuing competitive challenges may lead some general insurers to seek alternative sources of growth and profitability. For example, household, travel and pet insurance provide natural cross-selling opportunities for motor writers. 2. Key risks in the RCRO particularly relevant to the Life Insurance Sector Aligning business models to the fair treatment of consumers o Firms reward polices and practices ( ) o Changing business models in the life insurance sector (3.1.3) Firms responses to regulatory and/or legislative change CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 7

8 o Transition to the RDR ( ) o Business model change following RDR ( ) o Solvency II (3.3.3) o Pensions reform (3.3.5) o Gender pricing in insurance (3.3.6) Governance of funds in life offices o Communication and management of the risk profile of Life Assurance funds (3.5.1) o With-profits funds operation (3.5.2) Investment Propositions o Use of platforms (3.8.1) o Investment risk profiling (3.9) Pension and retirement planning o Self-invested personal pensions (3.12.1) o Decumulation (3.12.3) o Projections (3.14) 3. Key risks in the RCRO particularly relevant to the General Insurance Sector Aligning business models to the fair treatment of consumers o Firms reward polices and practices ( ) Firms responses to regulatory and/or legislative change o Solvency II (3.3.3) o Gender pricing in insurance (3.3.6) General insurance o Consumers focus on initial premium (3.4.1) 2. Key risks in the RCRO particularly relevant to the Life Insurance Sector Aligning business models to the fair treatment of consumers o Firms reward polices and practices ( ) o Changing business models in the life insurance sector (3.1.3) Firms responses to regulatory and/or legislative change CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 8

9 o Transition to the RDR ( ) o Business model change following RDR ( ) o Solvency II (3.3.3) o Pensions reform (3.3.5) o Gender pricing in insurance (3.3.6) Governance of funds in life offices o Communication and management of the risk profile of Life Assurance funds (3.5.1) o With-profits funds operation (3.5.2) Investment Propositions o Use of platforms (3.8.1) o Investment risk profiling (3.9) Pension and retirement planning o Self-invested personal pensions (3.12.1) o Decumulation (3.12.3) o Projections (3.14) 3. Key risks in the RCRO particularly relevant to the General Insurance Sector Aligning business models to the fair treatment of consumers o Firms reward polices and practices ( ) o Firms responses to regulatory and/or legislative change o Solvency II (3.3.3) o Gender pricing in insurance (3.3.6) General insurance o Consumers focus on initial premium (3.4.1) o Products of limited value (3.4.2) o Add-ons (3.4.3) o Payment protection products (3.4.4) Product bundling o Packaged accounts (3.13.1) CII Group Policy & Public Affairs 9

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