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Release Date: 12th September 2013

To access the original FCA document, click here.


The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined AXA Wealth Services Ltd (AXA) £1,802,200 for failing to provide suitable investment advice, placing numerous customers at risk of purchasing unsuitable financial products. This situation, primarily affecting elderly, retired, and financially inexperienced customers, emerged during an FCA review covering the period between 15 September 2010 and 30 April 2012. AXA sold investment products worth £440 million to approximately 26,000 retail customers through advisors based in branches of Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank, and the West Bromwich Building Society.

AXA’s advice deficiencies were multifaceted, involving a failure to ascertain customers’ risk tolerance accurately, neglecting to ensure that investments were financially manageable for customers in the event of a value decrease, and not gathering adequate customer information prior to making investment recommendations. Additionally, AXA did not clearly explain how product charges could impact investment returns and failed to justify why specific investments were suitable for each customer.

Further complicating the issue, AXA’s control over sales advisers’ bonuses was found wanting, leading to a significant risk of advisers promoting unsuitable investments to qualify for these bonuses.

In response to these failings, AXA has committed to contacting all potentially affected customers to review their situations and offer compensation for any losses incurred due to inappropriate advice. This action is part of a broader agreement with the FCA to rectify the issue under third-party oversight, ensuring that those sold unsuitable products have the option to switch or withdraw their investments.

AXA’s cooperative stance during the investigation and agreement to an early settlement resulted in a 30% reduction of the potential fine, which otherwise would have amounted to £10,275,000.

This case underscores several critical compliance lessons for financial services firms. To avoid similar pitfalls, firms must rigorously adhere to FCA investment advice guidelines, which include accurately assessing and documenting customer risk profiles, ensuring transparent explanation of product impacts and charges, and maintaining strict controls over incentive structures to prevent conflicts of interest. It also highlights the FCA’s ongoing commitment to safeguard consumer interests and maintain the integrity of the financial services industry.

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