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FCA holds fire on orphan clients and platform inducement rules

The FCA will not ban platforms from imposing extra fees on orphan clients or introduce tougher inducement rules for non-monetary benefits.

In its study into competition between platforms released today, the watchdog says it is no longer considering action to prevent orphan clients from being overcharged for services they no longer use.

But the regulator does say it will follow up with firms that do, asking them to demonstrate that they are treating their customers fairly.

In its previous findings, the FCA estimated 400,000 orphan clients held more £10bn of assets on platforms and estimated 10,000 of them were paying additional charges of £1.2m a year.

Some adviser platforms were charging orphan clients 0.5 per cent in addition to their pre-existing platform charges.

The platform providers that charged orphan clients additional fee argued that they were needed to cover regulatory and administrative costs.

But the FCA study published today says: “The existing requirements for advisers and existing platform controls should mitigate the risk of material harm from orphan clients paying for advice they do not receive. Platforms also appear to have appropriate processes for communicating with orphan clients and providing options to switch or help to find a new adviser.”

The watchdog goes onto say advisers are responsible for notifying platform of their orphan clients.

This means platforms are therefore not required to proactively seek out potentially orphaned clients by monitoring inactive accounts where a client still pays an ongoing charge.

Regarding inducements, the FCA adds firms appear to understand their responsibilities to ensure they neither provide nor accept inducements.

It says firms should continue to consider whether the non-monetary benefits they offer or receive are permissible under existing inducement rules.

The FCA also said it plans to either ban or cap platform exit fees after a review of the market.

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  1. Platforms should have a clear policy and process for orphan clients. They should introduce some MI and oversight to monitor for unusual activity and potential deaths and gone-aways. Where such a process is implemented and resourced, then increased platform charges in place of some of the adviser fees is justified.

    The danger of completely neglecting these clients is not only a poor customer outcome and the risk of fraud but it also creates downstream operational problems in resolving dormant accounts and cleansing records that may be essential where an upgrade or migration is required.

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