TLDR: The key takeaways
- The Consumer Duty’s 31 July 2023 deadline is fast approaching
- PRIIP value assessments should consider:
- Whether the product provides fair value for a reasonably foreseeable period
- Likely customer journeys and other costs that may be incurred by the customer
- Both financial and non-financial benefits of the product
- Costs incurred to manufacture/distribute the product, market rates and charges for comparable products
- Non-financial costs and risks associated with the product
- Firms must assess value at the design stage, before offering products to consumers, and throughout the term of the product. There’s no set frequency for review but we’d recommend annually at a minimum
- The new European MiFID template (EMT) version 4.1 includes new fields requiring PRIIP manufacturers to indicate if their product is expected to provide fair value for the reasonably foreseeable period or if significant changes are required to achieve this
By Jan Schembri, Senior Compliance Consultant
With the Consumer Duty’s 31 July 2023 deadline fast approaching, manufacturers of packaged retail investment and insurance products (PRIIPs) that sell their PRIIPs to retail customers in the UK, together with other firms in scope of the Consumer Duty, should now have concluded their Consumer Duty value assessment.
This assessment is required in terms of the Consumer Duty’s price and value outcome rules in PRIN 2A.4 of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s Handbook and seeks to ensure that the price a retail customer pays for a product or service is reasonable compared to the overall benefits that the product provides.
Overseas manufacturers, including those not directly subject to these rules, should note that in-scope UK distributors will likely require this information to comply with their own regulatory obligations.
How to assess the value of a PRIIP?
While firms have the discretion to decide on the factors they use in their value assessments, such factors must allow them to demonstrate that there remains a reasonable relationship between the total price of the PRIIP and the benefits that the retail customer receives throughout the lifetime of the product.
Key considerations for firms when carrying out their value assessments:
- The assessment of value should have a ‘forward-looking aspect’. Manufacturers need to ensure that the product provides fair value for a reasonably foreseeable period. For a PRIIP, this would be the recommended holding period or the term of the PRIIP as specified in the Key Information Document (KID). It is important that manufacturers attach the appropriate past performance disclaimers
- Fair value is not just about price. A product that doesn’t meet the needs of the customer is unlikely to provide fair value, irrespective of price. Equally, a product that could meet the needs of a customer does not necessarily need to be provided at the lowest price
- Firms should consider the likely customer journeys and other costs that are likely to be incurred. As firms cannot assess every permutation with respect to such journeys or the cost structures associated, we would expect that most firms will make assumptions of the likeliest journeys and associated costs. This will allow all distributors whose fees fall within those fee ranges (and journeys) to conclude that the products continue to represent fair value at the end of the journey. However, those distributors who charge more may have to do their own assessment!
- Firms need to consider both the financial and non-financial benefits of their product. Non-financial benefits could include easy access to product information, enhanced customer support, the possibility of switching between products, etc.
- Firms should consider the costs incurred to manufacture and/or distribute the product, the market rates and charges for comparable products. In addition, a firm should assess whether there are any other products offered by the firm itself that are priced significantly lower for a similar or better level of benefit
- Firms should also consider non-financial costs associated with a product. These could include paying for the product using a retail customer’s personal data, limited redemption rights, limited information on a product’s performance, restricted channels of customer support, a high risk profile, limited redress if something goes wrong, lack of diversification, etc.
Information used to support fair value assessments should be diligently recorded by way of evidence. They also must be reviewed periodically as market conditions, advisor charges and the competitive landscape changes.
FCA’s review of fair value frameworks
The analysis above is supported by FCA’s findings from its recent review of fair value frameworks using a sample of firms. In its findings, the FCA sets out examples of good practice as well as areas of improvement. A few highlights:
To make sure they are delivering fair value for consumers, firms need to have a strong understanding of what fair value is, and the requirements of the FCA’s fair value outcome. Firms need to provide evidence for their position and allow for their own critical analysis as to why they have found that their product or service provides fair value to retail customers.
Firms need to assess the financial and non-financial costs and benefits that consumers can expect to receive, considering the intended purpose of the product or service. Potential distribution costs need to be considered. Profit margins are also likely to be a relevant factor in assessing fair value.
Firms should consider contextual factors, such as the costs of similar products or services or target market consumer characteristics, which may have an impact on what is considered fair value. The FCA noted that some firms did not appear to give much consideration to whether they needed information from other firms in the distribution chain and/or third parties to properly assess fair value.
Firms’ value assessments should analyse differential pricing for different groups of consumers such as vulnerable customers, customers using different channels, etc. The FCA found that some firms’ assessments appeared to identify differential pricing between groups of customers but did not demonstrate how each group of customers receives fair value, which is required under the FCA’s rules and guidance.
Firms are expected to monitor and regularly review their customers’ actual outcomes and take action to address any risks to good customer outcomes. Firms should identify how they plan to monitor fair value, the data they might want to refer to or obtain, and how they would address any gaps in their data.
Is a value assessment a ‘one-off’ exercise?
Firms must assess value:
- At the design stage
- Before offering products to consumers
- Throughout the term of the product
There is no set frequency for review, but we would recommend that a firm reviews its value assessment annually, or earlier if there’s significant adaptation of a product such as a change to its features, costs or other relevant factors that may impact its value to a retail customer.
Where a firm identifies that a product does not provide fair value, it must take appropriate action to address the issue, which may include introducing measures to improve the product’s value or withdrawing it from the market.
Sharing information on a product’s value assessment with distributors
All firms in the distribution chain are responsible for the value of the prices in their control. This means that distributors must ensure their distribution fees represent fair value. To do this, distributors must obtain relevant information from manufacturers to understand the value a product is intended to provide and whether their distribution arrangements would result in the product ceasing to provide fair value to retail customers.
PRIIP manufacturers who prepare a European MiFID Template (EMT) file may have noted the release of EMT version 4.1, which includes new fields to cater for the price and value outcome rules in PRIN 2A.4 of the FCA Handbook. PRIIP manufacturers will need to indicate if their product is expected to provide fair value for the reasonably foreseeable period or if significant changes are required in order to provide fair value. Failure to do this will likely lead to their products being ‘dropped’ by data managers and distributors.
Although manufacturers should provide distributors with the results of their value assessment, they are not required to include sensitive information such as a breakdown of margins or other internal information. The FCA has clarified that the information shared with distributors can be a high‑level summary of the benefits to the target market, information on overall prices or fees and confirmation that the manufacturer considers total benefits to be proportionate to total costs.