FCA presses for fee-shake up amid “lack of price competition”

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has flagged up weak price competition in the British asset management industry, particularly among actively managed funds and pledges for increased transparency of costs and performance reporting.

In its 200-page interim report assessing the state of the £7trn (€8.18trn) strong asset management sector in the UK, the FCA highlighted that investors in active funds often pay higher charges than necessary due to a lack of price competition.

In addition, it highlighted that fund objectives were not always clear, and performance was not always reported against an appropriate benchmark.

While the passive fund industry was generally more competitive, the FCA also warned that examples of “poor value for money” could be found in this segment.

The British regulator suggests to address these shortcomings by proposing among others an all-in fee in order to show more clearly what is being taken from the fund, as well as enhanced reporting requirements, particularly for funds aimed at retail investors.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive at the FCA comments:“We want to see greater transparency so that investors can be clear about what they are paying and the impact charges have on their returns.  We want asset managers to ensure investors receive value for money through pursuing energetically their duty to act in their customers’ best interests.  The remedies that we are proposing today aim to achieve these outcomes.

Mike Walters, head of Investment Management Regulation, KPMG UK commented: “Today’s report is not just another review, it’s a fundamental challenge to the value for money that the active fund management industry provides to UK savers and investors.

“Firms need to think carefully about how to communicate to investors what value they add. I expect to see some consolidation of firms and funds as governance committees, intermediaries and investors increasingly question the level of fees relative to fund performance. But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that whilst the FCA found that on average the performance of actively managed funds does not represent value for money, many out-perform and some provide access to certain markets passive funds just can’t.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management welcomed the report by stressing: “..it brings focus, and a  sense of urgency, to confronting some key industry issues impacting customers.  There is a need for increased transparency in relation to the services provided, the costs of such and also for ensuring value for money. Asset managers play a vital role in helping investors achieve their financial goals and the FCA’s proposals will help deliver this. We look forward to working with the regulator and the industry to ensure all investors, large or small, receive the best possible service.”

David Ferguson, CEO at wrap platform Nucleus, highlighted: “The businesses that will really feel the pain are not only the pure asset managers, but those so-called vertically-integrated (the dictionary definition of integrated is quite important here) businesses that are using platforms (or even adviser salesforces) as loss-leaders to drive client portfolios toward fat-margin, in-house fund managers. They, and their shareholders, could be in for more than a bit of disappointment.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mona Dohle
Mona Dohle speaks German and Dutch, she is DACH & Benelux Correspondent for InvestmentEurope. Prior to that, she worked as a journalist in Egypt and Palestine. She started her career as a journalist working for a local German newspaper. Mona graduated with an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS and has completed the CISI Certificate in International Wealth and Investment Management.

Read more from Mona Dohle

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