Abolishing commissions unlikely, says FMA boss

By Tamsyn Parker

Rob Everett, chief executive at Financial Markets Authority, doubts commissions will be abolished.
Rob Everett, chief executive at Financial Markets Authority, doubts commissions will be abolished.

Abolishing commissions paid to financial advisers when they sell products would be the easy answer to preventing possible conflicts of interest, says the head of the Financial Markets Authority.

But Rob Everett doubts it will ever happen.

On April 1 the new Financial Markets Conduct Act came into force bringing in a new provision which makes it law for financial advisers to put the interests of the consumer first.

"That doesn't just require truthfulness. We'd expect that as a minimum requirement."

Everett said the act required financial services professionals to go much further, and ask themselves questions like:

Is this really the right product or service for this client?

Does this client really understand the downside risk and what that might mean to them in a material sense if that risk comes to book?

Should I be advising this client on other actions they can take, such as risk mitigation?

Everett said advisers should be able to answer a resounding yes to those questions.

But the law change could put some advisers in a difficult situation.

If the best advice is for their client is not to buy or change any of their financial set-up it could leave the adviser out of pocket if they earn money through commissions.

Everett said he believed sales incentives and commissions were linked to a lot of the problems in recent years.

But he did not believe it was realistic to abolish them.

"As a management tool they are always something we are going to have. It's about designing them so they don't deliver the worst outcomes.

"Abolishing it altogether - that would be the easy answer - I just don't think it will happen.

"What we want is them confronting the issues that commissions bring."

Everett, who took over the top job at the FMA in February, said he would not be going softly on the industry.

"As far as I'm concerned the new rules are in, people knew they were coming, it's a perfect opportunity to go out and be as proactive as I can."

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