FCA’s concealer is as expensive as it is useless

Garry Heath

Garry Heath

I know that this will come as a surprise to you all, but I rarely wear make-up. A slap of shaving foam, a quick scrape of a razor and a splash of aftershave, and the world will have to take me as it finds me.

My wife runs a completely different system. She has vast quantities of potions all over the house. Last week, I asked the price of a very modest looking pot which was filled with a scummy grease which would have been clear evidence of a cracked top gasket in my car. Its cost would have bought Greece very easily. Its function is to avoid displaying her blushes to the outside world. She is not the only one.

The FCA has been mainlining on anti-blush make-up recently, and has been buying heavily from Clifford Chance, Kingsley Napley, European Consulting and Towers Watson.

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It all started with the Closed Book Probe. No, not a new Ann Summers product, but a PR disaster surrounding the effect that the government’s desire to reunite us with our pension pots might have on insurance companies and their profits.

Desperate to be seen to be doing something, the FCA started to brief journalists on the potential effects of this new policy. No one involved seemed to understand that they were disclosing market-sensitive information, which is a criminal offence.

After a 25 per cent drop in the market, an embarrassed Martin Wheatley called in Clifford Chance to conduct a £2m review, and Kingsley Napier to advise staff on what they should say for another £1m. Throw in a passing PR man and some computer space and you get to £3.15m to save regulatory blushes.

The second example is even stranger. The FCA promised it would review the effectiveness of RDR in 2014. Most expected an internal report issued in the autumn, but we got two reports issued in the last week before Christmas.

The first author, European Consulting, charged the FCA £147,000 for a report which “failed to find any evidence of consumer benefit”. Perhaps the FCA should have paid more. The other was regulatory favourite Towers Watson, which has so far charged over £63,000 for a report which examined a ‘straw man argument’ about advice capacity. That’s a total of £210,000 for reports that were deliberately issued too late to be seen.

Same at home. Mrs H often covers her face in expensive gunk before switching off the light. Precious little evidence of any consumer benefit in that, either.

Garry Heath is editor of the Heath Report