In our line of work, there are easy targets – and then there is the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Perhaps the easiest of all targets and we have some sympathy for those who work for this organisation especially given the large amount of – often unjustified – opprobrium that is thrown at it.
That said – and you might have sensed where this is going – sometimes criticism is justified, especially when you can see a perverse logic, or an inverted priority list.
Now, let’s caveat that again because we all understand this is a pandemic we are living through and, we might argue, that the normal rules do not apply. However, there is also a strong argument to suggest our regulator should be doing more than most to create a greater level of ‘normality’.
We all have staff working away from the office, we have all had to ensure our systems and processes can function in that environment, we have all had to keep providing the service we are paid for, we have all needed to find ways to maintain our focus and deliver our ‘end product’.
The FCA should not be immune from those responsibilities, in fact you might think it is more important for them to function ‘normally’ than most. Particularly given the ever-increasing cost of being regulated.
Six months to process AR firms
So why, for example, are we waiting an age for them to process and register our new AR firms? Why has it taken over six months and, despite constant calls, emails and meetings, this still hasn’t been done?
Why are they effectively stopping these firms and advisers from trading while we wait for them to be processed? Why have they taken people off the register for no reason, then when questioned, reinstated them with no apology?
And then there is the issue of what should be the regulator’s major priorities at this moment. Big picture strategising is one thing – we’ve seen enough of that in the mortgage market with its ongoing fixation on price but, at the same time as it is ignoring emails and calls, it is ramping up the workload of the firms it regulates.
Hence, while we have been waiting since November 2019 for the regulator to provide the guidance we asked for on business structures, it is now asking us to fill out a second Covid-19 impact study. To say this is not necessary at the moment is an understatement, especially when these requests seem designed to stop advisory firms/network principals and the like from actually getting on with our work.
How come this data is deemed so supremely important when we simply want a reply to an email?
High standards for all
So, while we understand that this might be perceived as another case of bashing the regulator, there is a lot more substance to our concerns, mostly because when the highest standards are expected of our business, why shouldn’t we expect the same from the FCA?
Given the circumstances, and given the FCA itself said it would – during this period – only be focusing on key areas, why doesn’t it now begin to deliver on what is really required for the firms it regulates? We await a response – and if they could also reply to our emails, that would be greatly appreciated.
We are keeping up our side of the bargain, so it would be good if the regulator could try and support us more.
Mortgage Solutions has contacted the FCA about the issues raised in this article.