Regulation failure: Independent brokers unable to be ‘independent’

We were thinking of changing the way that brokers operate, by saying to our clients ‘our service comes at a price, we’ll advise you on any lender in the market and be totally independent, if we place your loan with one that pays commission you can set that against your fee, and if not then pay the fee’, doing so in the belief that totally transparent and independent advice is a good thing, and something that everybody wants, the broker, the consumer and the Regulator.

Sadly this is not the case, instead the Regulator (soon due another name change to ‘Central Bank Financial Services Authority of Ireland’) is relying on the letter of the law in the Consumer Credit Act of 1995 to ensure that brokers can’t give best advice. This is an example of total regulatory failure.

The actual portion of the code is S. 116.1.b which states ‘A person shall not engage in the business of being a mortgage intermediary unless— ( a ) he is the holder of an authorisation (“a mortgage intermediaries authorisation”) granted for that purpose by the Director, and ( b ) he holds an appointment in writing from each undertaking for which he is an intermediary.

The guidance given by the Regulator is that this is to be interpreted as meaning ‘you cannot advise a client on any mortgage unless you hold an agency with the bank/lender which you are advising about’. In other words, you can only offer advice based upon the agencies you hold, it seems many of have been breaking the rules by being honest with our clients and letting them know about mortgages that we cannot broker, and in the current climate that honesty is wrong and deemed to be outside of the remit of an independent broker.

So why bother forcing the industry participants to have certain qualifications, minimum standards, and undergo continuous professional development (CPD) if they are not going to be able to give the advice they are trained to give? This makes a donkey of common sense, and the CBFSAI (Central Bank Financial Services Authority Ireland)  would do well to remedy the situation sooner rather than later.

How do you explain such an anomaly? What is wrong with advising a person to go where ever the best deal is available? This is yet another example of regulatory failure, and sadly, the state are forcing advisers to be tied into the banking system by not allowing them to advise a client on any mortgage product outside of those for whom they hold an agency.

You can’t become a mortgage adviser unless you hold a letter of appointment with a bank, surely this is a mistake? How are we ever going to move financial advice away from commissions if you have to be in the commissions system to offer any advice? To do so without the full authorisation is illegal.

We can only live in hope that many of the irregularities in how regulation works in practice can be ironed out because the primary loser at this point in time is the Irish consumer, the very people for whom the Regulator was established to protect.

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