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Insurer Bluefin fined £4m over misleading information

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Insurance broker Bluefin has been fined more than £4m over misleading claims it was ‘truly independent’ despite being wholly owned by AXA.

Bluefin Insurance Services Limited (Bluefin) has been slapped with the £4,023,800 fine from regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), for failing to disclose information to its customers about the true nature of its independence.

Between 9 March 2011 and 31 December 2014, Bluefin was wholly owned by insurer AXA UK during this time. But Bluefin maintained it was ‘truly independent’ in the advice it provided and the insurers it recommended to customers.

The FCA said the insurance broker failed to implement adequate systems and controls to manage the conflict that arose from its ownership.

As such, the regulator said Bluefin’s independence was “compromised by its culture, which promoted business strategies”. This included a policy which focused on increasing the business placed with its parent company, over treating customers fairly.

Bluefin brokers didn’t 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.

The FCA makes no criticism of any member of the AXA Group other than Bluefin.

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 its fine. Without this discount the fine would have been £5,748,200.

A spokesperson for Marsh, which acquired Bluefin in January 2017, said: “We were aware of the investigation into these practices in Bluefin when we acquired the business at the end of last year.

“After the transaction closed we reviewed and, where appropriate, improved Bluefin’s practices and policies to align them with our own high, client-centric standards. During this time we have also worked with the FCA to ensure that this case was fully resolved.”

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