As we edge closer to 1 July, 2011, financial advisers are spending most of their waking moments preparing for the new regulatory regime which will clearly identify those advisers who are authorized to give financial advice on investment products and those who are not. Financial advisers who are not authorized have some significant decisions to make about what happens to their investment clients. Investment products generate ongoing commission or fees and this stream of revenue is an asset which can be sold. Some advisers have chosen to sell their clients to authorized advisers. Some have sold their investment business back to the product providers using a ‘buyer of last resort’ facility. Some advisers are hoping, rather foolishly, that no-one will notice they are collecting fees or commission from investment clients to whom they are not authorized to give advice. An even more disturbing response is that some advisers are planning to ask their investment clients to sign a waiver stating that they do not wish to receive personal advice, that they wish to make their own decisions and therefore that they are transactional clients only. This could be seen as a blatant attempt to sidestep the new regulations and any investor asked to sign such a waiver should seek expert advice before signing it. No doubt the Financial Markets Authority will be taking a keen interest in this practice. The additional costs for authorized financial advisers, including registration and authorization fees, levies, membership of a dispute resolution scheme along with the increased amount of time required to document advice mean that inevitably investors will have to pay more for advice and commissions are likely to be replaced with fees. Investors should regard this as a positive move as along with the increased cost will come improved service and quality of advice.
There is a worldwide trend for investors to want to make a positive contribution to the world by investing in companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. If you are passionate about the effects of climate change, the scarcity of food and water, and social or environmental policies in general, then you will no doubt wish to ensure that the companies in which you invest are going about their business in a manner that is consistent with your views.