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Release Date: 26th March 2014

To access the original FCA document, click here.

Santander UK Plc has been fined £12.4 million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) due to serious failings in its investment advice services. The fine reflects the FCA’s determination to enforce rigorous standards in financial advice, following the discovery that Santander UK posed a significant risk of providing unsuitable advice to customers.

The FCA’s investigation revealed multiple deficiencies in Santander’s advisory services, including inadequate assessments of customers’ risk appetites and a failure to ensure investments continued to meet the clients’ needs over time, despite initial promises to do so. Such failings were critical because they directly impacted the financial wellbeing and confidence of the bank’s customers.

Tracey McDermott, the FCA’s director of enforcement and financial crime, criticised Santander for not living up to its responsibility of managing customers’ money wisely, noting that restoring trust in financial services is crucial and requires advisers to genuinely understand and prioritise customer needs.

Key findings from the FCA’s investigation included:

As part of the settlement with the FCA, Santander UK will contact affected customers to provide necessary redress. Although market gains may limit actual financial losses for some, customers who paid for services not rendered, particularly those holding Premium Investments, will be eligible for compensation.

The FCA emphasised that these failings occurred despite prior warnings and guidance from the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the FCA’s predecessor, about the importance of suitable advice. Following the FSA’s initial concerns in late 2012, Santander UK ceased providing financial advice in branches to prevent further issues.

The fine was reduced by 30% due to Santander’s willingness to settle early in the investigation; without this reduction, the penalty would have been nearly £17.7 million. This case serves as a stern reminder to other firms about the importance of compliance with regulatory standards and the need for rigorous internal training and monitoring to ensure the suitability and quality of financial advice.

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