Friday, July 21, 2023
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Editor’s Comment: Weeding out the rotters

One thing that has always disappointed me about financial regulation is how many rotters are allowed to get involved in financial services in the first place.

That may be changing, finally, as the FCA moves towards a much more interventionist and proactive policy on those wanting to be regulated individuals and run regulated firms.

Not before time, many of you will say.

The problem has always been that for greedy people, financial services businesses have always been a magnet. Lots of money to ‘advise’ on, low barriers to entry and the chance to meet some wealthy people.

Realistically the barriers to entry have been way too low and it’s where much of the problem lies.

For some it’s been a case of getting a few basic qualifications, setting up in an office in a small town and trying and find some victims, sorry I meant to say clients.

At this point I should stress I am only talking about the minority of hard-core rotters who are attracted to financial services and financial advice for the wrong reasons; because they want to get rich quick and then run away from their obligations when it all goes horribly wrong, leaving the FCA, the FOS, the FSCS and others to sort out their mess.

I know and respect many high quality Financial Planners and financial advisers of all types. Good, hard-working, professional people who love working with their clients, spend many hours of their free time studying for exams and devote their lives to building up their businesses to provide a valuable service to their community. These are the good guys.

The people I am talking about are the incompetents, the rogues and the out-and-out criminals who should never have been allowed into the profession in the first place.

Hopefully they will be fewer in number in future as the FCA develops a more proactive approach to new joiners.

An indication of the direction of travel appears in the FCA’s Annual Report and Accounts 2022/23, published this week. The FCA says in its report that it has halted business at nearly 630 firms over the past year because they had failed to reach the regulator’s “minimum standards” – an increase of 30% on the year before.

On the appointed rep side, the FCA has cut the numbers from 43,000 in 2020 to 35,000 now – a sizeable reduction of 19%. There is no doubt some of the worst regulatory problems have been among appointed reps, whether that be pensions mis-selling or just inept advice. The sector has been too poorly regulated in the past and the FCA is now acting.

The FCA will never stop all the rotters but it is now applying more effort to stopping the rogues getting started in the first place. That can only pay dividends.

A sector with higher standards of entry will ultimately be a better sector, providing much better advice and higher quality financial services. Far better to stop the villains getting started in the first place than clearing up their mess afterwards as the FCA is learning.

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Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and has worked as a journalist and editor for over four decades.




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