Filed Under:Annuities, Suitability

IOSCO report details suitability principals

Intermediaries should be required to adopt and apply appropriate policies and procedures to distinguish between retail and non-retail customers when distributing complex financial products, according to a new report.

This requirement is one of nine suitability principals outlined in a final, January 2013 report of the board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions, headquartered in Madrid, Spain. The report details IOSCO principals on suitability requirements with respect to the distribution of complex financial products. (i.e., standards for intermediaries to assess whether a particular product matches the investment knowledge, experience, objectives and risk tolerance of a customer).

Authored by IOSCO’s Technical Committee, the consultation report (“Suitability Requirements with respect to the Distribution of Complex Financial Products”) takes into account public comments. The principals outlined in the report are as follows:

Principle 1: Intermediaries should be required to adopt and apply appropriate policies and procedures to distinguish between retail and non-retail customers when distributing complex financial products. The classification of customers should be based on a reasonable assessment of the customer concerned, taking into account the complexity and riskiness of different products. The regulator should consider providing guidance to intermediaries in relation to customer

Principle 2: Irrespective of the classification of a customer as retail or non-retail, intermediaries should be required to act honestly, fairly and professionally and take reasonable steps to manage or mitigate conflicts of interest through implementing appropriate procedures in the distribution

of complex financial products, and where there exists a potential risk of damage to the customer’s interest, the intermediaries should, where appropriate, be required to clearly disclose the risk.

Principle 3: Customers should receive or have access to material information to evaluate the features, costs and risks of the complex financial product. Any information communicated by intermediaries to their customers regarding a complex financial product should be communicated in a fair, comprehensible and balanced manner.

Principle 4: When an intermediary sells a complex financial product on an unsolicited basis (no management, advice or recommendation), the regulatory system should provide for adequate means to protect customers from associated risks.

Principle 5: Whenever an intermediary recommends the purchase of a particular complex financial product, including where the intermediary advises or otherwise exercises investment management discretion, the intermediary should be required to take reasonable steps to ensure that recommendations, advice or decisions to trade on behalf of such customer are based upon a reasonable assessment that the structure and risk-reward profile of the financial product is consistent with such customer’s experience, knowledge, investment objectives, risk appetite and capacity for loss.

Principle 6: An intermediary should have sufficient information in order to have a reasonable basis for any recommendation, advice or exercise of investment discretion made to a customer in connection with the distribution of a complex financial product.

Principle 7: Intermediaries should establish a compliance function and develop appropriate internal policies and procedures that support compliance with suitability requirements, including when developing or selecting new complex financial products for customers.

Principle 8: Intermediaries should be required to develop and apply appropriate incentive policies designed to ensure that only suitable complex financial products are recommended to customers.

Principle 9: Regulators should supervise and examine intermediaries on a regular and ongoing basis to help ensure firm compliance with suitability and other customer protection requirements relating to the distribution of complex financial products. The competent authority should take enforcement actions, as appropriate. Regulators should consider the value of making enforcement actions public in order to protect customers and enhance market integrity.


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Nichole Morford

Nichole Morford
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