get well soon

Sir Hector Sants is taking a leave of absence from Barclays due to exhaustion and stress and is expected to return in the New Year”.

A headline that appears to have received little adviser attention but seriously needs some on a number of counts.

Firstly, stress in the workplace can be a terrible and debilitating condition and in that regard we would genuinely wish Sir Hector a speedy recovery.

Stress can be defined as the way a person feels when the pressure they are under exceeds their ability to cope.

Although financial advisers should have some sympathy for anyone suffering from stress in the work place, I suspect many would be asking how somebody with his work experience, track record and remuneration package could possibly be stressed.

Sir Hectors’ annual compensation package is reported to be in the region of £3m and he only joined Barclays in February this year, albeit amid some controversy.

But everyone reacts to stress differently depending on their personality and how they respond to pressure. Many things, such as work, money worries or relationships can cause stress. It can cause psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and irritability, and physical symptoms, such as poor sleep.

Some questions often asked by sufferers include how can I relax after a tough day? Can stress affect my sleep patterns? Can stress cause other illnesses?

Sir Hector, many in the financial services industry have suffered from exhaustion and stress along with some of the worse side effects that come with it over the years. Much adviser stress today is brought about by dealing with the impact of poorly thought out expensive regulation upon their businesses and a considerable amount of that has come over the last five years in tandem with the run up to RDR, and on your watch.

We see stress-inducing examples of the regulator behaving very badly toward those it regulates; withholding information, being unprofessional’ and lacking integrity, hounding retired advisers and their spouses, it would seem almost to the grave, for lack of a longstop – which many believe the regulator consciously removed and would not reinstate despite so many requests to do so.

Coincidentally much of this type of activity took pace during the very same period that ‘Sir Hector’ headed up the FSA. This was the same man who told firms and individuals they should be “very afraid” back in 2009 when speaking to an audience in London, Sants  also said that to stop a “similar crisis” in banking happening again, the supervision of banks would have to become more “intensive”. He said the FSA, now the FCA, would take action if it thought the judgments of senior managers in financial institutions were “too risky”, even if it carried the risk of stifling innovation.” This is a fundamental change,”he said.

So is there something else amiss internally at Barclays, who only this week have topped the FCA’s table of ‘most complained about firm’ list again that a spot of sick leave will enable the matter to conveniently resolve itself with ‘Sir Hector’ out of the way either on a temporary or permanent basis?

After all, you cannot be gamekeeper and then turn poacher without conflicts and repercussions?

Advisers and others in ‘regulatory thrall’ will see that he certainly need not worry how the bills are paid as his £3m pay package will continue, his employer will no doubt be able to provide access to excellent medical care and cognitive support, his pension benefits are secure and the area of the business he is responsible for has staff levels of around 1,350, so he need not worry about how the business will cope in his absence.

So if Sir Hector is finding life stressful, during his recovery he may wish to reflect upon the stresses caused to many advisory firms by the FSA’s poor behaviour as outlined above, expensive, poorly thought out and executed regulation, all on his watch, over many years.

And he may also reflect upon all the resulting lost businesses, lost futures, lost jobs, lost retirements, the removal of the longstop and more that so many lose sleep over still. At least he does not have to endure that burden.

It is said, “reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it”, get well soon Sir Hector.