On 26 October, the Financial Conduct Authority published a consultation on its "Mission", which as the FCA set out "is designed to provide a guiding set of principles around the strategic choices the FCA makes".
The FCA's desire to have a mission was first announced by chief executive Andrew Bailey in a speech at its annual public meeting in July.
As Mr Bailey said back then, while the FCA has objectives that are set out in statute and also publishes an annual business plan, which provides a map of the main work priorities for the year, there is a larger piece missing in the middle that puts more substance to the statutory objectives.
The FCA's mission document is intended to create a clear understanding of the FCA's remit, how the FCA interprets its objectives and how it should decide how its many regulatory tools are used and fit together.
The FCA's consultation asks several questions about the FCA's approach and requests comments or views from interested parties by 26 January 2017. It then intends to adopt a final version in time for publication of its next business plan, in April 2017.
The FCA describes eight key themes on which it is consulting and wants feedback:
• Protecting consumers – in an environment where consumers are increasingly expected to take responsibility for their own financial decisions, what is the right level of consumer protection, and how should the FCA balance the responsibilities of firms and consumers?
• Vulnerable consumers – should the FCA prioritise the protection of vulnerable consumers, and if so how?
• Delivering consumer redress – what should the role of the FCA be in redress schemes? For example, in dealing with activity outside the FCA’s remit.
• When the FCA intervenes – how it identifies harm and decides which approach to take to address it, and how can it be clearer for firms, consumers and stakeholders on what it is doing and why?
• The scope of regulation – explaining the remit the FCA has for taking action and the circumstances in which the FCA may intervene with regard to unregulated activities.
• The interaction between regulation and public policy – explaining this interaction using examples including access to financial services and price discrimination.
• Competition, supervision and enforcement – providing clarity and seeking feedback on the FCA’s current approach to using its various regulatory powers and tools.
• FCA handbook – seeking suggestions on a proposed review of the FCA handbook that sets out rules for firms.
The consistent theme of the consultation is the idea that in meeting its objectives the FCA has several choices. The consultation attempts to define those choices and sets out the principles the FCA will use in deciding how to exercise its discretion.
For those familiar with financial services regulation, there is very little in the document that is new or revolutionary. Most of the consultation describes what the FCA is already doing and no one will be surprised to learn that it weighs up many factors in deciding what action to take.