Almost 200 countries, including the UK, have just signed up to what I hope will be a ground-breaking agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. It would be wonderful if the news of this success could filter through to the worthy occupants of the FCA building in Canary Wharf, who currently seem intent on single-handedly wiping out a sizable chunk of the Amazon rainforest.
I say this because of the inordinate number of consultation papers and other documents the FCA has issued during 2016. The total for the first nine months stands at more than 75 different publications, everything from Smarter Consumer Communications (ironically), to crowdfunding and wind-down planning.
Add to this the additional papers issued by the Treasury and DWP and the deluge becomes a torrent, bringing the consultation process itself into disrepute.
The key point to appreciate is that these papers are a vitally important part of the regulator’s process. The objective of consultation is to ensure that regulation is practical, appropriate and proportionate, and the FCA’s requirement to consult is part of a clearly defined legal process. Indeed, failure to properly consult would render the regulatory process void.
Consultation papers are frequently dealing with issues that are vital to consumers and advisers alike. However, because of the sheer weight of consultation material being churned out, it is impossible for those most affected by the proposals to properly respond. If the average advisory firm attempted to keep up with the demand for responses they would never have any time to see their clients. Even at SimplyBiz, where we have four senior members of the team working on our responses, the time pressures are considerable.
I believe it is the duty of the FCA to focus on the key regulatory issues it wants to address by voluntarily limiting consultation papers to one per quarter. Those they regulate would then have the time to produce meaningful responses within a proper consultation process.
This will improve the quality of the decision making process, while ensuring that consultation means what it says and, with luck, help our grandchildren to survive the threat of global warming.
Ken Davy is chairman of SimplyBiz