“The delivery of the Consumer Duty obligations is not one point in time but a process of continuous improvement”Nadege Genetay, Partner, Sicsic Advisory
With the implementation deadline having passed on 31 July 2023, now is the time to consider the next steps of your firm’s Consumer Duty journey. While most firms had extensive implementation plans and significant progress has been made in the implementation of all areas of the Duty, there is still a lot left to do for many in addressing identified gaps, outstanding actions and transitioning into business-as-usual.
Sicsic Advisory is in a unique position to provide support with your Consumer Duty work. We have helped many clients’ Consumer Duty implementation and have developed a unique understanding of the challenges firms face. We are ready to support you on assurance post-July 2023 and prepare you for the July 2024 deadline.
A significant shift in culture and behaviour
The new Consumer Duty is “a significant shift in culture and behaviour” in the FCA’s words. The Duty asks firms to think for themselves what are good outcomes for customers in the context of their specific business model; this is not about compliance with specific rules, but very much about strategy, business model, and culture.
While it includes familiar concepts such as a customer-centric approach, clear communication, responsibility through the distribution chain, and assessment of fair value, this Consumer Duty regulation differentiates itself by having a broader scope and the anticipated intensity of monitoring and supervision.
The Consumer Duty rules aim to stop practices that stand in the way of good customer outcomes such as exploiting behavioural biases through sludge practices. It also requires firms to be proactive in delivering good customer outcomes and avoiding causing foreseeable harm. As the FCA put it: “getting it right in the first place”.
In line with this comes the mindset shift towards outcomes-based regulation with the FCA wanting firms to focus less on meeting the letter of the rules and more on the outcomes for customers, no more “narrow compliance and [more] focus on delivering good outcomes”.
The new Consumer Duty is a package of regulatory measures to improve customer outcomes in financial services, based on a new Consumer Principle and supported by three cross-cutting rules, setting the behaviours they expect from firms and their staff and four customer outcomes.
It applies to all firms involved in ‘retail’ markets, including firms that may not have a direct relationship with the end customer, when they have a material influence over product design, distribution, or consumer communications.
Rethink your relationship with your customers. This includes rethinking product design, distribution, and pricing, customer journeys, communications, and support services. Explore more management information and data to assess fair value and good outcomes.
By the end of October 2022, a Consumer Duty implementation plan should have been approved by boards, and manufacturers should have reviewed outcomes for open products by the end of April 2023 (April 2024 for closed products) to give them time to communicate with third parties, and remedy poor outcomes. The new rules have now come into force at the end of July 2023 with Boards expected to confirm their compliance with them. From the end of July 2024, Boards should review an annual report on Consumer Duty.
Monitoring and enforcement of the Consumer Duty
How your firm should monitor their own performance?
The FCA expects firms to have rich management information to help them monitor customer outcomes. The Board will receive a report annually on outcomes for customers, agree any risks of poor outcomes, and remedial actions if poor outcomes have been identified. They will also need to confirm that the firm’s future strategy is consistent with the Consumer Duty (or make changes if not). But the monitoring of customer outcomes will need to be embedded on an ongoing basis in the firm’s governance and controls.
What you can expect from the FCA?
The FCA’s continuous stream of activities (webinars, portfolio letters, multi-firm reviews and surveys) and its Business Plan 2023/24 makes clear that the FCA intends the Consumer Duty to be reflected across all of its activities with a data-driven focus. The FCA’s budget includes further investment for this initiative including a new Interventions team within Enforcement. So don’t be surprised if they knock at your door.
Key questions to ask yourself
If the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) comes knocking at your door, how confident are you that you will measure up to the regulator’s high expectations?
What does the timeline for next steps and activities look like?
Now that you have designed your Consumer Duty framework, what assurance do you need and when on its implementation and embeddedness within your firm?
Have you identified any additional work required?
How will you embed Consumer Duty into business-as-usual?
What are you going to tell your board come July 2024?
If you are unsure about any one of these questions, get in touch and see how Sicsic Advisory can support you.
Sicsic Advisory’s Consumer Duty services
Assurance on implementation post-July 2023
• Overall governance and controls
• Product reviews and fair value assessments
• Customer communications framework
• Feedback loops and insights
• Management information (MI) and reporting
Co-sourcing assurance services
• Co-source internal audit functions
• Support Second-line assurance functions
• Immediate access to wider skills and experienced specialists
• Tailored service
Explore more on Consumer Duty here
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