Debbie Gupta took over as co-director for financial advice and life insurance at the FCA last year. She will be taking a deep dive into where the regulator really stands when it comes to advisers with a presentation at our Money Marketing Interactive conference in April.
Before taking to the stage, she discusses why she is optimistic about improving professionalism and getting the right solutions for the right clients.
What is the most encouraging advice market trend you are seeing at the moment?
Advisers focussing on improving professionalism. We are seeing an increasing number of advisers continuing their studying and pushing on towards Level 6 and Chartered status.
There is a greater focus on continuing professional development and we have seen more and more advisers attending events that support this. We are seeing many more firms seeking to do the right thing for consumers. For example, many firms provided valuable intelligence to help us in our work on the British Steel Pension Scheme.
How can advisers best show their fees are worth it?
It is important that firms think about the different client needs and tailor their propositions to meet them. Mifid II introduced a new suitability requirement requiring firms to opt for the cheapest/simplest products where available. The new costs and charges disclosure requirement in Mifid II will also help firms demonstrate their added value.
In an ageing society, where consumers are increasingly reliant on retirement income to support their standards of living, and are often perplexed and bamboozled by the variety of products on the market, financial advice that brings peace of mind is to be valued.
What do you think marks out a truly innovative planning practice today?
We set up the Advice Unit to encourage innovation within the advisory sector. Innovation isn’t just about technology, but can also involve the outlook firms have towards their advice.
A common feature of innovative firms is that they are effective in building a culture of challenge towards the services they provide. Such firms constantly question how the evolving environment affects their business. For example, the introduction of the pension freedoms has led several firms to consider how whether their investment proposition still meets the changing needs of their clients in retirement.
What is the one key skill all aspiring advisers should learn?
Advisers and advice firms should prioritise learning to make ‘acting in the customer’s best interest’ a meaningful cultural driver of ‘what good looks like.’ The key test for culture is that people do the right thing even when there id no rule or guidance to help them. It sometimes feels like we have a long way to go to have confidence we have the culture right in the financial advice sector.
If you could make a magic wand, what one thing would you change about how the advice profession operates in the UK?
Its reputation as a trusted and objective service, particularly to vulnerable consumers. Financial professionals are consistently rated as less trustworthy than, for example, healthcare or other public service professionals.