MM Leader: FSA fails to offer guiding RDR transition light

The FSA last week published its answers to the top questions it says were asked at its recent retail distribution review roadshows.

The answers appear in this week’s Money Marketing and further information can be found on the regulator’s website.

They provide useful guidance on some RDR misconceptions but what is most noticeable about the list is that it does not touch on many of the big business transition concerns and questions advisers need answering in the run-up to January 1, 2013.

The simple reason why these important questions were not included is that the regulatory bodies have yet to figure out the answers.

Advisers, trade bodies and professional bodies have all spoken out about their concerns regarding a lack of clarity over the VAT treatment of advice services. HM Revenue & Customs recently called for help from IFAs in drawing up the guidance but there is no word on when this will appear.

The FSA’s upcoming guidance consultation and subsequent rules on legacy commission may have a massive impact on some firms depending on where the regulator sets the boundaries on what it considers new advice. It is still unclear when firms will get these final rules.

The regulator’s recent platform policy statement failed to give the industry a definitive guide to what charging structures will be allowed. Although the FSA stated its desire to ban both cash rebates to investors and payments between providers and platforms, it will conduct further research before making a final decision.

Considering the way the regulator has flip-flopped through the consultation, there may be a further twist before the final rules are agreed.

With many firms looking at creating a layered advice offering that may well include simplified advice, last week’s confirmation of a delay in publishing guidance until later this year was yet another frustration.

None of this means firms cannot continue on their RDR transition journey and this lack of clarity is not an excuse to stick heads in the sand. The principles and general direction of the RDR are clear.

However, as the FSA continues to cling to this arbitrary deadline, it must appreciate that the huge uncertainty surrounding so many issues is making the journey far more difficult than it need be and that those calling for pragmatism are realists, not ostriches.