The results of a study conducted by France’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) on retail investors and informed consent were published in a summary document released in June 2021. The purpose of the study was to observe whether information provided by investment firms could help investors make informed investment decisions and highlight approaches that may facilitate informed consent.
Employing “mystery visits” to directly experience real situations, the study enabled a view on a client’s account journey — ranging from account opening to advisory services and investment transactions.
The results of the study addressed four principal topics:
Content of marketing materials, in particular the requirements to be clear, accurate and not misleading
Pre-contractual information, in particular the timely inclusion of specific information such as consumer rights, nature or remuneration
Client questioning and provision of information on the suitability assessment
Content and clarity of warning messages regarding product suitability
The summary of the study provided examples of different approaches used at different firms and highlighted both poor and best practices.
The best practices include:
Visible and clear provision of information on the nature, functioning and risks inherent in a financial service or product and the impact of commissions, fees and other charges on performance
Informing the retail investor in advance of the account journey and enabling contact through multiple channels and at any time during the client journey
Providing explanation of the purpose of a suitability assessment and the benefits of providing full and accurate information
Providing educational guides on financial services and products, explaining the nature of the instrument in question, as well as its functioning and the risks inherent in it, in a clear, accurate and non-misleading manner.
Presenting costs and fees in the form of an "all-inclusive" total (remembering that a breakdown between service costs, trailer fees received and product costs remains essential and compulsory in the conditions provided for by the regulations in force).
The poor practices include:
Assigning a much larger and more legible space to presentation of the benefits of a financial service or product than to the risks involved in their marketing material
Presenting the benefits of the product first in marketing material, then the subscription links, before the inherent risks
Indicating the impact of commissions, fees and other charges on past performance in a manner that is not very visible and clear
Dispersing information relating to costs and fees
Presenting information relating to costs and fees in a footnote
Encouraging investors to subscribe within a time limit that does not allow them to become acquainted with the pre-contractual information
Dispersing the pre-contractual information relating to a financial service or product in several locations on the website or in various documents