Too big to worry about – what’s should we do about State Street?

state streetI wrote yesterday about State Street’s £22.9m fine from the FCA for stealing $20.2m from 6 large clients.  Whether this was all the money stolen or whether these were the clients who they found out about is not mentioned. We’ll have to guess whether Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency, the Kuwait Investment Authority and the Royal Mail and Sainsbury pension funds, were alone.

If this was allowed to happen under the noses of the fiduciaries of these huge schemes, then what happened to the smaller schemes. I spoke with the CIO of one £10bn + UK occupational scheme who admitted to not knowing what his custodian was charging (and that was in November). When we asked why, he claimed he had asked but the custodian refused to disclose the information.

Anyone who thinks that the Custodians of our funds are exercising the highest standards of fiduciary management should be very worried about this.

But reading the articles, this sounds like a historic incident State Street are sweeping under the carpet.

All this went on some five or six years ago and the current State Street management are keen to tell us that those involved have been sacked, internal controls tightened and  current clients including NEST (owned by you and me) and Scottish Widows (partly owned by you and me) who use State Street Asset management, should no be concerned.

Well maybe they and the much larger group of occupational pension schemes who give State Street custody of the money that backs up the pension promises, should be worried.

To put this in context, nobody appears to have been jailed, no sanctions on State Street’s trading have been imposed and it’s very much BAU for the custody bank, asset manager and other divisions of the global bank.

I hope that the fiduciaries of organisations using State Street won’t consider a £23.9m fine the end of the story. Relative to the Bank’s balance sheet it is nothing.

I have no skin in the game, I don’t sell custody services but I do recommend Scottish Widows workplace savings and I do recommend NEST. There are plenty of other asset managers out there, offering similar products to SSgam.

Personally, I don’t want to have my money managed by a firm that has been convicted of fraudulent activities that have happened in the past five years. I am quite sure that the Bank would not want to lend money to me if I had been convicted of theft in the past five years. Trust is a two-way street.

Every time that a Bank is exposed for theft (and this is what happened), little people should look up and take action. I have written to the CIO of NEST, Mark Fawcett, for his reaction to the news and I have written to Toby Strauss the CEO of Scottish Widows for his reaction.

I suggest that you do likewise.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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