IA Fintech Member Insights: Funds Axis

 

Introduction

In this regulatory briefing we consider whether the FCA Assessment of Value process will lead to real change in product governance processes for the benefit of investors, or if firms will use this merely as a “tickbox” exercise to satisfy a regulatory requirement.

 

“Assessment of Value is already an integrated part of our product governance and we dealt with all shareclass issues as part of the RDR process.” Wishful thinking!

 

Some Managers may argue that product governance under MiFID 2 and PRIIPS, as well as the RDR changes from 2012, have already dealt with the issues around value for money.

 

However, given that ESMA research has shown that retail investors can pay up to twice as much as institutional investors for substantially similar products, and that the FCA’s research in the Asset Management Market Study found evidence of weak price competition and did not find any clear relationship between fund charges and fund performance, it is unsurprising that regulators are seeking significant change in how firms view and respond to Assessment of Value.

 

Christopher Woolard, the FCA’s Executive Director of Strategy and Competition said:

 

“The investment choices open to people, and the decisions they make on how to invest, can have a profound impact on their financial health. They can also have consequences for their families, as well as society as a whole. That’s why it is important the asset management industry, which looks after the savings of millions of investors, is working as well as possible. But our market study found evidence of weak price competition in a number of areas.”

 

“Today’s announcements are an important part of a package of measures that, combined, aim to achieve a fair, transparent, open and accountable market.”

 

With the first batch of assessments expected in January 2020 and further reports due over the coming months, we have already seen the new rules being embraced by many across the industry which can only lead to a myriad of benefits to investors.

 

Intended Benefits

The new rules aim at strengthening the duty of asset managers to act in the best interests of their investors through increased scrutiny carried out by the board of the fund manager, and greater transparency via the annual reports.

The intended benefits of the Assessment of Value requirement include:

  • lower prices for investors;
  • better quality service;
  • greater innovation through more effective competition; and
  • improved transparency.

 

Assessment of Value can also serve the purpose of building greater trust and confidence in the asset management industry.

 

Although the potential benefits of AOV cannot be denied, the real question is whether it will lead to real change from the industry or whether the industry will merely pay lip-service. In our view, it will lead to real change and indeed we are already seeing this as well as a number of additional consequential impacts on the industry.

 

Practical Consequences for the Industry

In addition to the FCA’s stated benefits for investors, we foresee the following consequences of change, both short-term and long-term:

 

  1. In the short-term (Year 1), the consequences will include remedying of outlier fund and shareclasses by Managers, including:
  • Closure of legacy Retail Distribution Review (RDR) shareclasses;
  • Some shareclass consolidations / closures; and
  • Some reduction of outlier charges.

 

  1. Over the longer-term, the Assessment of Value exercise will be another driver in the push towards a smaller number of larger funds and in the shift from active to passive fund management strategies.

 

Although the new rules are less interventionist than some of the proposals initially mooted by the FCA, there is still reason to be optimistic about the rules leading to real change and fund managers delivering greater value for customers.

 

Funds-Axis View – Real Change

In our view, the Assessment of Value process will lead to real change, for a number of key reasons:

  1. The new prescribed responsibility for Boards and Senior Management and the requirement to make public the results of the fund assessments will mean that the exercise is taken seriously;

 

  1. With fund now having to justify their pricing and consumer outcomes publicly, reputations will be at risk;

 

  1. After the first round of reporting, we can expect the emergence of statements on good and poor practice that will lead to even further improvements being made;

 

  1. For larger managers, with fund ranges in multiple domiciles, this will include reviewing the ranges across all domiciles;

 

  1. The ready availability of whole-of-market industry data makes it straightforward for regulators, the financial press, distributors and investors to all perform a wide range of comparative analysis and scrutiny in respect of costs, risk, performance and closet trackers.

 

Authorised fund managers (AFMs) need to explain the assessment annually in a public report. There is no prescribed format for the report.

This can either be included in the fund’s annual report or in a separate document published within 4 months of the fund’s annual accounting period end date, effective for periods ending on or after 30 September 2019. Where funds have later accounting dates, Boards will have the advantage of waiting to see what others funds have published.

 

Funds-Axis AOV solution, powered by whole-of-market data from FE fundinfo, provides firms with a comprehensive and efficient toolkit for conducting the assessment of value exercise in a cost-efficient and streamlined way.

To find out more and to arrange a demo, email info@funds-axis.com or +44 (0) 28 9032 9736.