With the first implementation deadline for embedding Consumer Duty in business operations drawing near, we set out a plan of attack to get the job done.
Consumer Duty continues to remain high on the regulatory radar, with specific provisions identified within the FCA’s business plan 2023/24 to consider firms’ approach to positive consumer outcomes within the authorisation and supervision of solo regulated firms.
The timeframes for embedding Consumer Duty within the business operations of firms were clearly expressed in the original policy statement (PS22/9), with the FCA’s subsequent review of implementation plans (Consumer Duty implementation plans | FCA) reinforcing those elements requiring greater focus by firms to deliver on implementation plans for all live products.
With the first of the phased implementation dates (for new and existing products open to sale or renewal) falling due 31 July 2023, we have reviewed the final considerations and areas of important focus for firms, and have provided our insight on what firms should do in designing and operating effective governance and controls in this area.
Firms who are nearing the end of their implementation journey will find this article useful by way of comparison to good market practice. For those firms who are not as advanced with their implementation, this article will provide useful considerations and suggested activities to gain assurance on the implementation and embeddedness of the Consumer Duty.
Considerations for firms:
What should firms do
Ensure implementation projects are nearing completion, having identified and prioritised the riskiest products or most vulnerable consumers.
Document and prioritise a record of products and associated value measures reflecting the risk and consumer vulnerability.
Complete consumer journey mapping and consider the overall culture, training and processes needed to support the delivery of outcomes.
Review the governance, oversight and monitoring of implementation activities, schedules, risk assessments and prioritisation to ensure that management is focussed on the most vulnerable consumers and products.
Review implementation project delivery and outcomes to ensure that objectives have been met and Consumer Duty is embedded across the firm.
Review first and second line training, metrics and reporting to ensure that existing and new metrics have been developed and are being used when considering products, services and consumer engagement.
Governance and oversight
Establish clear roles and responsibilities for Consumer Duty across SM&CR / governance structures, including the allocation of the ‘Consumer Champion’ role.
Effective oversight and monitoring of the plans to implement and embed Consumer Duty in firm operations.
Embed consumer outcomes in decision making, commercial and operational forums, monitoring and metrics.
Engage firm, insurer and distribution chain stakeholders to ensure a consistent and co-ordinated approach across product delivery and service.
Review new or enhanced roles / responsibilities across SM&CR positions to ensure that Consumer Duty remains a high priority within governance processes.
Review the governance structure and reporting channels to ensure effective oversight of Consumer Duty, sufficient airtime within relevant committees and incorporation into risk, culture and strategic discussions.
Review the oversight, engagement and challenge of counterparties across the distribution chain to ensure that the Consumer Duty is embedding.
Management and operations
Review and assess current firm culture and seek to embed ‘good consumer outcomes’ within the culture of the firm.
Map and understand the specific consumer touchpoints within product distribution / consumer journeys across the lifecycle of each product.
Assess the impact of continuing or discontinuing provision of products or services to vulnerable consumers.
Review and align reward and/or remuneration structures to reflect consumer impacts and the objectives of the Consumer Duty.
Review the approach, focus and metrics used to measure individual, division and firm performance to ensure they reflect consumer interests and measure outcomes.
Review the mapping and analysis of consumer journeys and how these support a consumer focussed approach in line with the nature of the product / service.
Review the remuneration and reward objectives to ensure they promote a consumer focussed culture and operating environment.
Processes, systems and controls
Upon mapping consumers’ journeys, review and update processes, systems and controls aligning to consumer requirements.
Review and assess current systems and metrics to ensure they are configured to capture new or amended data captured against consumer outcomes.
Review and update existing procedures and processes to capture instances of poor consumer outcomes.
Review the design and operating effectiveness of new or amended controls within placement, support and claims processes.
Provide assurance that firms have defined and enabled appropriate data fields capturing relevant and timely consumer focused data.
Ensure that where personal consumer data is retained, this is done in compliance with established internal processes and relevant GDPR controls are working effectively.
Review process documentation to ensure this remains reflective of current processes and is up to date.
Identify all key third parties included within consumer mapping documentation, with clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities agreed and formalised.
Establish new or enhance existing governance and oversight requirements within third party service-level agreements to ensure consistent and effective adherence to Consumer Duty requirements.
Develop systems and processes to ensure third parties are clear on the reportable data and metrics needed to demonstrate adherence to the Consumer Duty.
Review and confirm the identification of third parties within consumer journeys, provide assurance that third parties are correctly identified, categorised and clear roles and responsibilities have been agreed.
Review third party service-level and other commercial agreements to ensure these are consistent, where possible, and reflect requirements specific to meeting Consumer Duty obligations. Provide assurance that respective roles and liabilities are clearly established.
Review the data and reporting requirements set by the firm to ensure these remain clear, consistent and meet Consumer Duty requirements across all consumer touchpoints undertaken by third parties.
Data strategies and reporting
Assess current data capture and reporting to identify known gaps in your current suite, or seek to centralise and standardise potentially disparate reporting.
Develop new or enhance existing data capture fields and reporting requirements reflecting Consumer Duty expectations.
Ensure that data is captured consistently across groups of products, customers and distribution channels to analysis and comparison.
Consider how you will monitor outcomes across different groups of consumers, including vulnerable consumers.
Benchmark specific data and reporting metrics against industry observed practices to ensure they are consistent and reflect Consumer Duty requirements.
Review the systems and processes in place to ensure that data is captured, recorded, analysed and reported consistently and reflects a consumer focus.
Considerable effort is needed for firms to implement and fully embed Consumer Duty and meet the FCA’s expectations. Firms are working hard to meet the immediate deadline. There are likely to be subsequent data and oversight requests to follow as the FCA seeks to validate efforts across the sector and identify poor performing firms, potential consumer detriment or failings.
This increased and proactive activity by FCA will rely on firms establishing and maintaining well designed and effective control environments that provide confidence in the culture, governance and operations across retail products.
If you haven’t assessed your updated consumer focussed governance and controls, speak to Jess or Richard in our Governance, Risk & Control Assurance team for further insight on how we can support you.
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