Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: Regulatory ghostbusters target spirit of David Ross

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David Ross. Photo / APN
David Ross. Photo / APN

David Ross spooked New Zealand.

And it wasn't just the mo, or outrage over his sentence appeal that sparked such an adverse reaction.

But ever since Ross hit the headlines over 18 months ago, regulators have been working hard to prevent his ponzi ghost from reappearing.

As detailed at the time, Ross was able to hide the true state of his clients' investments behind the curtain of a discretionary investment management service (DIMS).

Even prior to the Ross case, DIMS were up for reform under the-then Financial Markets Conduct Bill (now an Act) but the Wellington-based ponzier sparked an intense regulatory review of the sector.

DIMS, which with varying degrees of freedom allow a delegated financial adviser to make investments without specific client sign-off on each decision, have since been through the regulatory wringer several times.

The latest version of the DIMS regs include a few concessions for smaller financial advisory firms: a licence fee reduction; a carve-out for temporary Authorised Financial Adviser (AFA) control of client investment decisions under special circumstances (when clients are holidaying in the Caymans, for example), and; a time extension to comply.

Nonetheless, AFAs have some tough choices to make if they want to stay in DIMS-ville.
In short, AFAs who want to deal in so-called 'class' DIMS - essentially, conglomerated client investments classified, say, 'conservative' or 'growth' - can choose to be licensed under the Financial Markets Conduct Act (FMC). Class DIMS would typically be share portfolios selected by researchers that the AFA would then recommend for clients.

Alternatively, those AFAs who fancy themselves as stockpickers can opt to offer 'personalised DIMS', which are covered under the Financial Advisers Act.

"The definition of 'personalised DIMS' in the Financial Advisers Act 2008 will only cover services where you design bespoke investment strategies for each of your DIMS clients," the latest Financial Markets Authority (FMA) guide has it.

While the borderline between bespoke and off-the-shelf is yet to be tested, industry insiders reckon the FMA is trying to scare off most AFAs from the 'personalised DIMS' space - the place Ross inhabited.

At the most, one expert told me, 10 advisers would probably go bespoke; the rest have been spooked.

- NZ Herald

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