We are only just into the new year, and one ‘old acquaintance’ has already made sure it is impossible to forget its importance in 2020 – the Financial Conduct Authority.
Last week, all companies that have investment permissions were sent a letter from the regulator setting out its major areas of focus for the year.
While these ‘Dear CEO’ letters always carry the potential to cause upset, I do not feel that this letter contained any major surprises for companies who use a reliable compliance service.
Additionally, its stated overall intention of protecting the financial wellbeing of consumers is something with which we can all agree.
From my perspective, the FCA’s stated focus is already firmly on the radar of the vast majority of advisers.
In fact, these priorities are certainly shared by the SimplyBiz Group (and, I suspect, other providers).
Continued regulatory scrutiny and pressure is an ongoing challenge for all advisers, and initiatives like the Senior Managers and Certification Regime may mean a little short-term disruption for what, I believe, will be long-term gain.
This is particularly important if we are to succeed in our continuing drive to reduce the ridiculous costs of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
After all, individual accountability and measures to rid the sector of inept or unscrupulous individuals presents the majority of advisers with absolutely nothing to fear.
Similarly, a crackdown on the scams that have caused so much financial and emotional turmoil in recent years will, undoubtedly, be applauded by the adviser community, as will more focus and clarity around the ‘non-mainstream’ market.
These measures have the potential to significantly lower FSCS costs for every company.
Therefore, while many years too late, it would be churlish not to welcome the key elements of the FCA’s latest letter.
It seems the FCA is at last taking action to protect consumers and ensure access to high-quality advice and good outcomes for clients, which are objectives passionately shared by advisers.
Now, I hope that these good intentions can be directed by the regulator towards ensuring that consumers have ready access to the advice that is so beneficial for them.
The FCA needs to address spiralling professional indemnity costs and FSCS levies with equal urgency.
Consumers need to be protected, but so do advisers. I hope our industry’s wellbeing will also be an FCA priority during 2020.
Ken Davy is chairman of SimplyBiz Group