The Financial Services Act (1986) introduced a comprehensive regulatory system for the carrying on of investment business, which has had a substantial impact on the way life assurance, pensions and unit trusts, are sold. Basically, anyone selling or advising on these investments must be authorised to do so, unless exempt from this requirement. The concept of polarisation was introduced as a result of the Act. Polarisation means that generally an investment adviser must either be limited to selling and advising on the products of one company/group or be an independent intermediary. The purpose of this is to make it clear to an investor as to whether or not he is getting independent advice.

Authorisation to carry on investment business can be obtained from the Securities and Investments Board (SIB), a Self Regulatory Organisation (SRO) or a Recognised Professional Body (RPB).

With effect from 1st January 1995, both independent intermediaries and tied agents (those selling the product of one company) will have to disclose at the point of sale the commission in monetary terms payable on the product being sold.