Last week, the FSA (finally) produced guidance for firms considering launching a simplified advice proposition.
It said a 'simplified' model may help meet the investment advice needs of low and middle-income earners.
Systems would likely be fully automated, it said, although some may include an option to speak to a qualified (to QCF Level 4) employee to walk them through the process.
Simplified advice may be appropriate for consumers who do not need to reduce existing debt; have some disposable income or capital that they wish to invest; and do not want a holistic assessment of their financial situation.
Finally, products offered through simplified advice must have simple charging structures and clear outcomes.
So, which firms will be interested?
Smaller advisory businesses may not see simplified advice as economically viable if they have to build their own systems (or even if they buy in a white-labeled service).
Additionally, independent advisers offering a simplified advice service under the same banner will not be permitted to market themselves as independent.
But might some of the larger advisory businesses be interested?
The answer is yes and, here, we introduce you to three of them...
AWD Chase de Vere
The advice group first spoke of its plans to offer a simplified advice solution a year ago. It said it was considering rolling out a telephone or online system for existing clients who no longer need, or do not want, full advice.
Speaking at the time, AWD's Patrick Connolly said: "We recognise we need to provide different breadth of services and different ways to give those services to clients.
"At the top end, for higher net worth clients, they would expect a full personliased service, lots of face-to-face contact and lots of regular contact with their adviser and their team.
"At the lower end, what we are not doing is saying 'we are not giving any service any more'. We feel we have an obligation to provide them with a level of service and we think it is the right thing to do under TCF."
"However, we are not going to be in the position, from a pure cost efficiency perspective, to provide them with lots of regular contact and so we will be looking at the best way of providing guidance and advice to these people."
Lighthouse Group is preparing to launch an online and over-the-phone simplified advice service for members of its 100-plus affinity partnerships.
It will cater for what joint CEO Malcolm Streatfield dubbed The Great Dispossessed - those consumers "disenfranchised" as a result of the RDR.
It will also aim to serve those who do not want or need to see an adviser face-to-face.
Streatfield (pictured) said a typical client may require life assurance with no investment content, an annuity up to a value of £50,000 or a straightforward savings product such as an ISA.
The group said it had been waiting for FSA guidance on simplified advice before developing concrete plans.
Sesame Bankhall has previously outlined plans to launch a fee-based simplified proposition for at-retirement customers with small pension pots.
Sitting alongside the group's retirement referral arm Gateway, it is being designed to cater for consumers with retirement funds of £30,000 or less, for whom the cost of using an IFA "may outweigh the benefits of the advice".
Consumers will pay a small fee in return for straightforward financial guidance based on their answers to a simple, online questionnaire.
Although its development is at an early stage, Sesame Bankhall hopes to have the service up and running by 2013.
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