The use of online platforms, which give direct access to funds and shares, has grown exponentially over the past eight years with assets ballooning from £108 billion in 2008 to £592 billion last year as both financial advisers and private investors have adopted them.
The Financial Conduct Authority today (17 July) set out the details of how it will investigate the investment platform market to ensure it is providing value for money and a fair service to investors.
It added: "These relationships have the potential to distort competition by encouraging platforms to compete in the interests of those with which they have commercial relationships rather than in the interests of the consumer".
Now the FCA has decided this fast growing part of the market needs a review to ensure it is working in the best interests of investors.
The criteria include the available trading products, data regarding them, inter-platform interaction, asset managers, financial advisors, and fund rating providers.
In either case, the FCA argued, it was likely an adviser's preferences would be a key determinant in the selection of the platform and the study would therefore explore the impact this has on competition between platforms by exploring the question "Do adviser platforms compete in the interests of the end-investor?"
The regulator adds: "We want to assess the impact advisers have on platform costs and quality, understand whether the benefits advisers secure from their platform are passed onto investors and how use of a platform has affected adviser charges".
"Platforms have the potential to generate significant benefits for consumers and we want to ensure consumers are receiving these benefits in practice".
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It will analyse whether investors have proper product knowledge and if they are guided when making an investment decision, especially where a product is categorised as "complex". "The FCA will assess whether these relationships work in the interests of investors". The study will look at both investment platforms and firms that provide similar services by allowing investors or their advisers to access retail investment products through an online portal.
The FCA's deadline for feedback is 8 September.
The regulator will publish an interim report by summer 2018.
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