Financial Conduct Authority  

FCA calls on whistleblowers to come forward

FCA calls on whistleblowers to come forward

The City watchdog has launched a campaign to encourage financial services workers to report any wrongdoing at their firm.

'In confidence, with confidence' offers information for firms and a digital toolkit for industry bodies, consumer groups and whistleblowing groups to encourage individuals to have the confidence to step forward when they detect bad practices.

The toolkit provides information on how the Financial Conduct Authority protects whistleblowers' identities, when individuals should step forward and contact the regulator and what the FCA does with the information shared.

Whistleblowers that report to the regulator will be given a dedicated case manager and can meet with the FCA to discuss their concerns. They can also opt to receive regular updates throughout the investigation.

The FCA said every report it receives is reviewed and that it will “protect individual whistleblowers’ identities”. 

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “We want all whistleblowers to feel welcomed by us and to feel safe because of us.

“We listen to all whistleblowers and, if they shine a light on serious misconduct, we want to make sure we act responsibly. When whistleblowing works well it helps consumers, markets and firms and keeps everyone safe and that is our aim.”

In recent years the FCA has invested in increased resourcing to support whistleblowers, including increasing the headcount on its whistleblowing team. 

The regulator said this specialist team is trained to debrief and interact directly with whistleblowers, as well as liaising with various departments across the organisation.  

It has also introduced a mandatory e-learning module for all staff, to help identify potential whistleblowers and make sure any intelligence received by the FCA is “dealt with correctly and that identities are protected”. 

Under FCA whistleblowing rules, firms are required to have arrangements in place for employees to raise concerns, and to guarantee these concerns are handled appropriately and confidentially. 

But it has not always been as competent in this space.

In 2019, the regulator had to revisit its whistleblowing guidance after a complaint landed at the Complaints Commissioner. 

The complaint centred on an overseas financial adviser who tried to alert the regulator to concerns regarding a company.

When the adviser attempted to report his concerns to the regulator's whistleblowing team he was told his concerns were "nothing to do with whistle-blowing" and he was instead referred to the FCA's customer contact centre. 

The FCA told the adviser whistleblowing only applied to employees or former employees of an authorised firm and, as an adviser reporting on behalf of mutual clients who had been impacted by issues at the firm in question, he did not qualify as such. 

But the commissioner disagreed with this decision, stating it did not "accord" with the whistleblowing information published on the FCA's website at the time.

The commissioner recommended the FCA review the guidance published on its website, and in particular to set out clearly who meets the standard definition of a whistleblower.