Last Christmas, we appeared to have a clear horizon. The election was over. Boris had a solid majority. Those who has sought to undermine the will of the public had been rejected by the electorate.
Here we are 6 months later. Much of business is shut down. Our liberties are trashed, and Parliament has been panicked into passing legislation that hands incredible power to every passing Gauleiter. From Whitehall’s perspective “if the Virus hadn’t existed, they would have had to invent it!”
More importantly, this election result should have ended of the “We know best” alliance which had run the UK Government for three decades. At last, the Government could govern, and business could thrive. We could start to release business from the cold hand of regulation. Whitehall was solidly on the back foot and could only create a wall of dumb insolence in our discussions with the EU.
Given the current world of lockdown, I have been getting involved with a wide range of virtual meetings.
One of the laudable ambitions of these meetings is to improve the reputation of Financial Services. For the FCA Empire to continue to exist at its current size, it must show the FS industry as being perpetually untrustworthy. Every time you pay the FCA you are also paying a perpetual critic.
If you want to understand this; think of the Race Relations Industry which is now 50 years old.
When was the last time you ever heard a Race Officer say that race relations were improving? Never – it is bad for their business. If you say that things are improving, you are talking yourself out of a job. So, it is with the FCA.
To be fair, there are elements in the industry that make this naysaying so extremely easy. All the discussions of changing culture are fine and dandy, but I do not see any evidence that Banks are no longer looking at their customers as cows to be milked. Nor do I see any evidence that the FCA staff will do anything to change this culture as it is bad for their future employment.
Closer to home what have the experts at the FCA got to offer? Since the virus appeared; It has issued 15 Press releases, mostly on COVID 19. The politically correct FCA cannot be beastly to the Chinese!
3 are warnings to public on scams and panicking - First class use of regulation - no arguments there.
1 is wittering on about climate change policies - Someone at the FCA must have time on their hands
11 are attempting to steer Insurance, Finance and Mortgage companies to courses of action without either the firms or the FCA having the full facts. The FCA is attempting to manage these companies but not taking any responsibility for that management. The FCA’s actions could bankrupt these firms and the FCA probably does not have the legal power to enforce such actions anyway, but when did they ever care about that?
The key parts of my virtual meetings are as follows:
IFAA has been a member of FECIF - Federation Europeenne Des Conseils Et Intermediaires Financiers or European Federation of Financial Advisers & Intermediaries in English for 3 years. This body currently pursues our lobbying at the EU, but the membership also includes non-EU countries like Switzerland and the UK. Last week, I was appointed a director of FECIF and “attended” the AGM and subsequent Board meeting.
I have also been looking at the post lockdown political world. We successfully supported the advisers and the victims of the Connaught Fraud and helped set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) which has maintained the pressure on the regulators forcing them to appoint an External Reviewer. Whether this review will lead to real change is still to be decided. I have little confidence that it will. This reviewer has had his scope carefully chosen by the FCA and he is being paid by them.
This world is not just inhabited by the IFAA. There are several bodies and individuals who feel that regulation is a failure and one of those is an international group called the Transparency Task Force.
The TTF has large numbers of advisers & victims from a number of examples of regulatory failure. London Capital & Finance(£237m), Harlequin Property (£400m+), Lendy (£150m), Connaught (£106m), Funding Secure (£80m) and of course Woodford (£2bn-plus), to name just a few. TTF were about to set up a new APPG. as were we, so we hope to be working together when we can initiate the new combined APPG.
The APPG rules demand we wait until Parliament allows a real rather than virtual meeting before we can launch.
Politically, the big question is when will the Coronavirus Act 2020 be repealed? The obvious answer is when the virus is over. But this virus may never be totally removed. The 1919 Spanish Flu and its derivatives are still with us 100 years later – vaccines or no vaccines. Those who have been handed power will not want to hand it back.
The “We know best” alliance’s greatest ambition was a world governed by unelected experts and that is exactly where we are now.
To be fair to the FCA, there are elements in the industry that make their naysaying so extremely easy. All the discussions of changing culture are fine and dandy. but I do not see any evidence that Banks are no longer looking at their customers as cows to be milked.
Nor do I see an evidence of advisers realising that an insistent client should be instantly promoted to an ex-client.
Al this means we still have to fight and to do that the 90% of advisory companies not members of IFAA should join.
Can’t afford it? Now that regulatory costs are in excess of 20% and rising you cannot afford not to.