12 minute read 17 Apr 2023

Firms must think carefully and move quickly if they are to meet initial FCA expectations, whilst planning for long-term implications.

EY Businessman using graphs on screen in business meeting background

What firms can do now to meet the Consumer Duty deadline

Christopher Woolard CBE

Partner, Financial Services Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP; EY UK FinTech Leader; EY Global Financial Services Regulatory Network Chair; EY EMEIA Financial Services Regulation Leader

Experienced senior leader in regulation, strategy and innovation. Building better consumer and market outcomes in financial services.

Heather Alleyne

Partner, Financial Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Passionate about helping clients achieve good customer outcomes. Advocate for creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. Enjoys travelling, keeping fit and spending time with family.

12 minute read 17 Apr 2023

Firms must think carefully and move quickly if they are to meet initial FCA expectations, whilst planning for long-term implications.

In brief
  • The FCA has acknowledged the considerable progress made by many firms, but has suggested some may be overconfident about meeting the April and July 2023 deadlines.
  • Technology and data, product reviews and culture change are three priorities where firms should focus their attention in the run-up to the initial deadlines.
  • As firms take urgent action to fulfil short-term requirements, they should not lose sight of the long-term strategic opportunities.

The clock is ticking on the Consumer Duty implementation period for UK financial services firms. Now, just a few months before the compliance deadline, the results of our latest survey of 40 firms show that they are mostly confident about achieving compliance with the FCA’s requirements. With an important interim deadline coming for manufacturers in a matter of weeks (April 30) and with the new Consumer Duty going live for all existing and new products and services that retail consumers can purchase, including credit products, mortgages, investment funds and pensions, and insurance not long after (July 31), there is reason to believe that many – perhaps most – firms are not where they need to be with their preparations.

EY Consumer Duty readiness survey, January 2023


of firms are confident that their distribution strategies will be compliant by April 2023

After its most recent review of implementation plans, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has reported that “some firms may be further behind in their thinking and planning for the duty. This brings a risk that they may not be ready in time, or they may struggle to embed the duty effectively throughout their business.”¹

Firms that are at risk of falling short of the immediate requirements need to think carefully – and quickly – about how and when they can catch up. Firms that are feeling optimistic about initial implementations should ensure that their confidence is justified, by examining more closely how their implementation programmes are being executed across the entire organisation. Despite the near-term pressures, all firms should recognise the strategic upside the duty can present and shape plans for seizing the opportunities.

The focus to date has been on tactical priorities, such as naming “Consumer Duty champions”, training staff, conducting product reviews and assessing management information. Those are undoubtedly important steps. However, we noted from our survey and our discussions with executives across the industry, that there is less than full understanding of what is required for the April deadline, particularly in terms of communications between manufacturers and distributors. 

Further, there is a distinct lack of clarity in some firms of “what good looks like” for businesses and for customers. Also, few firms have considered the significant, long-term strategic opportunities associated with the duty. That is understandable given the intense focus on compliance under tight deadlines. However, the long-term opportunity to drive competitive advantage and differentiation by creating more value for customers, based on the duty’s principles, should not be overlooked. 

This article highlights the key findings of our most recent research and provides insights on where firms are today, what they need to do to ensure they are ready for the April and July deadlines, and how firms can shift the emphasis to strategic actions that will produce business value. 

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Chapter 1

Where firms are today

Progress has been made, but critical actions must be taken, as survey respondents acknowledge.

Financial services firms are continuing to move toward implementation with significant progress made. From our participants, 95% have conducted gap analysis (up from 74% in our study from June 2022) and 83% have completed product reviews (up from 26% in June 2022). Slightly fewer firms have conducted board training and reviewed their management information (80%) and defined “good customer outcomes” in accordance with the duty (76%). Similar percentages of survey respondents say some of these activities are ready for transition to business-as-usual operations. 

This is impressive progress. However, looking closely at immediate-term needs, it is clear that key actions are necessary, including a more detailed review of product portfolios for compliance with the duty’s requirements. Further technology changes will also be necessary for some firms. 

Respondent comments also suggest that many firms may have substantial work to do. Among the biggest gaps cited by participants in our survey are: 

  • “Truly understanding target market and customer needs … from the perspective of where the FCA wants the industry to move.”

  • “Time and the general nature of the rules.”

  • “Theoretical nature of the requirements themselves.” 

  • “Defining fair value and evidencing good outcomes.”

  • “Competing business priorities and SME availability.”

  • “Upfront testing of communications and retrospective outcomes testing.”

  • “Senior stakeholder buy-in.”

  • “Reliance on third parties.”

The outlook for the April 2023 deadline

While most firms (85%) are confident they will comply with the deadline for manufacturers to review all open products and sharing information with third-party firms, only 15% said they are fully ready. This is a significant gap, given the industry’s reliance on partnerships and ecosystems. 

Furthermore, firms can be held accountable to the duty’s principles for processes and interactions that occur outside their organisational boundaries. Currently, less than a quarter (22%) of our survey respondents said they clearly understand what they will receive and how they will use it. The immediate goal must be to gain clarity on the information to be received and confidence on whether their distribution strategies will be compliant. The firms and their partners must achieve the same level of understanding relative to the duty as soon as possible.

It is also worth noting that the “relationships with other firms in the distribution chain” was the fourth-top concern for survey respondents. The suggestion is that the job of substantive compliance by July may become more complex depending on what firms discover between now and April.

The outlook for the July 2023 deadline

Only half of firms say they are confident they will be substantively compliant by the July 2023 deadline. That’s down from 61% who said they were confident in last year’s survey; this decrease in confidence is notable because our last survey was conducted before the deadline for full implementation was extended from April to July. However, of the quarter (25%) who say they won’t be ready most would expect to be ready within a few additional months and 15% “hope” to be compliant. Among firms that aren’t ready for July, 50% state they need six months to fulfil all the requirements for compliance, which suggests the need to accelerate compliance programmes as a matter of urgency given the FCA has not suggested any move in the deadline. Finally, 10% state they need at least a year. All the indications from the regulator are that this will not be acceptable. In consequence, the firms that find themselves in this situation should consider a mix of tactical fixes to ensure substantive compliance and revisit the speed of implementation.

FCA leaders² have spoken about the “initial efforts to address the duty appearing superficial” and some firms being “over-confident in their existing systems.” Our survey results support such conclusions. When considering the financial implications, 60% of firms have not yet determined their total implementation costs for the duty. Importantly, what resulted from our survey was a wide range of projected estimates, from less than £200k up to £5 million.

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Chapter 2

Key focus areas for meeting initial deadlines

Technology, products and culture top the priority list.

The variance between the FCA’s expectations and firms’ self-assessment of their readiness reflects the different sizes and types of firms in our survey sample. But it also reveals a deeper uncertainty about the overall impacts on the business and the absence of well-defined implementation strategies. Given that the impacts of the duty will impact beyond the initial implementation dates, most firms would be well served to develop strategies, even at this seemingly late date. Any such strategies should prominently feature technology and data, the product portfolio and cultural change, three key areas where firms must focus immediately to ensure compliance in line with the FCA’s timelines. With the FCA making clear that it will not move its implementation deadlines, boards should consider where they need to accelerate progress to achieve at least minimum levels of compliance.

1. Technology and data are critical concerns

Most firms are looking at what data is available in the business but collecting suitable metrics and management information is the top concern of survey respondents. Firms are focussed on baseline technology change, citing customer relationship management, client communications and service and product governance as the three areas needing the most technological transformation. 

Our results suggest firms have been more reactive than strategy-led in setting the technology transformation agenda relative to the duty implementation. It’s critical that business aligns technology changes to target customer outcomes and business objectives. It's also important to consider the governance implications when looking at data implications; the issues extend beyond technology and may require senior managers to make tough decisions about the key metrics and behaviours to be tracked.

2. Products are an immediate-term priority 

Eight out of ten firms have now assessed products and services for foreseeable harm for customers. That is an improvement from our survey in June 2022, when only 26% of the companies had done so.

However, most survey respondents said they would not have to modify or refine products to achieve compliance, with some variance by type of firm. The FCA would not likely agree with that assessment and might view it as evidence of overconfidence or misplaced optimism. 

Firms’ confidence relative to their products suggests that their analysis has not considered the full range of customers. They also raise the question of whether firms are missing out on an opportunity to enhance products to drive better outcomes in line with the expectations of the duty. Only half of firms have identified such enhancements. Over time, all firms will add features and take steps to make their products more attractive; but it’s critical that those efforts are aligned to the duty’s requirements and relative to customer outcomes. 

3. Cultural change needs urgent attention

Most firms are focussed on equipping their staff with training, which is the first step. It’s encouraging that all firms are planning to train their people and teams around the duty’s principles generally, in addition to the requirements of their specific roles. 

EY Consumer Duty readiness survey, January 2023


of firms will be training their workforce on how to implement Consumer Duty requirements within their role

However, the fact that nearly two-thirds of firms say their workers have the right skills and capabilities to implement the Consumer Duty suggests they may be underestimating the impact and scope of the changes. It’s not purely skill and capabilities, but also a mindset shift that will best position firms to succeed in the post-implementation future. In our engagement with firms across the industry, we’ve seen only a few appreciating the full impact and designing their training accordingly.

Ideally, people at every level of the enterprise will learn to view things from the perspective of their customers and be empowered to actively seek ways to provide more value. In this sense, the duty can prompt firms to embed customer centricity within their culture. Training is key, but executive and non-executive leaders must set the tone at the top – including newly named Consumer Duty champions serving as advocates for the duty’s benefits. 

Cultural change is perhaps the most difficult requirement associated with the duty but also the most powerful capability firms could gain from compliance. And it is, as the FCA recognises, likely to be a long-term process, not something that will be completed by July 2023.

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Chapter 3

Strategies for the short- and long-term

Firms cannot overlook the long-term implications in favour of short-term gains.

Focussing on near-term priorities

Firms that are concerned about the April and July deadlines should take these four key steps immediately:

  1. Undertake a rapid, but thorough, review of the impacts of the Consumer Duty across every aspect of the business.
  2. Make sure action plans prioritise those issues with the greatest risk of harm; the FCA recommends³ “focussing on reducing the risk of poor consumer outcomes and assessing where [firms] are likely to be furthest away from the requirements of the duty.”
  3. Be precise in identifying where changes are necessary in products and services, customer communications and other touchpoints across customer journeys.
  4. Engage risk management and internal audit teams to provide assessments of the controls in place for implementation before the deadlines, but also for reviews of post-deadline work and other planned changes.

Firms at risk of falling short of compliance requirements by the deadline should consider contingency plans. How the FCA will supervise non-compliant firms and enforce the duty are uncertain. The FCA’s Sheldon Mills has said², “After the deadline, we will take a pragmatic and proportionate approach and will help those who are taking their final steps towards meeting the standards of the duty.” Firms that are not yet compliant will need to show active engagement with the substance of the duty requirements, clear tactical plans to get compliant as soon as possible, and openness to further FCA reviews. Many firms adopted “plans for plans” in October that will no longer be deemed adequate with the regulator as deadlines come closer.

Getting strategic for the long-term

Our latest research shows that firms remain focussed on the near-term tactical steps for compliance. However, they should not overlook how these actions can unlock strategic opportunities and generate business value beyond compliance. Those opportunities range from developing differentiating products and adding new features, to enhancing customer journeys and experiences, to transforming customer data and instilling customer centricity more deeply into products and services, everyday operations and the organisational culture. 

These steps can deliver bottom-line value to the business far beyond regulatory compliance. For instance, consistently producing good outcomes – including effective customer service and useful communications – will improve retention and loyalty rates, whilst also reducing customer acquisition costs. Deeper knowledge of customer needs and preferences can lead to increased sales via enhanced product design and new features aligned to specific market needs and preferences. To realise these benefits, however, firms must avoid the temptation to take a narrow, compliance-driven view of the duty and broaden their perspective to see the opportunities for the business.

Based on our engagement with both regulators and a range of firms, we believe that such strategic efforts are critical not just to driving value for the business, but also for satisfying the FCA’s intent. That intent is to ensure that every financial product offered delivers quality outcomes for all customers. Firms that substantially comply by July 2023 will continue to be judged by this higher standard into the future. 

Harvesting the value will depend on firms’ urgent actions in the months ahead and on their unique product set, customer bases and business objectives. But it’s critical to remember that firms taking strategic action now and, in the future, will realise the benefits for a long time to come. Consumer Duty should not be viewed as a one-time undertaking, but rather a long-term journey on which firms can generate value for customers and their own bottom lines.

  • Methodology

    Our second Consumer Duty readiness survey includes responses from 40 key firms across the UK retail financial services market who conduct activity in scope of Consumer Duty requirements. The window for survey responses was open between 20 December 2022 and 31 January 2023.

    Survey topics cover:

    1. Progress towards implementation
    2. Existing products and consumer outcomes
    3. Training and workforce preparedness
    4. Technology and data
    5. Cost and scale of programme
    6. Programme strategy and implementation plan

    Sectors include Banking and capital markets, Wealth and asset management, Insurance, Insurance intermediary, payment services, consumer credit and FinTech.


Our Consumer Duty survey results make clear that more needs to be done before the April and July deadlines. Firms that were once confident about their implementation plans have realised the full scale of the change as their implementation programmes have taken effect.

At the same time, this should not be a moment to panic; rather, now is the time to take a strategic approach that goes beyond a “tick-the-box” approach to compliance, asking the right questions around data and ensuring that the opportunity is not missed to embed long-term culture change and fundamentally strengthen the business.

About this article

Christopher Woolard CBE

Partner, Financial Services Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP; EY UK FinTech Leader; EY Global Financial Services Regulatory Network Chair; EY EMEIA Financial Services Regulation Leader

Experienced senior leader in regulation, strategy and innovation. Building better consumer and market outcomes in financial services.

Heather Alleyne

Partner, Financial Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Passionate about helping clients achieve good customer outcomes. Advocate for creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. Enjoys travelling, keeping fit and spending time with family.