Our Watchdog Just Poked Itself In The Eye

You’ve probably heard of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It’s the body that regulates firms like Belmayne and should protect you from potential scammers. 

I say ‘should’ for a reason. In December, new rules were implemented that means the FCA no longer has to list advisers on its public record, the Financial Services Register, unless they have management responsibilities at their firm.

In my opinion, these changes are an absolute disgrace. The FCA has effectively washed its hands of its regulatory responsibility and duty to protect consumers, opening a 12-month window for con artists and fraudsters to run amok with our profession’s reputation.

It’s time the PFS stepped up

The register had a key role to play in protecting clients, as you could at least check the person you were dealing with was regulated. Whilst this was never going to prevent all scams, it did at least help.

The FCA says there are plans to implement a new directory, containing information about individuals no longer listed on the public register, however, it won’t be published until December.

So, what do you do in the meantime? 

Most reputable advisers, regardless of management responsibilities, are members of the Personal Finance Society (PFS). If I was in charge of this professional body, I would see the removal of the FCA register as a massive opportunity to come to the fore and fill the vacuum.

Unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed again. There has been a total lack of action on this front.

The PFS has access to our Statements of Professional Standing, along with qualification records, any misconduct or disciplinary proceedings and professional designations, such as the Chartered status my colleagues and I hold. Surely it is perfectly placed to become the go-to register for consumers?

Can we change the regulator’s mind?

Nope. It’s a done deal, like it or not.

It comes as no surprise really. The FCA has been gradually eroding the register’s usefulness for years and it is littered with inaccuracies, which sometimes lead directly to client losses. It is also a fact that even when the Complaints Ombudsman found against the FCA, it chose not to accept the outcome and refused to compensate the affected client.

It is incredibly short sighted of the FCA to remove honest, hardworking advisers from the public register. It doesn’t seem to care that many providers used it as a tool to help support the regulator’s work, by checking the people they are dealing with are authorised.

The fallout is beginning already. Prudential are asking advisers to ‘self-report’ to confirm their status. Imagine the additional workload this is going to create across the profession! And self-certification worked out so well in the mortgage market…

How to check your adviser’s credentials

If you want to check the qualifications of adviser not listed on the FCA’s register, I would recommend contacting the PFS, as they have all the background information I listed earlier.

You can still use the FCA register to establish the senior managers at a firm and if you are in any doubt about an individual’s status, don’t be shy about asking for certification from those responsible.

If you would like to know more about the qualifications and accreditations we hold at Belmayne, check out our team profiles online or contact us on (01246) 298181.