Opinion  

There is good as well as bad in Wheatley’s legacy

Ken Davy

Ken Davy

When I left Abbey Life many years ago, the local manager put up a sign in the branch office quoting the old Yorkshire saying: “Put your hand in a bucket of water, then take it out. The hole that remains is a measure of how much you will be missed.”

As I was by far his most consistently successful adviser, his obvious intention was to try to retain branch morale following my departure. Nonetheless, having worked hard for him for several years, I was singularly unimpressed.

Following the surprise, even shock, announcement of the resignation of Martin Wheatley from the FCA, one could spend many hours speculating on what comments might be displayed on the day of his departure. The reality is, however, that the job of a regulator is never going to be easy; indeed it is quite definitely not the role of the regulator to try to win popularity contests.

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To do its job effectively, however, it does need to be respected by those it regulates and, looking back over the formative years of the FCA, there has to be a serious question mark over whether this has been achieved.

Comments from the top such as “Shoot first and ask questions later” are no more acceptable coming from a regulator than they would be from the local police inspector. Indeed, experience tells us that the most effective police forces are those that build positive relationships with the communities they work with, so as to develop mutual respect and understanding.

From personal experience, I know that many of the staff within the FCA are making enormous efforts to build strong, positive relationships with the firms and sectors they regulate. Indeed, as a major compliance company working with the regulator on a daily basis, it is evident to my company that the FCA has some incredibly dedicated and hard-working staff who are committed to improving the effectiveness, understanding and delivery of regulation to the firms they regulate.

Unfortunately, their task of building respect for the FCA is made so much harder by factors outside their control, such as the fundamental injustice of the FCA levies and fee charges currently being faced by virtually every IFA firm in the country.

Another famous Yorkshire saying linked to water is: “Cast your bread upon the waters – but always make sure the tide is coming in.” For all our sakes, let us hope that when George Osborne appoints the FCA’s new leader, it is someone who will bring real change to the regulator, and who recognises that regulation is most effective when built on a foundation of fairness, mutual trust and respect.

Ken Davy is chairman of Simplybiz