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The UK’s ‘big three’ investment consultants have called in lawyers as part of a bid to fend off a potential investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Aon Hewitt, Mercer, and Willis Towers Watson jointly submitted a list of “undertakings in lieu” to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) at the start of this week.

In a joint statement, the firms said their proposals would “promote healthy competition and favourable outcomes for clients”. However, they have not made the undertakings public.

The FCA in December published a 200-page “asset management review”, in which it criticised a perceived lack of competition in the investment consulting sector. It proposed commissioning an inquiry by the CMA, as well as bringing consultants into the FCA’s regulatory regime.

A joint statement from the three firms said: “The package [of undertakings] has regard to review of services, transparency of performance and fees, and conflicts of interest and was prepared following the FCA’s indication that it was open to considering undertakings in lieu that would provide a comprehensive solution that is reasonable and practical.”

The statement also said the three companies had worked with external lawyers “to ensure adherence to the requirements of competition law in putting together this package of measures”.

Ed Francis, head of investment for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) at Willis Towers Watson, said: “The specific measures that we have submitted to the FCA for consideration will, if accepted, help all institutional investors ensure they have the right provider, the right service model, and the right information to judge the quality of our input.

“We believe their adoption by all firms operating as investment advisers or fiduciary managers will promote the continuation of healthy competition and strong outcomes for our clients.”

Andy Cox, CEO for EMEA at Aon Hewitt, said: “This package reflects both the concerns raised by the FCA and our own views on how the industry can progress effectively. We operate in a highly competitive and innovative marketplace, and are in complete support of measures to enable trustees to monitor and better evaluate their investment consultants. The package represents readily implementable changes in place of a protracted market investigation.”

Fiona Dunsire, UK CEO at Mercer, said: “Mercer supports actions that contribute to our clients and their plan participants being able to take effective decisions, including over the choice and assessment of service suppliers. Good investment outcomes are too important not to do everything we can to assure that the entire industry conforms to a common set of high standards.

“We are pleased to contribute to the FCA’s process and believe now is the time in that process for the industry to responsibly allow the FCA to carefully consider the thoughtful collection of data and submissions in front of them.”

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