Financial sector regulators globally have been taking measures to protect financial services consumers. The FCA in the UK, for instance, has been spearheading financial services regulation in the lending sector to ensure borrowers are safe from unscrupulous lenders.
The FCA’s regulatory reforms started in the payday loan sector and are expected to shift focus to regular banks as the FCA looks to protect all borrowers from unnecessary charges.
While the UK financial services regulator is busy streamlining the financial services industry, countries like Canada among many others are following suit. So what are the global trends being experienced in financial service regulation?
According to the 2017 Global Regulatory Development & Impacts report, global financial services regulation is focusing on; enhancing transparency, imposing statutory best interest on advisors, banning embedded commissions and improving advisory proficiency. The report touches on financial services regulation implemented in 16 countries. There are many variations in the report in regards to the type of financial products under regulation.
The report reveals that there is a special emphasis on restrictions imposed on investment products in some jurisdictions while other jurisdictions focus on almost all financial products ranging from investment to insurance, deposit, and mortgage as well as other commission driven products. Different countries have also approached conflict of interest issues differently indicating differing market characteristics. Nevertheless, something is being done globally in regards to financial services regulation. Below is a summary of the major global trends.
1. Most countries favour enhanced disclosure
Most countries globally are in favour of financial industry players improving disclosure as part of the new financial policies and principles. Out of all the 16 countries reviewed in the Global Regulatory Development & Impacts report, the U.S. is the only country that hasn’t implemented enhanced disclosure initiatives. This trend focuses on ensuring financial industry players offer their customers as much detailed information as possible on fees and commissions to boost transparency.
2. Most countries are in favour of banning embedded commissions although few have taken action
The report also indicates that most countries have reviewed options to ban embedded commissions. This move has been spearheaded by securities regulators in many jurisdictions however, only the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands and South Africa have proceeded to ban embedded commissions. This represents just 13% of the $39.4 trillion global mutual fund assets market. In most of the markets that have implemented the ban, the decision was triggered by local circumstances. In the U.K. for instance, the ban was triggered by scandals in the financial industry. In Australia, the ban was triggered in reaction to the collapse of three main financial industry firms.
In seven countries namely; Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Singapore and New Zealand, the governments as well as securities regulators have ruled out banning embedded commissions entirely but promised to take some action.
Europe, on the other hand, has proposed to restrict independent advisors from receiving commissions. Some analysts, however, claim that these efforts aren’t enough since the independent advice channel is the smallest in the EU funds industry representing 11% of the total assets. Most fund sales in the EU are done via banks where the restrictions don’t apply.
3. Few countries have a best interest standard
Although most countries have expressed interest in creating a fiduciary/best interest standard, Australia happens to be the only country with a broad statutory best interest standard in place for advisors in the retail funds’ industry. The U.S. has made some steps in the right direction as well by adopting a rule which makes the definition of fiduciary more extensive under the employment retirement income security law. This change makes investment advisers offering retirement advice as well as insurance agents and broker-dealers subject to a fiduciary standard. The rule was supposed to come into full effect on 9th June 2017.
There is a collective global effort to improve financial services regulation. Most countries are however in the formative stages of reform. The U.K. led the way with the FCA by introducing tough regulation against unscrupulous payday loan lenders to protect the huge population dependent on payday loans. The U.K. must do more in regards to regulating other financial industry players.
But let’s not forget most countries including Britain only started making financial services regulatory changes recently. It will take time before the success of ongoing and already established changes is evaluated conclusively globally. In the UK however, the FAMR (Financial Advice Market Review) has already seen major improvements in the financial advice industry. The U.K. now boasts of offering better quality financial advice. However, accessibility is still an issue. There is a need to do more, faster, in the U.K. and the world at large although the world is on the right path in regards to financial services regulation.