Bluefin Insurance Services have been fined £4m for misleading customers about its independence when offering advice.
An investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority found that it had inadequate systems and controls, and failed to provide information about its independence in a way that was clear, fair and not misleading.
The offences took place between 9 March 2011 and 31 December 2014. Bluefin, a large insurance broker, was wholly owned by the insurer AXA UK Plc during this time, yet held itself out to be ‘truly independent’ in the advice it provided and the insurers it recommended.
It failed to implement adequate systems and controls to manage the conflict that arose from its ownership. Bluefin’s independence was compromised by its culture which promoted business strategies, including a policy that focused on increasing the business placed with its parent company, over treating customers fairly.
Bluefin brokers did not disclose this policy, so customers risked being misled into believing they were dealing with a broker who would conduct an unbiased search of the market.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, said: “Insurance brokers must promote a culture in which they act in their customers’ best interests and provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision. This is central to the relationship between the industry and its customers.
“It is also unacceptable that firms hold themselves out as independent when they are not.”
Bluefin agreed to settle at an early stage of the investigation and received a 30% reduction in their overall fine. Without this discount the fine would have been £5,748,200.
The FCA made no criticism of any member of the AXA Group other than Bluefin.
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