New rules, new client bonds

Financial regulation reforms are an opportunity for firms to ramp up their customer service

Julian Washington

The financial crisis prompted a wave of regulatory reform that has swept through global markets and has been especially pronounced in Europe and North America where new rules are affecting almost every aspect of the financial industry.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, Consumer Protection Act in the US and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), for example, are far-reaching in size and scope, and cover a plethora of issues from consumer protection and confidentiality to financial stability globally. In Europe, the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid II), will also enhance consumer protection and seek to reduce systemic risk.

Every adviser working in a client-facing environment will be affected by this reform. All parties dealing with high net worth individuals
(HNWIs) must be aware of the wide-reaching impact of these changes and communicate them clearly to clients.

The World Wealth Report, produced by RBC Wealth Management in partnership with Capgemini, tracks the changes in global wealth and behavioural trends among
HNWIs. This year’s report, as might be expected during times of change, found the level of trust in financial markets and regulators is relatively low. In the first quarter of 2013 only 45 per cent of HNWIs had trust in financial markets and 40 per cent had trust and confidence in regulatory bodies and institutions.

The new regulatory environment has the potential to bring about significant positive change in the form of greater transparency, accountability and improved financial reporting practices. However, the volume and pace at which reforms have been enacted has the potential to put pressure on the client-adviser relationship. There is therefore an opportunity for the legal community to play a role in helping to guide HNWIs through this period
of change.

This may mean requesting more detailed personal information and documentation from clients to meet more stringent anti-money laundering and know-your-customer requirements, while being transparent about how and why these procedures are being put in place. This will help to mitigate client frustration and build trust in advisers.

Lawyers can also take steps to engage clients in more frequent and open exchanges to ensure they have a good understanding of the new regulatory environment. Doing so will also help clients feel as though they are active rather than passive participants in the regulatory process.

Additional costs associated with compliance, tight implementation times and the sheer volume and pace of new regulation, present a significant challenge for advisory teams. However, this new regulatory landscape is now a permanent feature of the client-adviser relationship and has the potential to continue to evolve over the coming years. Firms that can incorporate the scope of regulatory change at both a strategic and tactical level stand to gain the most, both in business efficiencies and an improved ability to meet and exceed client needs and expectations.