How Research Helps Ensure Consumer Duty Compliance

Ali Pugh, May 2024

The recent Consumer Duty regulation, initiated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in July 2023, may have slipped under your radar if you’re not immersed in financial services. But, understanding its significance is paramount for consumers. Essentially, the FCA now mandates financial services providers to prioritise consumer welfare, aiming to bolster trust in the sector.

In case it has passed you by, under this new Duty, financial providers must:

 

To ensure compliance, providers must evaluate customer outcomes. While internal data – such as Management Information (MI) – is important, market research provides invaluable external validation, particularly in assessing communication effectiveness and comprehension.

Arguably it’s impossible to become Consumer Duty compliant unless the voice of the customer is absolutely central to the process. Here are the four key ways in which I think it contributes…

  1. Customer understanding: Research helps providers to get inside the heads of customers. And understanding what makes them tick, means firms can tailor communications in a way that resonates with them while also complying with the new Duty
  2. Communication review: Given the plethora of documents circulating within organisations, conducting a comprehensive review may seem daunting. But selective testing can help form best principles/watch-outs for all comms
  3. Communications testing: Prior to the rollout of new marketing campaigns or service communications, market research serves as a litmus test, identifying effective strategies for comms while averting potential compliance pitfalls
  4. The competitor landscape: Research can help providers keep an eye on the competition – by scrutinising who is doing what in this area. Knowing what competitors are up to ensures providers do not fall behind with communications or inadvertently break any rules.

 

We saw a huge flurry of activity among clients using research to help ensure various communications were fit for purpose and would meet the requirements of the new Duty. But this will just be the start of it. The FCA has said that ‘firms should be ensuring that they are (and can demonstrate to the FCA that they are) delivering good consumer outcomes in relation to those products for which the Duty has… begun to apply’ – suggesting that reviews and assessments for compliance will need to be conducted regularly.

So, while we have spent the best part of the last 12 months helping clients be Consumer Duty compliant (this time last year, we were knee-deep in helping a global client review more than 150 pieces of material – letters, emails, digital messages, website copy etc – across 50+ consumer focus groups and 70+ B2B in-depth interviews), this is by no means the end of it. Particularly given the fact that closed products (those that are no longer marketed or distributed to retail customers nor open to renewal) fall under the scope of Duty from July this year.

Research has emerged as a linchpin for ensuring compliance among financial service providers – and at STRAT7 Jigsaw, we stand ready to guide you through how research can help when it comes to Consumer Duty compliance!

 

Ali Pugh