Financial Regulators aren’t carved out of stone – they need a merry Christmas too!

happy Christmas

Financial Regulation seems a brutal business, impersonal and intimidating. Necessarily, a degree of formality is needed in one’s conduct on both sides.  I would not feel comfortable at the FCA’s Christmas party nor they at mine. But that does not mean we should not have parties.

For reasons that are obvious, if you’ve been following this blog, I have had a lot of interactions with Regulators in the last few months. Historically I know the Pensions Regulator, latterly I have been dealing with the FCA, I don’t have dealings with other regulators though my household does.

What’s apparent to  me is that regulatory relationships are built over time and around trust. They are just like any other relationship. That’s because even the FCA is simply the sum of its parts and those parts are people.

Ignoring the basic rules of relationships , mistaking organisations like the FCA for institutions, will simply not do. I am sure that I have been guilty of talking about the Regulator as if it were an inanimate building or a series of processes. But this really is missing the point.

The FCA, like the Pensions Regulator needs to have a happy Christmas. It needs to be treated with the respect you would give any other person whether they worked in Port Talbot or the City of London or in Shaftesbury (where my family come from).

Financial Regulators aren’t carved out of stone, every person who I’ve spoken to at the FCA has been interesting in their own right!

“WOW – I didn’t expect that!”

On Friday, we had some really good news. One of the firms I’m involved in was told that we’d qualified for Direct Support from the FCA’s Innovation Hub. We were so pleased and one of my work friends sent me an email with the header “WOW – I didn’t expect that!”

Somebody at the FCA had taken a decision to help us based on our not very scientific, not very legally worded , perhaps rather naïve submission. We were simply worried that we could be out of our depth, we got what we asked for Direct Support.

It means something to all of us – personally as well as corporately – when a regulator puts its trust in you. We really are very grateful. We want to repay that trust and go a small way to sorting out some of the issues that the FCA has on its plate.

Trust in the truth

It’s a truism that you never ask a regulator a question you don’t know the answer to. I think that should be “don’t deal with regulators until you trust them”.

To suggest we’ve got untrustworthy Regulators is frankly stupid (and libellous). We may accuse our regulators or being slow , lacking agility, disengaged and many other things but in truth – the issue is one of prioritisation.

There are only so many people who work in Napier House or 25 North Colonnade. They need a place to go to work, they need holidays, training courses and they even need Christmas Parties!

Recognising that the people that we – being regulated- are no different from those regulating us – is half way to creating the trust that I’m talking about.

The other half is that you’ve got to have trust in yourself; I don’t just mean trust in yourself as a person, but trust that the organisation you work for, is trustworthy.

Which is why I trust that the BSPS issues will be moved forward in a positive way by the Work and Pensions Select Committee on Wednesday. It is also why I trust that the FCA and tPR are having and will have a positive impact on how things work out from the Time to Choose.

Trusting our regulators in times like these , is all that we can do. Thank goodness we live in a country where that trust is justified.

happy christmas 2


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Financial Regulators aren’t carved out of stone – they need a merry Christmas too!

  1. Brian Gannon says:

    Obviously I wish everyone a Merry Christmas regardless of whether they work as a regulator or a roadsweeper. But all institutions are taken forward by the people who work for them, and people can be trustworthy and yet be working in a way that inspires frustration and bemusement as well as trust. Trust in itself is not sufficient to see a good regulator. Good trustworthy people are found everywhere, but that does not mean the organisation for whom they work is going to be doing valuable worthwhile work. I do not see that the FCA is doing sufficiently good work in the world of financial services advice to justify the amount of misguided ineffective and cumbersome regulation that exists. I think they have got it very very wrong, but that they still have the most noble of intentions and are trustworthy. But trusting someone to honestly get things badly wrong is not a cause for celebration. We now have a world where advice is defined in a way that enables regulated financial advisers to be fined and struck off, whereas unregulated advisers can get away with so much more and are not controlled properly. So the professionals are in relative terms hamstrung, and the unqualified unregulated masses can plough their furrows with far less intervention, and far less protection for consumers. But as you say, let’s hope everyone who is striving to do a good, honest, professional job in the world of financial services has a wonderful festive period, regardless of their results.

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