Professionals

8. May historical returns on financial products and/or ratings be mentioned on a list of financial products on a website?

Article 12 of the Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 imposing certain information obligations when distributing financial products to retail clients lays down the minimum information that must be mentioned in all advertisements, other documents or announcements referred to in Article 9 of the Royal Decree.

As regards a list of financial products that appears on the website of a manufacturer or of a regulated distributor/intermediary (or of a person acting on their behalf), the FSMA accepts, in order to do justice to the inherently succinct nature of lists, that the list might not mention all the information required in application of the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014, on condition that besides providing the name of the financial products, the list is limited to mentioning a few items of objective and neutral information that will allow the retail client to make an initial selection from among the products offered1. The other information required pursuant to the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 should, moreover, be accessible in one click.

The lists should avoid any mention, in particular, of information that might enable retail clients to take their investment or savings decision without consulting the other information required under the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014.

Point 3.4.2 of the Circular FSMA 2015_16 of 27/10/2015 (French or Dutch) on the rules governing advertising when distributing financial products to retail clients cites the rating of the issuer or of the product as examples of elements that may enable retail clients to take an investment decision without consulting all the information required under the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014, in situations where that information is included on a list of bonds.

The FSMA considers that there are nevertheless some cases where the historical returns on financial products and/or ratings are mentioned on lists of such products made available via a website by a manufacturer or a regulated distributor/intermediary (or a person acting on their behalf) for the sole purpose of allowing the retail client to make an initial selection among the products offered, without enabling him or her to take an investment or savings decision based solely on the information contained on the aforesaid list. This FAQ seeks to specify the conditions which the FSMA considers that such lists should fulfil in order to be permitted to mention the historical returns on financial products and/or ratings2, namely:

  • the list should comprise the entire range of financial products being offered (or, at least, the entire range of financial products of one and the same type) and may not be the result of a preselection made by the manufacturer or the regulated distributor/intermediary (or a person acting on their behalf) within the range of products being offered;
  • the main risks (as referred to in Article 12, § 1, 4, c bis) of the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014) of the financial products included on the list should be mentioned;
  • if the historical returns on financial products are mentioned, all the rules governing historical returns set out in Articles 16, 17 and 19 of the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 must be complied with as regards the list;
  • if ratings are mentioned, all the rules governing ratings set out in Article 24, § 2 of the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 must be complied with as regards the list and, where the rating applies to a specific category of financial products (e.g., the rating for a UCI belonging to the category of UCIs in shares), this information should also be provided on the list;
  • if the decision is made to mention the historical returns for financial products and/or ratings on a list of financial products, this should be done for all the financial products on the list. The same goes for the choice of the maturity for which the returns are mentioned on the list, which should be identical for all the financial products. Thus, for example, if a distributor decides to mention, on a list of financial products, returns since the launch of product, over 2 years and over 5 years, these same figures must be provided for all the financial products for which they are available (depending on the date when the product was launched) and must be kept up to date;
  • the (other) minimum information required pursuant to the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 should be accessible in one click or contained in full for each financial product on the list; and
  • assuming that the information referred to in the preceding point is not included on the list, a disclaimer should indicate that the historical returns and/or ratings are provided only to allow for an initial selection of financial products, that an investment or savings decision should not be taken solely on the basis of these elements, and that it is important to read all the other information (e.g., fees, investment policy, etc.) about the financial product in question, which information is available in 'one click'.

Lastly, the FSMA wishes to emphasize that the principle set out in point 3.4.2. of the said Circular FSMA_2016 of 27/1/2015, according to which the aim is to avoid mentioning on product lists information that would allow retail clients to take an investment or savings decision without consulting the other information which must be made available pursuant to the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014, continues to apply in full. Therefore, if the mention of historical returns on financial products and/or ratings on a list of financial products is such as to enable retail clients to take a savings or investment decision based solely on the information appearing on the list (for example, because the range of financial products offered is very limited), then all the information referred to in Article 12 of the said Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 should be mentioned on the list (without requiring 'one click'). The FSMA pays particular attention to compliance with this principle when considering whether to grant its approval of templates and in relation to the use of templates for lists of financial products (see FAQ no. 1).


1 Ratings such as those referred to in Article 24, § 2 of the Royal Decree of 25 April 2014 imposing certain information obligations when distributing financial products to retail clients. Without prejudice to the respect for the other applicable provisions, and in particular the general requirements referred to in Article 11 of the aforementioned Royal Decree of 25 April 2014.

2 See point 3.4.2 of Circular FSMA_2015_16 of 27/10/2015 on the rules governing advertising when distributing financial products to retail clients.