How RDR has Changed the Advice Landscape

How was RDR received by investors and advisers? Does the advice gap exist? And have investor returns been impacted by RDR?

Emma Wall 11 May, 2017 | 11:53AM
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Emma Wall: Prior to the implementation of the Retail Distribution Review in January 2013, the majority of investors dealt with an adviser, whether it was on a regular basis or to offer periodical advice at key life events. Around 50% of the UK advisers used trail commission to help meet their annual review costs. Trail commission was a percentage fee, typically around 0.5%, paid to advisers and to fund platforms by fund providers. It was taken out of the annual management charge, and so to many investors it was as if they were receiving a free service, or at least it made it very difficult to determine how much you were actually paying for the service.

Then the Financial Services Authority, as it was known, launched a review in 2006 to improve professional standards in advice and increase transparency and compel the industry to offer advice for all. It wanted to stop advisers making investment decisions based on potential commission. By the 2013 implementation of the review, this had boiled down to a ban on advisers taking commission and ensuring that anyone advising on pensions and investments took additional qualifications.

How was RDR received? Very badly. There was a lot of negativity around the review. I remember talking to both investors and advisers at that time, and many were confused and worried about the changes. Advisers in particular were concerned about how the new business model would affect their profitability, and we did see a demise in the number of smaller firms. There was consolidation at the top as well, in order to reduce costs, through merging back offices and support staff. Some older advisers opted to sell on their book rather than take further qualifications and exams in their 50s and 60s. There were around 40,000 advisors in 2011, and today there are less than 30,000.

Some investors were confused by the concept of having to pay for something they had previously thought of as free investment advice. There were also stories of investors with smaller portfolios being dumped by their advisers. They were no longer cost effective or couldn't afford to stump up with the new upfront costs. Now, at that time, a study in 2012 by Allianz Global Investors claimed that anyone with a portfolio of less than £50,000 would not be attractive to adviser firms, and this rule has generally held up, with a recent release from Schroders echoing the view.

It is now harder for investors with small portfolios to get advice post-RDR. Many advisers have segmented their advice depending on the size of investor portfolios, meaning that for investors with small portfolios, it's very hard to get bespoke advice. Instead, you are likely to be risk-rated and sold a model portfolio based on that risk rating. Several studies have also shown that the £50,000 rule applies and if you have less than £50,000, you are just not attractive to an adviser business. There's also some difficulty with self-selecting as well, because the smaller your portfolio, the less likely you are going to want to pay an upfront fee, because of course that fee will make up a larger proportion of your assets.

It's quite difficult to tell whether there has been an effect on investor returns, partly because we've only had a rising market since RDR. Those investors who have opted for DIY have only seen a rising market and we don't know whether they've DIYed badly. The popularity of ETFs has risen as well as there has been more focus on fees, both in terms of individual investors, DIY investing and professional investors investing on their behalf. There's also been a rise in the number of multi-manager, fund-of-funds and risk-rated outcome fund launches within the industry to meet investor demand post-RDR.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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Emma Wall  is former Senior International Editor for Morningstar

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