Request a Demo Today

Release Date: 17th December 2013

To access the original FCA document, click here.


The Upper Tribunal upheld a decision by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to fine Westwood Independent Financial Planners, a Scottish firm, £100,000 for failing to adhere to business principles and FCA rules during their sale of complex investment products known as geared traded endowment policies (GTEPs). The Tribunal’s verdict came after a detailed review of the sales practices related to these long-term financial products, especially noting that Westwood often advised clients, who were not sophisticated investors, to remortgage their homes to fund such investments.

Westwood’s communication and recommendations were found to be unsuitable given the financial understanding and circumstances of their clients. The evidence presented, including specific instances with clients like a teacher and a self-employed writer, highlighted that Westwood’s sales approach disproportionately emphasised potential benefits without adequately explaining the risks. This led clients to invest in high-risk GTEP plans unsuitable for their conservative investment profiles.

The Tribunal’s decision to impose a £100,000 penalty was influenced by the substantial commissions earned by Westwood from these sales, totalling £509,123 from 50 GTEPs, and aimed to serve as a deterrent to prevent similar misconduct by other firms. Despite significant losses in value of many GTEP plans sold, some of Westwood’s customers received compensation from insurance and compensation schemes.

Key takeaways for other firms include the critical importance of transparency in communications, especially when dealing with complex products, and the need to ensure that all client recommendations are appropriately matched to the client’s risk tolerance and financial understanding. Firms are reminded of their duty to provide clear, fair, and not misleading information and to conduct rigorous suitability assessments before advising clients on investments.

Westwood, which no longer engages in regulated activities and was declared bankrupt in October 2011, did not appeal the judgement, leading to the FCA issuing a Final Notice. This case is part of broader regulatory efforts by the FCA, which took over responsibility for conduct and prudential supervision of financial firms in April 2013, to ensure the protection of consumers and the integrity of the financial market.

Back to the Dear CEO letter archives.