The curse of compliance; walking the line

compliance 3

Eyes wide open all the time

I live a highly regulated lifestyle. My partner, who is a “rules bunny” refers to me publicly as her “conduct risk”. In her presence I do not swear or utter statements that might be construed as anything but “correct”.

At work I have spent most of my working career under the eye of Lautro/ Fimbra/ PIA/ FSA/ FCA and a few others I am pleased to forget. I have learned to speak with disclaimers , to guide and not advise and (as a consultant) to minimise risk by saying as little as possible that might be deemed “actionable”.

This blog is therefore my allergic reaction to the compliance regime which has done so much to inhibit my natural urge to say it as it is.

The curse of compliance is that it takes us away from talking plainly  the way things are to the opacity of a regulatory nirvana.


The way things are

Yesterday, I had the  pleasure of presenting to 48 compliance officers of an organisation known as ILAG.

Collectively these people are a trade body representing members from the Life Assurance andWealth Management Industries. Individually I found them super-charming.

I sadly missed presentations from Charlotte Jackson and Nick Gannon from  MAPS and TPR respectively. I hope that what I said didn’t contradict them – I have a lot of time for these two and the organisations they represent. They are however subject to certain constraints.

By the time I presented, the audience were clearly in need of lunch and I made it clear that what they would get from me was not compliant with anything in their world but was totally compliant with what I actually thought

I presented the argument that I rehearsed on this blog that collectively we should be more brave and tell people how it is rather than the regulatory nirvana of how it should be.

The conversation which followed , brought Nick me and Charlotte together with the audience in a wonderful way.

One of the delegates wrote me this charming note on social media a couple of hours later.

I heard your completely engaging talk at ILAG and hoped you wouldn’t mind connecting on LinkedIn.

I took issue with one word. You said that data should be shared even if it is wrong. I would replace “even” with “especially” . As someone who battled with rubbish data when I ran a customer service division…

The fact is that – for once – we totally engaged with an audience that lived under the kind of regulatory bondage that haunts me as a “conduct risk”. Rather like my partner, our audience had become complicit with our  plain speaking, released to say what they wanted (and they did).

Walking the line

Of course they are now back at work and no longer in my naughty world of plain speaking. I hope that they will feel a little braver for having met me (my partner says I give her the courage of her convictions even if I’m a nightmare about the house).

Blogs are the natural habitat of regulatory wildlife. You read in this the thoughts of a man who has escaped the zoo and roams feral in the pensions landscape.

Today there will be more speeches and panel debates and even a conversation with a former pensions minister. It it First Actuarial’s first ever client conference and the best part of 200 of our clients are turning up to hear David Fairs, Matthew Taylor, Baroness Altmann and Terry Pullinger (among many others) discuss matters as various as not going on strike to Tottenham Hotspur’s night in Amsterdam (I doubt that Ros will get beyond that). Oh and we’ll discuss GMP equalisation – why wouldn’t you?

We will be walking the same line as this blog, the line between telling it how it is and telling it according to the regulatory nirvana of the regulator.

And anyone who is coming to the conference and reading this knows that once we have finished in the afternoon, we will all be able to behave entirely inappropriately in the evening.

Because we are not cursed with compliance – we walk the line

About henry tapper

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