The regulatory landscape in Hong Kong is more uncertain than in Singapore, with advisers less clear on how changing rules will impact their business, a survey finds.
It points to communication issues that Hong Kong regulators must address as advisers struggle to fit their business models to the prevailing environment, suggests Phil Oxenham of the marketing team at Skandia International, which carried out the survey.
The poll indicates that advisers in Hong Kong are feeling far less confident about the impact of new regulations on their businesses than counterparts in Singapore.
Disclosure requirements around the sale of investment-linked assurance schemes –setting out fees and charges as a percentage of total premium paid by the policyholder – are due to be implemented in Hong Kong before the end of September.
But some 38% of advisers in Hong Kong say they are not sure how regulations will impact business, with the number seeing them as negative (33%) outweighing those who regard them as positive (28%), the survey finds.
In contrast, 50% of their peers in Singapore see regulatory changes as having a positive effect on their business, with only 6% unsure. Nevertheless, a sizeable 44% in the city-state expect them to have a negative impact.
“It is important that financial advisers are provided with enough information and the changes are communicated effectively in order for them to make the required amendments in a productive manner and position them with clients,” says Oxenham.
“This appears to have been more forthcoming in Singapore than in Hong Kong, which has left an uncertain regulatory landscape, mirrored by the results of this survey.”
Moreover, advisers in Singapore were noticeably more upbeat on the impact that new regulations would have on their customers, with 61% seeing it as positive compared with 47% in Hong Kong.
Skandia International points out that uncertainty among Hong Kong advisers could stem from the fact that the changes were introduced at relatively short notice, coupled with limited direct guidance to advisers on implementing the changes.
“Without clear guidance there would be differences in the way advisers are interpreting the changes and this could result in a number of inconsistencies,” notes Skandia, adding that the timing and format of further disclosures is still to be decided and could be causing further uncertainty among advisers.
Last year private banking chiefs welcomed moves by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to adopt a regulatory approach more in keeping with the way they manage portfolios.
It was seen as moving towards a more holistic assessment of clients’ risk profile and portfolios. However, it is generally agreed that a single regulator (out of the HKMA and Securities and Futures Commission) would provide most effective supervision of financial firms.
At the same time, regulations laid out by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in the Financial Advisory Industry Review earlier this year were accused of lacking teeth, with the MAS seen as perhaps missing an opportunity to lay down some tougher laws.
The survey was conducted by Skandia International, part of Old Mutual Wealth, in the second quarter of this year, with the results based on responses from 60 advisers in the two cities.