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The Association of Solicitor Investment Managers (Asim) is locked in a conflict with its members' new regulatory body, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), over regulation fees.
Asim firms have until now been regulated by the law societies, but will switch to FSA regulation on 1 December. But Asim is claiming that law firms providing investment advice could now pay up to 9 per cent of their annual earnings to their new regulatory body. Under Law Society regulation, Asim firms pay around £200 a year, plus £75 per partner, to the Law Society of England and Wales. Asim firms in Scotland pay the Scottish Law Society £160 a year for each authorised person within the firm dealing with investment business. But, according to Asim, this fee is set to rise to up to £12,000 a year under FSA regulation. Asim chief executive Heather Martin puts the fee anomalies down to Asim members' unique status among the bodies entering FSA regulation. The FSA charges do not relate to turnover but to each activity carried out by a financial institution or professional services firm. The average Asim member has between 15 and 20 partners. And while financial firms of this size would carry out one or two activities, Asim members typically carry out a lot more, thus incurring a greater fee. Asim has asked the FSA to create a separate fee structure for its members. In a letter to the FSA, Asim stated: "We believe that when this is considered alongside the risk profile of solicitor investment managers, there is a real case for a block discount over the normal tariff, solely for solicitor investment managers." But the FSA project manager in charge of fees Steve Lippitt is keen to keep Asim within the regulatory fold. He said: "We want to regulate all the professional services firms along with everyone else, not to ghetto-ise them within the FSA."