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Treating firms fairly?

The FSA’s treating customers fairly initiative is considered an impossibly subjective beast by many advisers and to date our principles-based regulator has refused to set down explicit rules.

But perhaps the dismal passing rate at the March deadline has encouraged the FSA to shed more light on TCF. Last week it announced it will host a string of TCF seminars for compliance consultants who work with small regulated firms.

The regulator says the seminars will provide a “greater practical understanding of what the regulator expects” in terms of its TCF principles.

They are happening in Manchester on September 19, London on October 7, Newport on October 8, Livingston on October 9 and Gloucestershire on
November 27.

This may not be of much use to the sole trader or small firm who handle their own compliance requirements but hopefully the information will be made available to all.

While news on the RDR front has come to a near standstill over the summer months, Aegon has taken the opportunity to grab some headlines with its latest research findings.

The provider is calling on the FSA to consider concepts including financial coaches, drop-in centres, personal shoppers and financial superstores as part of the RDR.

According to Aegon’s 18-month consumer research project, consumers are crying out for financial services to be structured more like weight loss groups or personal fitness companies.

Aegon says consumers want a financial guru to give high quality, holistic, ongoing and personalised financial advice and a financial coach to motivate them.

They want a drop-in centre to provide an initial problem-solving service and a personal shopper to simplify the choice available and provide products.

Aegon says a financial superstore would make buying easier for people with straightforward needs or who have a good understanding of what they want. Head of corporate affairs Francis McGee says: “There are initial signs that people might be more willing to pay for advice that is presented in the right way and designed around their lifestyle.”

And finally on the pensions front, women going through divorce will walk away a little happier after the Government made a change to pensions legislation, allowing non-members better access to benefits.

Currently part of the pension benefits received by the non-member, commonly wives, can¹t be taken before age 60 and can’t be taken as a tax-free lump sum. In comparison, the member can take benefits from age 50 and can take 25 per cent as a tax-free lump sum. These restrictions will be scrapped from April 2009.

Standard Life senior pensions policy manager Andrew Tully says: “This change is long overdue and will be especially beneficial to women, who are more likely to receive pension benefits as part of a divorce settlement. Giving people more flexibility to take pension benefits when and how it suits them best is a welcome development.

“When going through an emotional upheaval like divorce or separation, pensions are unlikely to be at the forefront of people’s minds. But starting afresh can have serious implications on your financial future, so it is crucial to take expert financial advice.”

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