Santander probed by UK agency for misleading advice to customers

Spanish bank says it is reviewing the advice it offers

Banco Santander said Wednesday it was being investigated by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) over investment advice its staff gave to researchers posing as retail customers in so-called mystery shopper tests, Bloomberg reported.

UK banks gave inadequate advice to a quarter of customers in its review last year, the FSA said in a report released Wednesday. The agency did not name the banks that were probed. However, Bloomberg said the FSA had referred Santander to its enforcement division for further investigation, and told other banks to improve how they deal with customers.

Santander will “review how it can offer advice to its customers in the future for their benefit and provide access to appropriate investment products,” Bloomberg quoted the bank as saying in a statement.

The regulator sent people who didn’t identify themselves as representing the FSA to invest money at six UK banks. Employees gave them unsuitable advice 11 percent of the time, the agency said in a statement. Advisers didn’t gather enough information about the clients in 15 percent of visits.

“This review shows that customers are not consistently getting the quality of advice on their investments that they should expect when visiting an adviser in a bank or building society,” said Clive Adamson, FSA director of supervision.

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