Dan Jones  

Gearing up for the battle on regulation

Dan Jones

But when Nikhil Rathi takes over as new FCA chief executive next week, he will be confronted by a sizeable to-do list that extends far beyond financial advice, and would do so even in years when a pandemic and Brexit do not feature.

This, for advisers, is part of the problem. Not for nothing did Pimfa suggest earlier this month that supervision tends to focus on larger firms.

The sense of being pulled in many different directions is keenly felt by the regulator: it is no coincidence its latest business plan, published in April, began by referencing “finite resources” and “nearly 60,000 firms to regulate”.

In the same document, however, the FCA also noted that many of the toughest issues it faces take place “at, or over the other side of”, its regulatory perimeter. There is a case that the watchdog is both spread too thin and not allowed to oversee all that it should. This one is on the government: the Treasury Committee said last year the FCA should be able to take more explicit action on products that sit outside its remit – the alternative being the current system of retrospective, costly action. That call was implicitly backed by the watchdog. But the Treasury itself said in October it did not see the need for change.

So pandemic or no, it is perhaps no surprise that the FCA’s annual perimeter report, the first edition of which was published in June 2019, has yet to receive its promised follow-up so far this year.

These issues, then, require political will as much as anything else. Which brings us back to advisers’ own burdens, and emphasises why communication with elected representatives is so valuable. The problems facing the pensions and retail investment world are interwoven, and tough to straighten out. Potential solutions are similarly knotty, and cannot be introduced by the FCA alone. The government, like the regulator, may be preoccupied with Covid-19 and Brexit. But raising awareness on all fronts will be crucial to advisers’ chances of success.

Dan Jones is editor-in-chief of FTAdviser