Simoney Kyriakou  

Time to revisit 'polluter pays'

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

Nobody likes to pay for someone else's mistake. 

Whether it is having to foot the bill for damage to your parked car caused by an unknown driver, or being wrongly accused of breaking something and having to shell out for it, nothing smacks so much of unfairness as paying the price for another's crime.

This is why the Financial Conduct Authority, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, and those who oversee these entities need to reconsider how their funding should be structured in the future. 

It is arrogant of the FCA to say it will not revisit the funding structure of the FSCS, or to refuse to put a stay on increases in its membership fees this year to reflect the difficult economic circumstances. 

It knows for advisers to continue working in the industry, they will have to pay out. Like train operators gleefully hiking fares each year when their trains are often delayed or cancelled, the FCA's tone-deaf approach to reasonable requests to revisit funding models is an affront to the thousands of decent advisers and others working in financial services.

When an established firm with a great track record finds its FCA membership fee rise by £68,000 on last year's bill, that's shocking. When you also consider the financial impact that Covid-19 will have had on adviser firms over the first half of the year, shock gives way to anger. 

People who commit a crime are tried, found guilty, and pay the price, whether fines or imprisonment or both.

When rogue traders commit a regulatory breach or go under because of a barrage of complaints, they get struck off the register and go off to their villas in Malta or wherever; sometimes resurfacing a few years later under a different guise. 

Meanwhile the decent advisers and wealth managers foot the bill, again and again. 

No adviser would deny it is important to fund the FCA or FSCS, because they want to support the prevention of consumer detriment and maintain a financial lifeboat for people who have lost their savings through poor advice or bad products.

All they're asking is for the bad guys to be the ones coughing up the lion's share of the funding. Polluters should pay, even if the FCA does not want to adopt such a model, and those overseeing the FCA ought to reconsider how this might work.

Again, they should also work out how future fees and levies on the 'good guys' can reflect their own good behaviour. A regulatory dividend, if you like.

But as former FCA chief executive "Shoot First" Martin Wheatley said in 2014, such a phrase - 'regulatory dividend' - was banned from the regulator's lexicon; no doubt the phrase "polluter pays" has also been canned. Hopefully "revisiting the funding structure" will not go the same way.