Inadequacy at Fos

Financial Adviser

In an interview with a rival publication, chief executive Natalie Ceeney is reported as saying that if its adjudicators were compelled to get appropriate qualifications, review fees would quadruple. So, in not so many words, the chief executive is telling us that when it comes to dispensing justice by one of the most powerful bodies in the land that the quality and impartiality of that justice is secondary to cost.

In short, decisions by Fos may not always be what we would expect in a nation that has given most of the civilised world its judicial framework, but the bottom line, profit and loss comes before fairness.

Of course, this is nonsense. Impartiality and objectivity has nothing to do with cost; over-staffing, administrative incompetence and ignorance are the very reasons why the financial services behemoths overload Fos knowing that it would collapse under the badly adjudicated files of its own making.

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In any case, the claim of under-qualified adjudicators and other staff is disingenuous since 46 per cent of school-leavers now go on to university, many of them studying subjects such as law, an appropriate entry-level discipline to be a financial services adjudicator.

Then, of course, we have a number of world-class training bodies that would no doubt undertake the task of training Fos staff, new recruits and those seeking promotion.

Here is also another element of unfairness in the entire disciplinary system. At midnight on December 31 last, all customer-facing financial advisers were compelled by law to have as basic qualification of level four.

No grandfathering, no special exemptions, either they had to get the qualification or stop giving customer-facing advice. Yet, if someone complains about that advice, quite often involving knowledge-based advice, the person sitting in judgement on that complaint is an amateur, someone pretending to know the issues, as if by osmosis. The reality is that the system is only as good as the weakest link – and Fos is the weakest link in the disciplinary part of the regulatory system. We have said before that Fos was not fit for purpose. It is not.