Jamie Symington has recently left the Financial Conduct Authority, where he was director of investigations for wholesale, conduct and unauthorised business, to take up private practice with American law firm Brown Rudnick in its offices in London.
Here he will be advising clients – many of whom he expects to be individuals in conflict with their companies over regulatory challenges. A big part of his work will be derived from breaches of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR), which came into force for banks and large investment firms in 2016 and will have wider application to financial services by the end of this year.
However, he sees no ethical dilemmas about moving from a key enforcement role at the regulator to advising clients on how best to handle the FCA. He said: “It’s 100 per cent ethical – there’s no doubt whatsoever. It’s been done by lots of people in the past and it’s something that's regarded as positive by the FCA.
“It’s regarded as good practice and it’s to be encouraged – the understanding of how the regulator works is then taken out into the industry, [allowing us] to give the right advice to clients [which] is regarded as something by the regulator as being in everybody’s interests.”
Quite often this will be senior managers who have got caught up in something potentially damaging at their firm, and they have become personally implicated so that they can no longer be represented by the same law firm as their employer.
Does this mean he will be advising miscreants on how to work the system?
Mr Symington said: “I wouldn’t put it that way. For the most part regulation and the regulatory industry are trying to achieve the same thing, which is having a regulatory system that works well and works effectively. If the system is going to work well, everyone needs to be represented by good quality legal advice that represents to the best of [the lawyer’s] ability.
“It’s all about trying to get the right outcome. The regulator has to hold other people to account; everybody gets it wrong sometimes, but at least there’s room for discussion and what is the right and fair and just outcome.”
The big pipeline of business he is expecting is from the arrival of the SMCR, a response to the financial crisis in 2008 and its aftermath, and the fact that no one seemed to be held accountable for the mistakes that crashed the economy.
He said: “One of the observations that has been made [about senior managers] is that there’s a lot of reward but not much risk – as opposed to being an entrepreneur. When you’re senior personnel in financial services you may be putting other people’s interests at risk, but not putting your own interests at risk.
“It will make the job more difficult and I think there will be more risk of holding the office of senior manager.” Certainly, he added, there will be a greater focus on the role of senior managers and there are likely to be more investigations.