- Consumer protection priorities include Code review, mortgage arrears, culture in financial services firms and differential pricing in motor and home insurance.
- Investor protection priorities include enhancing EU supervisory convergence and raising supervisory standards in wholesale securities markets.
- Focus will also be on supervising compliance by firms including Virtual Asset Service Providers with anti-money laundering requirements.
Speaking at the Association of Compliance Officers of Ireland, Derville Rowland, Director General, Financial Conduct at the Central Bank, outlined the priorities for the regulation of financial conduct in Ireland in 2020.
Strengthening consumer protection is at the heart of the Central Bank’s Strategic Plan. This will be achieved through high quality regulation, purposeful engagement, effective gatekeeping, assertive supervision and robust enforcement.
A comprehensive review of the Consumer Protection Code will begin this year. Ms Rowland said: “We will begin this year the process of substantially reviewing the Consumer Protection Code to ensure that it reflects the changing financial services landscape. This is a complex project which will require extensive consultation and deliberation of policy and legislative issues.”
Ms Rowland outlined how the protection of borrowers in mortgage arrears continues to be a key priority for the Central Bank. She said: “This year, we will closely monitor the treatment of borrowers in arrears and take follow-up supervisory actions as required. As part of our supervisory work, we will continue to require all loan owners to put in place long-term sustainable arrangements where possible for their borrowers.”
On the subject of culture in firms, she said: “One of the key risks remains the lack of a consumer-focused culture within the financial services sector. So it won’t come as a surprise to hear we will continue to hold boards and leaders to account for embedding effective behaviour and cultures.”
Highlighting the ongoing review of the issue of differential pricing in insurance market announced in late 2019, she said: “We are examining the issue of price differentiation in the motor and home insurance market to understand the extent and prevalence of the practice, how insurers are using it and whether it gives rise to unfair treatment of consumers. We intend to publish an interim report on our findings at the end of the year.”
On other conduct priorities, she said: “Given Ireland’s growing prominence in funds, and the role they play in global markets, effective funds supervision is of critical importance to us. We work at European and international level to shape and influence standard setting. This year, a key priority is to work with our colleagues in the European Supervisory and Markets Authority (ESMA) to drive EU supervisory convergence and to raise supervisory standards. We will continue to enhance our approach to the supervision of conduct on wholesale securities markets.”
“In relation to anti-money laundering, we will supervise firms’ compliance with their obligations under the Criminal Justice Act 2010 (CJA) to protect the financial system from being used by money launderers and terrorists. Areas of particular focus will be transaction monitoring and risk assessments.
“The Central Bank has been developing a supervisory engagement strategy in relation to Virtual Assets Service Providers (or VASPs). As this will be a new cohort of firms under the supervision of the Central Bank, we plan to subject VASPS to intense supervision in 2020, as we increase our understanding of their business models and service.”
Concluding, she said: “At the Central Bank of Ireland we are consistently evolving and enhancing our toolkit. Some of our priority issues will have more immediate benefits, while others will bear fruit over the longer term.
“I hope – indeed expect – that the 2020s will be the decade when all firms and boards put conduct, culture and customers firmly at the top of the corporate agenda.”