CoFI bill changes welcomed by advisers body

The main advisers lobby group welcomes changes proposed for financial conduct legislation, which is working its way through parliament.

Financial Advice New Zealand says the changes will make the Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Bill, or CoFI, less onerous for advisers.

The CoFI bill would impose tough code-of-conduct requirements on financial institutions such as banks and non-bank lenders.

As written, it scoops up advisers in its maw, to the annoyance of the industry, who saw this extension of its controls to advisers as expensive and unnecessary.

However, a just-released Supplementary Order Paper, or SOP, has pulled back on some of those controls on advisers.

Katrina Shanks of Financial Advice NZ is pleased to see this roll-back.

“The issue of financial advisers who are independent of any financial institution is that they got caught up in the legislation, which was aimed to focus on the conduct and culture of financial institutions.

“The advisers have already got their own legislation regarding conduct and culture, through the Financial Services Legislation Amendment Act (FSLAA).”

FSLAA is the law behind the FAP programme, that advisers are busy complying with at present, at considerable cost in time and money.

Having to comply with CoFI as well “would have been confusing and added no value to the adviser, the institution or the consumer,” according to Shanks.

“This legislation was intended for financial institutions but unintentionally scooped in financial advisers,” Shanks said.

This was un-needed when advisers had their own brand new legislation on the books already.

One key element of the SOP concerns supervision and training of intermediaries, which will be removed in some cases.

“In particular, certain requirements now apply only in relation to employees (rather than intermediaries and agents as well),” the SOP said.

“In addition, the requirement for certain persons to follow procedures or processes to support the financial institution’s compliance with the fair conduct principle ….. no longer applies in relation to intermediaries (but continues to apply to agents and employees).”

These moves remove another source of discomfort over the CoFI legislation – that it blurred the distinction between employees and third parties working under contract.
The New Zealand Bankers Association (NZBA) is not commenting on the SOP.

But in submissions last year, it made clear the controls proposed for intermediaries went too far.

“Financial institutions are in contractual relationships with intermediaries,” the association wrote.

“Intermediaries are not their employees or contractors, and financial institutions do not have the ability to “manage” or “supervise” intermediaries outside of what is contractually agreed on a case-by-case basis.”

The NZBA called for “monitoring”, rather than “managing” and “supervising”, intermediaries.

The Financial Services Federation calls the change a “good compromise”.

“There is still an obligation on the institutions themselves to monitor the behaviour of their intermediaries to ensure they are acting fairly,” said its executive director Lyn McMorran.

But this would not involve ”intermediaries complying to the nth degree with the Fair Conduct Programme,” so it was a bit less onerous.

The CoFI law is expected to resume debate early this week, probably later on Tuesday.

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