Wheatley: Worst performing firms must leave market

Sam Cordon

July 9, 2013

Speaking at the Association of British Insurers Biennial Conference that the chairman of the FCA will say the regulator is “a very different animal to the Financial Services Authority”.

After 100 days in operation Wheatley will also tell the audience that his vision for successful regulation is also a vision of successful, competitive markets.

Wheatley will say: “A market that works well for consumers and for firms will be of benefit to everyone and to the UK economy. We want consumers to be in a position to drive healthy competitive markets so that they become the new normal.

“And where firms can profit from putting consumer first and whether they can’t, they exit the market without disrupting its integrity.”

Wheatley will also speak about the FCA’s study into insurance add-on products, often sold with bigger purchases like a holiday, a car, or gadgets. The piece of work is the FCA’s first to focus on competition.

The market study will look at the nature of competition in these markets, in particular whether these products represent good value for money and whether consumers understand what they are getting with their policy.

A key focus of the study is to investigate what impact add-ons have on consumer behaviour and expectations, how firms respond to those, and whether poor market outcomes arise as a result.

Wheatley will say: “Our new competition duty is the single most significant change in our objectives as a regulator.

“It means that we don’t just wait for problems before we try to promote competition in the markets we regulate.

“We have our first market study underway looking at general insurance add-ons. We’ve called for evidence and approached a number of firms in the market for information.

“We are testing whether poor outcomes in add-on sales could reflect particular consumer behavioural traits and firms’ responses to them.”

With the today being the day of the ABI conference, being the FCA’s one hundredth day in operation, Wheatley took the chance to reflect.

“One of the questions I was most frequently asked 101 days ago was: ‘Is the FCA going to be genuinely different from the FSA?’. We understand why people reserved judgement – the FSA needed to change.

“100 days later I think we are taking steps in the right direction. The FCA is in many areas a very different animal from the FSA.

“We’re not just asking: Is this product compliant? Does it tick every legal box? But actually: is the outcome good? Is the market competitive? And is fair treatment of consumers designed into products and culture?”

Wheatley will close by telling the assembled crowd that “good regulation is not a zero-sum game”.

He will say: “This is not a case of one side having to win and the other having to lose. We each have a vested interest in making markets work well for all participants.

“Regulators need to serve the market better by acting more swiftly. By intervening earlier and more intelligently to avoid crises down the line.

“That process of repair is now underway. Our first 100 days are a marker of what lies ahead.”

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