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Chris Sier appointed to lead UK cost transparency push

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The UK regulator has appointed Chris Sier to oversee the new framework for cost transparency across the entire asset management sector.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has tasked Sier – an outspoken campaigner for improved disclosure – with leading a working group that will attempt to achieve a consensus on how to make asset management costs clearer.

Sier – a professor at Newcastle University Business School – has campaigned for 10 years in both retail and institutional investment to uncover the charges that impact savers.

Announcing Sier’s appointment, the FCA said the working group’s first meeting was slated for September.

By the end of this year the regulator intends for the group to have achieved consensus on a standardised cost disclosure template, based on Sier’s work with the LGPS. It will also aim to agree how the template will be used, how accuracy will be ensured, and how it should be adapted in future – including for use with “non-mainstream” asset managers”.

“It is a brave appointment by the FCA,” said Con Keating, head of research at insurer Brighton Rock and a fellow transparency campaigner. “It makes a statement that the regulator isn’t going to take any prisoners.

“To analyse a manager’s skill, you need data on performance, cost and fees. This will harm inefficient and corrupt managers. In so doing, it will make UK asset management more competitive globally.”

Sier’s role as convenor is to bring together interested parties – including the asset managers’ trade body, the Investment Association, which initially fiercely rejected calls for transparency – but he has also done his own work on devising cost transparency frameworks.

He recently gained recognition for his work adapting a Dutch disclosure template for use by local government pension schemes (LGPS), which has already shed light on areas of ‘hidden’ charges.

The LGPS work was facilitated by Unison, the public-sector trade union, which now expects trade union representatives to be part of Sier’s convened committee.

Colin Meech, national officer for Unison, said: “We hope that both Chris and the FCA recognise the role trade unions have played both in the UK and in the Netherlands in delivering greater transparency for pension funds. We ask both Chris as convenor and the FCA to ensure that there is a seat for the Trades Union Congress on the cost transparency committee.”

The working group was proposed as part of a raft of recommendations from the FCA to improve the asset management sector, set out in its Asset Management Market Study.

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