From a regulatory point of view, the suggestion appears to have been growing in recent weeks that we are likely to see further significant intervention from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as a result of its final report on the Mortgages Market Study.
To read of potential changes to its current definition of mortgage advice, quite frankly, fills me with dread.
I have total sympathy for the recent view expressed in the letter pages of this very publication from one adviser who suggested the industry is never given enough time to deal with such changes before the goalposts are changed again.
Last year’s interim report certainly threw the cat among the pigeons when it came to the FCA’s view on the value of advice, the fixation on cost, and potential measures such as an adviser directory.
The industry appeared to push back strongly in a number of areas – the big question to be answered by the final report will be around whether the regulator has listened to those concerns.
Too engrossed in technology
Again, judging by some recent comments from AMI chief executive Robert Sinclair, we should perhaps not hold our breath.
He suggested the regulator is far too engrossed in the use of technology to deliver mortgage advice solutions.
However, I confess I’m yet to see concrete evidence of this and will therefore be intrigued by how the regulator wishes to shape the mortgage advice rules in order to help faciliate further technology-based advice solutions.
I believe the benefits certain technology can bring to advisers, particularly in an age of Open Banking, far outweigh any potential negatives.
However, I also understand that regulation should not be specifically reworked purely to support automated advisers and the like.
This is a people business and we should not forget the value advisers bring and that many borrowers wish to speak to a human being at the end of the day.
More streamlined process
Neither do I think we should neglect those who wish to access advice through, what we might call, non-traditional channels, because my feeling is that these people will grow in number.
Of course, tied up in this is the data that can be extracted from the banks, the way it can be reworked to support advisers in factfinds and recommendations, and the efficiencies that can be generated by their use.
If I’d like to see anything in 2019, it would be in this area, with advisers, distributors and lenders working together to deliver not only quality outcomes to borrowers, but a much more streamlined, effective process from start to finish.
This could be an easy win for the industry and one that, despite any upheaval that it may have to deal with during the course of the year, could help it develop efficiencies and support its continued growth.
We should acknowledge the benefits that such an approach can bring and seek to deliver them for all stakeholders.