After months of procrastination and frantic lobbying behind the scenes, the FSA has finally unveiled its latest thinking on platforms.
The new proposals are hardly a surprise given widespread predictions the FSA was backing down on banning fund manager rebates to platform providers.
The main reason for the regulator's change of heart can be summed up in one line from the paper ..."there is a risk that some consumers may end up paying more if we stopped bundled charging".
So good news for consumers then it seems but is there further clarity for advisers? One of the main issues for advisers has been whether they could use one platform and still be considered ‘independent'.
In today's paper the FSA says the issue has caused ‘confusion' and led to a variety of different opinions. There is such a high level of concern it has issued examples of good and bad practices to gives advisers a better guide. But has the regulator done enough to end this confusion today?
Well, it accepts an independent firm may be able to use a single platform for the majority of their clients. However, using one platform for all clients for all investments is likely to be very rare in the current platform market, although as the market develops this position may change, it says.
So the onus is very much on the adviser and their due diligence process to determine if all clients are served correctly.
Today's paper also reveals the FSA is planning to consult on a rule that would ban firms that give advice (independent or restricted) from using any platform that presents retail investment products in a biased manner.
This could include ranking funds according to the size of any fee or commission that the fund manager pays to the platform service provider.
Advisers will also have to look closely at platforms with just a bundled charging structure as it is unlikely they will hold many investments that do not pay them a fee.
"This puts those investments which cannot (or choose not to) pay platforms a fee at a potential disadvantage," the FSA says.
"However, this is not the only way to pay a platform for their services and we are aware that some platforms with bundled charges are planning to widen investment choice with an unbundled charges offering."
It will be a big task for advisers who wish to be independent to not only work out the full scope of products within the ‘retail investment product' space they will have to consider (there is still confusion here), then check their platform is offering access to these products and finally give the once over to platform deals with fund groups to check for bias further down the line.
The hope platforms may immediately make life easier for IFAs to meet RDR requirements may have been deflated by today's paper but we know advisers are working hard to improve their due diligence in this area. They may just have to start working even harder.
Paul Bruns and Elaine Parkes
3,000 left to transfer
Record numbers of people aged 90 plus
From 3 to 10 October