[check against delivery]

A very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to provide an introduction to this, the 3rd Annual Conference of the European Retail Financial Forum. As you know, I'm relatively recently appointed as the new Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union.

I’m sorry this message is recorded due to diary constraints, but nonetheless the key messages are really important for your forum.

The subject of this conference, “Consumers at the heart of finance in Europe” reflects my top priority for retail financial services: to make sure that we have a financial system that works for people.

Now let me briefly lay out the initiatives underway at various stages that aim to ensure that consumers reap the full benefits of the single market in financial services. We want proper protection and full empowerment.

[Retail investor protection]

First, we need to look at the rules for the protection of retail investors. We want consumers to be able to trust capital markets and get a fair deal. This is key so consumers and retail investors can save for their retirement and provide for any other long-term financing needs.

This is a vital part of the Capital Markets Union. And it will support the role of markets in the economic recovery.

We can only hope to achieve our goals if we place retail investors at the heart of our policies.

To help us, we’ve just launched a broad-ranging study to pull together a solid evidence base. This study will look at a number of key issues: inducements, disclosures, advice and suitability tests. It will provide an important contribution to the new retail investment strategy that the Commission wants to adopt in 2022.

I want to look at all steps on the entire retail investor journey. Retail investors must receive fair, adequate and appropriate advice, as well as clear and comparable information, across different types of investment products, to help them make the right choice.

[Financial information and financial literacy]

Greater participation in retail investment can only work if consumers understand the products they want to invest in and the information they receive.

This holds true for all financial products, not just investment. The best way to empower citizens is to provide them with knowledge.

And as we all know, knowledge is power.

That’s why we intend to step up our work on financial literacy.

Education, including financial education, is a competence of the Member States - but we can support and coordinate their work.

In our recent CMU Action Plan, we laid out some important actions that we intend to take.

By the middle of next year, we will assess the feasibility of developing a dedicated EU financial competence framework.

And we will also look at whether to extend the commitment to the financial education of consumers contained in the Mortgage Credit Directive to other relevant sectoral legislation.

[Consumer protection legislation]

In addition, we will assess whether existing consumer protection legislation meets its objectives – especially in light of technological change and the impact of COVID-19.

We will evaluate the Mortgage Credit Directive. Do we need any regulatory change, especially given the COVID crisis? We also want to make sure the Directive addresses the challenges of digitalisation and sustainability.

I know that DG JUST, under the leadership of my colleague Didier Reynders, is reviewing the Consumer Credit Directive.

We will be consistent across these two reviews.

And we will also look at the Payment Accounts Directive, which has been an important milestone for financial inclusion, and assess whether it is still achieving its objectives.

[Digital payments]

More broadly, we want consumers and businesses to benefit from digitalisation.

This is particularly relevant in the area of payments. Consumers and businesses should be able to rely on high-quality, secure, cost-efficient payments.

An important step in this direction is the introduction of strong customer authentication, to reduce fraud in e-commerce.

We want to make instant payments the new normal – but we recognise that this may require changes to our existing framework for consumer protection to maintain our high standards of protection.

[Consumer voice]

Finally, we need to continue to make sure that consumer interests are represented and taken into account in EU policy-making.

We already finance some organisations through grants, which allows them play a more active role and provide a balance with industry views.

We consult and involve consumers in our policy-making through expert groups such as the Commission Financial Services User Group.

We intend to continue this engagement and support.

[Closing]

In closing, I’m looking forward to engaging with you throughout my mandate.

You can count on my support to put consumers who are empowered, protected and financially literate, at the heart of finance in Europe.

And I wish you a very fruitful event.