SFC Consultation Paper on Online Distribution and Advisory Platforms

On 5 May 2017 the Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) issued the ‘Consultation Paper on the Proposed Guidelines on Online Distribution and Advisory Platforms’ (“Proposed Guidelines”).

In view of the increasing use of electronic distribution channels, the use of algorithms to construct investment portfolios and to provide investment advice(e.g. automated portfolio construction or model portfolios based on a client’s personal circumstances) (commonly referred to as “robo-advice”), SFC issued the Proposed Guidelines to (1) provide guidance and control on the design and operation of online platforms; (2) clarify how suitability requirements would be triggered in terms of online trading; and (3) provide additional safeguard proposed for the sale of complex products on online platforms on an unsolicited basis.

The Proposed Guidelines will be applicable to all SFC licensed or registered persons when conducting their regulated activities in providing order execution, distribution and advisory (including discretionary and automated) services in respect of investment products via online platforms (“Platform Operators”).

We would urge asset management companies to take a closer look to the Proposed Guidelines and provide necessary feedback before the end of the consultation period (4 August 2017) since there is a growing trend for fund houses to develop their own trading platform, and provision of robo-advice. These activities will be caught under the Proposed Guidelines. It would also be helpful to be aware of these requirements when fund houses select distributors and assess whether they are compliant with such requirements.  Lastly, fund houses may wish to take a closer look at the proposed definition of ‘Complex Products’ as set out in the Proposed Guidelines as this will likely impact fund distribution and product design.

Here’s our Legal Update on the Proposed Guidelines under consultation: SFC Consultation Paper on Online Distribution and Advisory Platforms (May 2017)