And it’s lovely and all that, and I’m glad for the publicans and the restauranteurs, but can I just make it clear right now that anyone trying to engage in wanton hugging round here will be given such an Edinburgh lemon-sooking hard stare that even Donald Dewar himself would have recoiled.

Ho, ho. Just kidding. Go ahead and make the most of it all in the way that makes most sense to you. I just hope you can do a bit better than the chap on the news who embraced his newly-regained freedoms by…waiting outside a Wetherspoons until it opened for the breakfast shift and straight away ordering, no, really, a pint of Carling. Stony ground indeed.

While some are busy softening their brains with macro yeast excrement, the regulator has been busy putting out some new Stuff. And for once, said Stuff is welcome. Not “come away in, take your pick of the bottles on the top shelf, it’s on me” level welcome, but at least pint-of-local-craft-IPA welcome.

Three recent pronouncements are worthy of your lunch eyeballing – we’ll start with this Mark Steward speech on scams, which while not enough (it can never be enough) is at least an acknowledgement that scam prevention is important and needs to get a lot better.

Once you’ve read that, you may turn to this on claims management companies phoenixing. The release includes a wee reference to a well-known larger-than-life adviser who was found wanting, and then had a claims management company set up through his wife to handle claims against himself so he could take a slice of compensation. What larks, Pip. What a scumbag.

But the big one is the new Consumer Duty (huh, huh, duty) proposed in Consultation Paper CP21/13. As our very own Mike Barrett pointed out, the FCA has pumped out 270 pages of consultation this month, and CP21/13 is 56 of them. Sophie King has a good summary in Professional Adviser, so I won’t bother doing another one as I’m too lazy. Instead let’s think about what this could really mean.

The whole idea is to push greater accountability for doing the right thing onto manufacturers. Distributors – MiFID II’s lovely word for advisers (amongst others) – already have a whole heap of (huh, huh) duties. But manufacturers are still footling around with TCF, AoV, target market definitions and all the rest of it, and it’s not doing the trick.

So firstly, the Consumer Duty has the potential to replace TCF. That feels right; TCF is 15 years old, believe it or not, and is long overdue its appointment behind the woodshed. Instead we get a high-level principle about having customers’ best interests at heart, some expectations of behaviour which is effectively the Hippocratic oath for manufacturers, and then some detail in the form of four outcomes, which really does have some interesting stuff in it. Check 6.1 and 6.4 out – Outcome: communications equip consumers to make effective, timely and properly informed decisions about financial products and services.” and “Outcome: the price of products and services represents fair value for consumers.”

The first one replaces “clear, fair and not misleading” and is clearly a higher bar for marketing communications. Nowhere does it say “ach, if an adviser’s involved you don’t need to understand it all.” This single sentence has the potential to be profoundly disturbing to lots of entrenched practices – 65-page T&Cs for a start – but also to require firms and providers to start thinking in a more joined-up fashion about how consumers – you know, the meatsacks with the money – should be more empowered.

The second one is the clearest statement yet that the FCA isn’t and yet totally is a price regulator. Excuse the big paragraph quote, but it’s worth it:

“We are not proposing to set the levels at which firms should price their products or services. Nor do we intend to use the proposed rule itself to introduce market interventions, such as price caps or other price interventions, as we have done for example in the rent to own and overdrafts markets. In future we may need to use our regulatory tools to make such interventions where markets are failing to deliver fair value. But the aim of our proposal is to require firms to give greater consideration to theprice and the role it plays in relation to the fair valueof products and services. This should reduce theneed forusto make any suchfuturemarket-wide inventions.”

Even the guy swilling Carling can tell what that’s driving at; price may not be the same thing as suitability but my goodness it’s a big part of it.

Enough for now. This is just the start of a consultation process. There’s a long way to go and if you want to have your say you shouldn’t hesitate to respond; I’m sure your trade bodies will too. Let’s just say that most regulation stops at your client’s front door; the new Duty has the potential to stick to you more strongly than the soles of your shoes to a ‘Spoons floor. Don’t ignore it.

DUTIFUL LINKS

  • #HomeGames this week welcomes Ross Laurie of Visible Capital. If you’re interested in data, what it could do, how it moves and what advisers can make of it, then this is for you. Ross also had his first ‘rona vaccination on Monday and has what is known as a bad ‘jabover’, so this could be really funny. Kidding. He’s great and this will be too. Come join us at 12.30pm.
  • You know how no-one is launching new robo-advisers? No-one told Goldman Sachs. It’s almost like the £25bn in Marcus has gone to their heads or something.
  • Even the Swiss want to invest in UK financial advice. To the moon! HODL!
  • An early punt for next week’s #HomeGames too – Tamsin Caine is our guest and it will be new feline Natalie Holt’s first ever shot in the Hosting Chair. Come cheer her on.
  • And your music choice this week is Scotland’s Shame from perennial Update favourites Mogwai. Posted without comment.

See you next week.

Mark