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   Financial Ombudsman Service    Financial Services Act 1986    Financial adviser
   Financial Services Authority    Financial dispute resolution    

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Financial adviser
A person or firm that will provide advice about investments, life assurance, pensions and other monetary that involve buying or selling financial products is referred to as a financial adviser. Such persons or firms are regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), formally the Personal Investment Authority (PIA) and now subject to the terms of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA).

Under this Act polarisation rules stipulate two types of adviser: those that sell the products of a single company are either a company representative or a tied agent and those who base their advice on all the products available on the market are called independent financial advisers (IFA).

There are 77,000 registered individuals of which 26,000 are IFAs, 10,000 are IFAs formally registered with professional bodies such as solicitors and accountants and 41,000 operate as direct sales forces or tied agents.

The above is different for a pensions consultant or actuary where information or projections are provided for retirement planning and where there are no regulated products involved. It is usual for a pensions consultant to be qualified with G60 Pensions and an actuary to be a member of the Institute of Actuaries.

Financial dispute resolution
The Family Proceedings (Amendment No. 2) Rules 1999 make important changes to the Family Proceedings Rules 1991, as shown in step-by-step guide effective from 5 June 2000. These new rules mean that procedures for a couple on divorce or judicial separation or nullity of marriage making an application for ancillary relief should have fewer delays for settlement, lower costs and allow the court greater control over the conduct and proceedings.

The procedure involves three stages, the first appointment, financial dispute resolution (FDR) appointment and if there is still no agreement, the final hearing. At any stage during this process either of the parties can make written offers to settle part or all of the matrimonial assets. Before making or replying to such offers, professional advice from a solicitor should be sought by the parties. No later than 7 days before the FDR appointment the applicant for the financial order must file at the court details of all offers made to or received from the other party.

Rule 2.61E of the Family Proceedings Rules states that the FDR appointment will allow the parties to discuss and negotiate a final settlement of the matrimonial assets. This meeting should reduce the conflict around disputes over assets as each party must be open and without reserve in order to reach a settlement. As such, any evidence said or admitted during financial dispute resolution is not admissible as evidence at a future date.

The courts will expect the parties to make offers and the recipients to give them due consideration. It may be at the FDR appointment that such matters regarding the valuations of complex pension arrangements come to the attention of the judge at which point if there is no agreement between the parties as to the pensions expert to be appointed, the court will use its powers under part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 instructing that evidence be given by one expert only.

Financial Ombudsman Service
With the introduction of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) from midnight on the 30 November 2001, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) replaces the existing ombudsman and legally become the statutory ombudsman scheme covering most areas of personal finance. The FOS will aim to satisfy the Financial Services Authority (FSA) objective to maintain market confidence by providing a dispute resolution procedure. The Pensions Ombudsman will however continue as a separate scheme.

Financial Services Act 1986
Parliament introduced a scheme of regulation for investment business as the Financial Services Act 1986 which came into effect from April 1988.

At that time the Securities and Investment Board (SIB) was responsible for this regime and required that all investment businesses apply for authorisation through their respective self regulatory organisations (SRO), by a recognised professional body (RPB) or be exempt from investment activity, otherwise it is a criminal offence to provide investment advice without authorisation or exemption with the maximum penalty of two years prison sentence, a fine or both. To be authorised, a member must meet certain requirements as specified by their regulator such as capital adequacy and training.

In October 1997 all functions of SIB were transferred to the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The Financial Services Act 1986 had a significant effect on intermediaries where polarisation rules differentiated between tied agents or company representatives selling the products of only one company and independent financial advisers providing unbiased advice. Other rules deal with best advice, product disclosure, advertising, commissions, cold calling, customer agreements, product bias, inducements, churning and complaints. From N2 this Act was integrated and updated by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA).

Financial Services Authority
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is the regulator for the financial services industry. The FSA was brought into full force at N2, which was at midnight on 30 November 2001. Under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) the FSA has four objectives:

Maintaining market confidence;
Promoting public understanding of the financial system;
Protection of the consumer;
Fighting financial crime.

With the introduction of the FSMA at N2, the FSA regulates the activities of mainstream financial services business. The FSA also have a duty to maintain an oversight of and keep under review how exempt professional firms carry on regulated activities and how the designated professional bodies (DPB) regulate them.
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