UK financial watchdog says mortgage advice can be improved

Taylor Scott International News

Most people in the UK get suitable advice when they take out a mortgage but there is still room for an improvement in standards, according to a review by the UK’s financial watchdog. Two studies from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that many lenders have taken significant steps to provide advice for the first time. These firms, and those that have always provided advice, should now focus on delivering consistently good outcomes for customers. They also found that while there was no evidence of systemic customer detriment, some firms were failing to take reasonable steps to obtain sufficient, relevant information about customers’ needs and circumstances before making recommendations. Although 59% of advice provided to customers was assessed as suitable, with only a small number of cases assessed as demonstrably unsuitable, the basis for 38% of recommendations was unclear. The consumer research highlighted that some customers place the greatest importance on the initial monthly payment to the detriment of other factors. This can dictate whether they think a mortgage is a ‘good deal’ or not. ‘A mortgage is a significant undertaking for anyone. It is vital that customers are able to get suitable advice and a positive experience when deciding on their options. Some firms were able to provide this, but not all,’ said Linda Woodall, acting director of supervision at the FCA. ‘Although we welcome the considerable work of those firms delivering advice for the first time, and particularly those that have proactively identified issues within their own processes, there is still scope for improvement. We’ll continue working with firms to ensure they deliver good outcomes for consumers,’ she added. Following the review, the FCA said it will continue to work with industry to address the issues identified. Individual feedback to firms visited as part of the study has already been given, together with actions required as a result of the findings. Some firms assessed had already independently identified issues with their advice processes, and were making changes to improve their service to consumers. The review also found that many lenders had made significant efforts to deliver advice for the first time by investing in systems, front line staff and operational capability. Some firms were relying on highly structured processes. This often resulted in lengthy, stilted and repetitive conversations with consumers which limited the adviser’s ability to engage effectively and properly assess needs and circumstances. By contrast, other firms delivered advice with little or no structure, resulting in inconsistent quality of advice and a higher chance of unsuitable recommendations. The best performing firms have demonstrated that it is possible to strike an appropriate balance. The review of advice and distribution forms part of the FCA’s wider programme of mortgages work. Its thematic review into responsible lending commenced in April 2015 and from autumn this year, the FCA will begin a wider assessment of barriers to competition, with a view to launching a market study in early 2016 on those aspects of the… Continue reading →

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