Death by regulator

Panacea Comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

11 Sep 2017

Death by regulator

We hear that the FCA has announced a ‘Terminator’ inspired marketing campaign, yes, a marketing campaign, to encourage those who have not had a win on the PPI lottery yet to get truly lucky.

The regulator is treating compensation opportunity creation as if it is a DFS sales campaign.

The outcome (iove that word)? The claims management industry has just had a boost in the form of a £42m advertising campaign that has cost them absolutely nothing. This includes advertising and dedicated phone line costs.

And as for this FCA statement:  “If you had a previous complaint about mis-selling of PPI rejected, but now want to complain about a provider earning a high level of commission, you should follow the steps below”.

Since 2011 over £27bn has been paid out in PPI compensation. How much more will this generate?

But the big worry with this campaign is about where it will lead to if FOS complaints are to be rejected and then re-allowed at a later date based on what the firm was paid. Remember, advisers have no longstop, in this case confirmed with words like this from the FCA You can complain about mis-selling of PPI however long ago it was sold to you”.

Words fail me. Will the last compensation payer turn the lights out when they leave?

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How much has the shiny new logo cost this time?

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

9 May 2017

How much has the shiny new logo cost this time?

In 2013, a Panacea FOI request exposed the rebrand cost for the FSA’s change to the FCA.

It was  £1,061,423 including VAT.

The FOI request went on to confirm the cost of the logo design saying:

“We have spent £48,000 on designing the FCA brand identity, £91,500 on developing the FCA brand guidelines, £57,000 on registering the new logo and on legal fees to resolve registration issues”.

So when we heard that the FCA had decided, after a shelf life of barely three years, to change it’s logo, we though it would be an idea to find out how much?

In their reply, an unnamed individual from the “Information Disclosure Team / Cyber and Information Resilience Department” said We undertook a refresh of the FCA brand to make sure our brand is accessible, open and transparent so that all our audiences understand our role.  In particular, we need to ensure our brand works well for digital use and takes into account accessibility considerations.  This is particularly important as we are planning to launch our first national TV and outdoor advertising campaign on PPI later this year. Consumer research in particular has helped inform our evolution of the FCA logo to ensure ‘Financial Conduct Authority’ is clearly legible and accessible”.

Given that in 2013 so much was spent on rebrand one might ask, purely from a business owner perspective, why the lifespan of a ‘global’ brand is just 3 years? That would suggest that either the brand brief or interpretation was incorrect in 2013.

The reply to our request was answered as follows.

          “Brand refresh 

·         The design cost:

£5,340

·         Legal costs:

£1,440

·         Implementation cost;

£66,410 – we have interpreted this to be the total cost (including the items above) – agency work to audit FCA brand and update logo and design approach, design templates for new brand, effra fonts and logo trademark registration.

·        Stationery cost”

There are currently no stationery costs. As stated above, the existing logo will be phased out over the next year and we will not change signage in our printed material such as letterheads or business cards until either they run out or we change address. 

Over the last 10 years the Panacea brand logo is unchanged, as is the Ford Motor Company’s, Apple and Coca Cola. In 2014, the Coca-Cola brand name alone was worth $67million, accounting for more than 54% of the company’s stock market value at that time.

It is said, a strong, consistent brand will allow the customer to know exactly what to expect each time they encounter your business” 

Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”.

In this case, the jury on the ‘how the FCA’s works’ is still out.

The cost of this exercise is quite small in regulatory terms. I am not sure what the effect is on consumers but I am sure that those it regulates will see this as another example of spending other peoples money without being responsible for how or if it works or in this case if you can notice the difference at all.

Can you spot the differences?

We had to destroy Ben Tre in order to save it

Panacea comment for Advisers and Paraplanners

24 Apr 2017

We had to destroy Ben Tre in order to save it

For those not old enough to know too much about the U.S. involvement in the 1960’s Vietnam war, and some of the madness surrounding it, this quote has gone down in history as an example of the some of the insanity that was Vietnam.

As with many examples of madness in what should be a sane world, this quote, which I was reminded of recently, is well worth considering alongside. It is Callum McCarthy’s six pillars of wisdom speech at Gleneagles in September 2006.

The so-called pillars on which RDR was to be founded were:


1.    an industry that engages with consumers in a way that delivers more clarity for them on products and services;

2.    a market which allows more consumers to have their needs and wants addressed;

3.    remuneration arrangements that allow competitive forces to work in favour of consumers;

4.    standards of professionalism that inspire consumer confidence and build trust;

5.    an industry where firms are sufficiently viable to deliver on their longer-term commitments and where they treat their customers fairly; 

6.    a regulatory framework that can support delivery of all of these aspirations and which does not inhibit future innovation where this benefits consumers. 

The Heath Report Two (THR2) had been created to examine the consumer detriment caused by the regulator’s actions in introducing the Retail Distribution Review.

The Heath Report Three (THR3) will be published toward the end of May.

As Garry said “It did not seek to be a learned academic document but to assemble in one place a clear description of what RDR has created and suggest lessons that might learnt”. 

In April 2014; the Panacea Team, Lee Travis, now at PFS and Garry Heath met the with the FCA which dismissed the survey of 1,752 advisers, representing over 50% of the direct authorised IFA firms, as “unimportant

At that April meeting, the FCA informed us that it would issue an internal review early in the autumn which we expected to be in praise of RDR.

In the end, the FCA commissioned European Consulting and Towers Watson to produce and issue two lacklustre reports, which were quietly released in the week before Christmas to a distracted media – hardly the action of a confident regulator.

These reports suggested that there was “no evidence of consumer benefit” leaving the FCA to opine that RDR’s “longer journey will benefit consumers”.

As Garry observed, this is reminiscent of Mr Micawber’s hope “that something will turn up”.

With the advisory community barely having the capacity to service some 10% of UK consumers financial planning needs and with the remaining 90% who do not want or cannot afford to pay for financial advice, we seem to be in a similar situation to the one described by Captain Miller’s, US Army Corps of Engineers  Commander, Task Force Builder, 1968  46th Engineer Battalion  159th Engineer Group ,recollection of Major Booris’s reasoning for destroying a whole village with so much firepower.

In the case of RDR only one of the six pillars stands, number 4. And as we all know you cannot build any sustainable structure on just one pillar. It just falls down. The regulator has ensured that the other five cannot be built as the ground beneath it has been destroyed by too much regulator firepower.

In the Vietnam movie ‘Apocalypse Now’, Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, asks a seasoned vet while riding a helicopter over enemy terrain “why do you guys sit on your helmets”?

The answer could be the same reason why IFAs only have a 10% capacity for advice?

Compliance and the Stupidity Paradox

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

13 Feb 2017

Compliance and the Stupidity Paradox

Compliance is an important part of the whole world of financial services and indeed many other worlds of business and governments.

In the world of financial services regulatory compliance “describes the goal that organisations aspire to achieve in their efforts to ensure that they are aware of and take steps to comply with relevant laws, policies, and regulations.

The rules are well defined, as we all know, in the FCA handbook. For the avoidance of any doubt, the regulator has even provided an introductory guide.

Regulated firms must follow FCA rules. The rules it would seem are clear (to the author/s) but the interpretation and purpose of them at times makes little sense.

A book, published in 2016 by the City University of London called the ‘Stupidity Paradox’ investigated common sense in decision-making.

Professor André Spicer’s research included input from management consultancies, banks, engineering firms, pharmaceutical companies, universities and schools.

The ‘outcomes’ of investigations into the ‘Stupidity Paradox’ revealed many examples of when common sense decisions are simply ignored.

Examples included: 

  • “Executives who more interested in impressive power point shows than systematic analysis.
  • Companies ran leadership development initiatives which would not be out of place in a new age commune.
  • Technology firms that were more interested in keeping a positive tone than addressing real problems.
  • Marketing executives who were obsessed with branding when all that counted was the price.
  • Corporations that would throw millions into ‘change exercises’ and then, when they failed, do exactly the same thing again and again

I just love the last one.

Professor Spicer’s concludes by asking, “Why could such organisations, employing so many people with high IQs and impressive qualifications do so many stupid things”.

I am reminded of the definition of a camel. It being a horse designed by committee.

I have worked since the early 80’s in the industry thought six different regulators- NASDIM, LAUTRO, FIMBRA, PIA, FSA and FCA. The average lifespan of a regulatory body being some six years.

With the exception of the FSA transition, rulebooks, even staffing, for the predecessor bodies have been subject to rewrite and new hire, not a roll over. The FCA transition was a re-skin.

What does ring loud and clear is that regulators do not, in the most part, seem to learn from past mistakes. Not only are ‘learnings missing, they more often than not refuse to accept responsibility or blame for past mistakes.

The FCA is now approaching four years old. So, in theory only another two to three years to go until yet another metamorphosis occurs. In that time it has seen two chief executives and a significant turnover of very senior staff embarking on a journey working for the firms they used to regulate.

Regulation is an industry. The thousands of pages in the FCA manual require firms in turn to employ thousands of people with high IQs and impressive qualifications to interpret the rules and ensure that their business implements them to the letter.

FCA research from 2015 found that 88% of large firms and 44% of small firms increased the amount of time and money they spent on compliance and the cost of regulation, according to New City Agenda is some  £1.2 billion.

But, and here is the big BUT. The finer interpretation of some rules would suggest that rather like in the Italian Highway Code, red lights are a suggestion, some rules make no sense in their implication.

We would love to know what examples you have of the Stupidity Paradox in financial services regulation today?

The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work (Profile Books), by Mats Alvesson and André Spicer.

André Spicer is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School, City University London.

Mats Alvesson is Professor of Business Administration at Lund University and a Visiting Professor at Cass Business School.

FSCS levy and some blue sky thinking

Regulation comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

31 Oct 2016

FSCS levy and some blue sky thinking.

We hear that the new chief executive, Andrew Bailey, has confirmed the introduction of a product levy will be considered as part of the regulator’s upcoming consultation on the funding of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

The time is right for Mr. Bailey to also consider (alongside this very sensible idea that always seems to get ‘kicked’ into the long grass) the use, or in reality, the miss use of banking fines in this consultation?

FCA fines were to be used to offset the cost of regulation. But not any more.

Why, well here’s the thing as they say.

Over the last century or two the nations wealth and success was built on our vast below ground natural resources.

Coal, tin, oil, sand, cement, gravel extraction have all played their part but many fear that these resources have a limited life as dwindling stocks make it more expensive to recover.

Alongside all natural resources there is a tax raising opportunity but if stocks of natural resource reduce or become exhausted this will, in turn, see tax revenues reduce and that spells trouble for HM Treasury.

But the nation has turned to another ‘natural resource’ because of some very clever HM Treasury ‘fine-fracking’ on the part of the last government

This table contains the FCA’s own information about fines published during the calendar year ending 2016 and up to the 12th October.

The total amount of fines levied so far in 2016 is £22,127,442.

  • In 2015 £905,219,078 was levied
  • And in 2014 £1,471,431,800 was levied.

The FCA will deduct its costs from these huge amounts and the rest will go to HM Treasury. The FCA was obliged by statute to pay away £1.370bn of the 2014 fines to the Treasury, the equivalent of 70% of all alcohol and tobacco levies for 2014.

In April this year the FSCS announced a £337m levy for 2016/17.

The FSCS levy in 2015/16 totaled £319m.

So over the last 3 years some £2.4bn in fines has been levied that could have seen zero FSCS levy for a good number of years with the polluter paying. Just do the math!

Banking fines should be used to reduce the burden of regulatory cost, in particular that of the ‘oh so’ contentious FSCS levy that hits, in particular, small IFA businesses the hardest.

Any thoughts yourself?

Do let us know here via our quick survey, details will be shared with Mr. Bailey.

Regulation, will we ever get it right?

mansleepingI had the great fortune to sell my IFA practice 10 years ago, a driver for taking the plunge was that having worked under the ‘control’ of 4 different regulatory regimes- NASDIM, FIMBRA, PIA and FSA, the prospect of never seeing a balance of common sense and fairness painted a very bleak future.

The jury may still be out in that regard, but I think we are at the stage where the Judge may be directing the Jury that a majority decision would suffice.

I am not normally driven to negativity, cynisim maybe, and while I do see an absolute need to have regulation of financial services, it seems to me that wherever there is regulation, chaos and extreme cost is the outcome with blame being laid at the door of the weakest.

Some key facts to digest:

  • Regulation is poorly thought out in just about every industry
  • It is reactionary rather than pro-active
  • It is not always retrospective, although in financial services it seems to be an exception
  • Nobody ever listens to the voice of experience
  • Nobody ever learns from past failings
  • Nobody in regulation admits failure
  • Nobody in regulation takes the blame
  • Everyone in regulation benefits from ‘learnings’ and earnings
  • Regulatory failure is rewarded not punished
  • Regulation is an industry, it is hermaphroditic, capable of self procreation and without something to bash it would have no purpose. As Keith Richards (Rolling Stone not PFS) once said “In the business of crime there’s two people involved, and that’s the criminal and the cops. It’s in both their interests to keep crime a business, otherwise they’re both out of a job.”

 

Regulation should not be pursued at any cost and in such a way, applied like a tattoo only to be regretted when the effect of the alcoholic induced stupor that fuelled its creation has gone away. The NHS is an example of regulation on ‘acid’.

Has the consumer benefited? Many may say no. Access to financial advice for the masses has been exterminated. Even if it was freely available, there is insufficient capacity to service any more than around 10% of the population based on the recent Heath Report and the FAMR will not correct that imbalance as was intended.

In 2009 the great and the good expressed concerns about the impact of RDR and how it will disenfranchise consumers, here but just a few to prove my “Nobody ever listens to the voice of experience” comment

  • Otto Thoresen – CEO ABI, then of Aegon: “The RDR is only helping wealthy customers”
  • AXA April 2009: “We will lobby the FSA to make sure the RDR does not mean less are able to access advice”
  • Institute of Financial Services: “RDR will impair financial advice before improving it”
  • Alasdair Buchanan Scottish Life November 2009: “Sales advice is a real cop out and extremely confusing to investors”
  • Stephen Gay – Aviva June 2009: “The regulator has failed to consider the danger of adviser charging limiting access to advice for those on lower incomes”
  • Lord Lipsey: “Consumers in the middle (not high net worth or money guidance fodder) to be sold products by banks under the contradiction that is sales advice”
  • Walter Merricks former Chief Ombudsman: “I think it would be unwise to count on the assumption that complaints from the retail investment world are suddenly going to go down as a result (of the RDR)”
  • Deutsch Bank report August 2009: “There has been industry talk of 30% or even 50% of IFAs exiting the industry post 2012, which is not impossible”
  • Paul Selly HBOS: “Bancassurers set to benefit”
  • Richard Howells Director Zurich Life June 2009: “The big question mark is still around what benefit it will have for the ultimate consumer. I am still not convinced that all of these changes, when you sit down with a consumer and explain them, actually give rise to a consumer benefit that I can really hang my hat on.”
  • Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert June 2009: “There’s a worrying possibility that the FSA is about to kill off independent financial advice in the UK for all but the wealthy. I do hope I’m wrong. I’m not convinced most people will want to pay for advice. The commission route has the advantage that you don’t pay a fee each and every time you want information; you can go without the worry of laying out cash. What I find most galling though is that bank-based advisers – those primarily responsible for PPI miss-selling, endowment miss-selling, investment miss-selling and generally poor advice all round are still to be allowed to be remunerated based on the number of sales.”
  • Janet Walford OBE, Editor Money Management Sept 2009: “I am not paranoid enough to believe that the FSA has a hidden agenda to do away with small IFAs, but the law of unintended consequences may well mean that this will be the result. This is especially the case when set alongside the myriad of other proposals that are costing some £430 million to set up, with ongoing fees of £40 million pa thereafter, a mind boggling amount of cash.
  • Peter Hamilton barrister, Source: Money Management Oct 2009, Scrapping the FSA by Marie Jennings MBE: “The Financial Services and Markets Act does not permit the FSA to cancel an authorisation simply because the FSA has changed its views on what the appropriate qualifications should be…. It is one thing to impose new rules for new entrants to the IFA profession, it is quite another thing to disqualify someone who is already qualified.”
  • David Hazelton of Tax Incentivised Savings Association (TISA) 30/10/09: The RDR could be detrimental to consumers both in terms of higher product charges and an increase in the cost of advice, warns the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (TISA). Implementation costs for the RDR are being “seriously underestimated” and product charges will consequently have to be raised.
  • Robert Kerr, head of retail distribution development at Scottish Widows says: The RDR could have the unintended consequence of “disenfranchising” the majority of consumers from financial advice. “Our key concern is the RDR proposals will act to drive advice upmarket, with financial advice becoming the preserve of the wealthy leaving mass-market consumers un-served,”
  • Nigel Waterson MP when Shadow pensions minister: “While no-one can object to raising the standards of training and competence, should an emphasis on exams take precedence over on-the-job training and experience?

Fines are at record highs for the same bad behaviour from the same suspects, regulatory costs are at an all time high, huge FSCS levies continue to hit ‘small businesses’ when least expected, politicians have no control of those they leglislate to regulate, those employed in financial services regulation have increased, those employed in the financial services sector they regulate have decreased.

The problem with regulation in 2016 is that you cannot regulate for lack of common sense, yet that is what we keep trying to do. Caveat emptor has gone.

We have lost the use of that in-built gene of common sense when looking at constructing and applying regulation.. Its loss went along with map reading skills, crossing the road after looking both ways, not talking to strangers, proficient cycling, spelling ability, simple mental arithmetic skills and very many more.

The world has truly gone mad, or at least it has in UKplc’s regulation section.

We have a society that is now readily and speedily offended on somebody else part for just about everything that simply should not matter as much as it does.

We have borders that are not fit for purpose, we have an NHS in meltdown because the service is now aspiration and expectation based, rather than focusing on the basics of it’s original 1948 founding principles (comprehensiveness, within available resources) and a country controlled not by UK based elected politicians but by unelected civil servants, quangos, eurocrats and regulators.

To top that we now have ‘Brexit’.

To borrow that famous Bob Monkhouse quote “ When I said that the proposed RDR regulation would not work, everybody laughed. Well they’re not laughing now.

 

www.panaceaadviser.com

Longstop matters, dual standards and South Thanet

Longstop matters, dual standards and South Thanet

The campaign to see that longstop protection should be re-instated for financial advisers seems to have been kicked into the long grass once again, this time by way of the actions and resolve of the FAMR and the FCA.

Had longstop protection been restored, IFAs would have seen any claim against them becoming unenforceable after 15 years had elapsed. This protection was enshrined for all within the Limitations Act 1980 and was removed for financial advisers by the government under FSMA 2000 legislation statutory instruments.

The big supporting ‘remove’ argument for consumers was, and still is, that it could take very many years to realise that financial advice received could be inappropriate, for instance mortgage or pension advice.

What follows regarding dual standards will make advisers very cross indeed.

We hear that Tory party officials tried to block Kent police’s enquiry into general election party overspending (election fraud?) by engaging the services of one very expensive QC, James Laddie at Matrix Chambers.

The argument put forward by Mr. Laddie was that the time limit for any overspend prosecutions had expired. That limit, in this electoral case, is just 12 months. He failed to mention to the court the delay in providing information to Kent police by the party contributed to that delay.

Luckily, the judge was wise. Upon being told of Conservative party attempts to block Kent Police from extending their probe, Judge Justin Barron said in granting the extension ‘The combination of circumstances before me is wholly exceptional and goes far beyond the usual circumstances that would exist in a typical case where election expenses are being investigated.’

General election campaigns allow a spend between £10,000 and £16,000 per candidate, depending on the size of their constituency population.

General elections set an elected government on course for a fixed term of 5 years. The balance of power in the 2015 election was determined, in particular, within marginal constituency seats such as South Thanet. Those very marginals delivered a Tory majority of just 12 seats.

In May, seven police forces launched investigations into Tory MPs for possible election fraud, acting on evidence revealed by Channel 4 News that showed almost £200,000 had been spent in supporting Tory candidates that should have been declared at a local level.

The outcome, had it been declared in each constituency, would have blasted those candidates way beyond their local expense limit, in fact it could have doubled that amount.

Police are also investigating:

  • Amanda Milling, for Cannock Chase
  • Michael Ellis for Northampton North
  • Stuart Andrew for Pudsey, Horsforth & Aireborough
  • David Nuttall for Bury North
  • North Cornwall for Scott Mann
  • George Eustace for Cambourne and Redruth
  • Kevin Foster for Torbay
  • Oliver Colville for Plymouth Sutton and Devenport;
  • Graham Evans for Weaver Vale.

Gloucestershire Police have not yet not confirmed whether they will be looking at Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk or Stroud MP Neil Carmichael.

It would be fair to say that there have never been circumstances such as this where an investigation into potential electoral crime was so large or so complex that it created the need to apply for an extension of the one-year time limit.

If the ‘boys in blue’ do decide to look at all these constituencies and the outcome is that the Tory party was found guilty of electoral crime on such an industrial scale, the balance of power could shift by way of a re-run of the elections in those constituencies’.

Indeed, in the event of a series of successful prosecutions, the country could have been governed by an illegal entity.

For Nigel Farage, the massive resource thrown at South Thanet probably destroyed his election prospects, the desired Tory outcome. He came second with 27% swing toward UKIP, only 2,812 votes behind the Tory winner

So, to summarise:

  • the Tories are claiming a longstop defence of 12 months.
  • IFA longstop aspirations were 15 years
  • If the constituency overspends results being investigated went against the Tory party, we may have had a hung parliament or an ‘Ed’ led Labour government.

This ‘Orwellian Animal Farm’ application of legal process shows there truly is something rotten in UK politics.

The financial adviser community may wish to consider again the ‘longstop remain’ argument put forward over many years by successive governments, and the most recent FAMR view on the matter as noted above and then apply it to this shameful political attempt to scupper a police investigation into electoral shenanigans.

We could surmise, from applying FCA and FAMR logic, that it could take very many years for an electorate to realise that government policy and law making could be based upon the outcome of electoral fraud.

And worse, the country could have decided to ‘Brexin’ or ‘Brexout’ all because of a referendum called by an illegitimate parliament.

And who would compensate for the very long-term ‘electoral detriment’ that overspend caused?

Just a thought.