Financial advice reforms set to come under MP scrutiny

LONDON Fri Sep 6, 2013 12:00pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Politicians may take a fresh look next year at recent changes to the way Britons receive financial advice, which critics say has left people less likely to get any help.

Mark Garnier, a Conservative Party legislator who sits on the Treasury Select Committee which scrutinises financial issues, said he expected the committee to review how the system is working next summer.

Garnier said there appeared to be problems with aspects of the new rules and he was concerned it could make it more costly for his constituents to get independent advice.

Britain's financial watchdog introduced the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) at the start of this year. It made fees for financial advice more transparent and raised minimum qualifications for advisers, after a series of mis-selling scandals in recent years.

But critics say a hefty upfront fee means low- and middle-income families will likely opt not to get any advice at all.

"The possibility of conducting further work on the RDR next year has been discussed by the Committee," a spokesman for the Treasury Committee said, adding it had not yet agreed whether to hold an inquiry.

HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander UK have cut 4,000 advisers in the past two years after changing business models to adapt to the new system.

They have reduced the advice on offer or changed their fee structures - such as by charging an upfront fee of 500 pounds or 1,000 pounds - or restricted advice to customers with 50,000 pounds or more to invest.

Garnier, a former investment banker, has criticised elements of the RDR in the past and in July 2001 the Treasury Committee recommended the regulator should delay RDR implementation by a year. The watchdog rejected the proposal.

(Editing by David Holmes)

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