Welcome to opposite land
Welcome to opposite land. A world where IFAs collude to sell dodgy payment protection insurance products to customers and fix wholesale market rates in their favour.
A world where advisers increase mortgage rates at will and set up contact centres with expensive 0845 numbers. A world where rates on savings accounts are poor but advisers take home million pounds bonuses. In the meantime bankers are busy looking after clients ensuring they get the best deal.
Back in the real world, yet again banks are at the centre of a mis-selling scandal. The spotlight has been shone on Barclays et al over Libor fixing and spot rate products. This is in the aftermath of the PPI scandal and several FSA fines against retail banks related to client money or data. In the meantime, IFAs are balancing preparing their qualifications and business models for the retail distribution review and taking the time to look after their clients and even volunteering at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to help those who cannot afford advice.
With this in mind, it is insidious for the FSA to simply express its shock at the banks, issue a fine and go back to normal. Martin Wheatley, chief executive designate of the Financial Conduct Authority this week admitted the RDR would not have curbed the behaviour that led to the rate fixing scandal and claimed it was a focus on conduct and ethics that would.
So where does this leave advisers? What is the point of the RDR when the word “advice” is bandied around freely by the regulator in the guise of the Money Advice Service and too often associated by the public with the banks?
There seems little point in advisers working hard to prepare for the RDR while bankers can too easily behave inappropriately and remain anonymous.
When the banks misbehave, the whole financial sector suffers, and while bankers hide behind anonymity it is the adviser on the front line that suffers from reduced trust in the industry and ultimately the client that loses out.
This whole episode shows yet again that the FSA is spending too much time on making changes on easy targets in the advisory sector, when it should have been focusing on ethics and behaviour at the root cause of the problems from the start.