I wonder just how many in the financial services industry realise that they may now appeal to an independent tribunal should they feel that the FSA has acted unfairly towards them?
The process, I am told, is amazingly simple. It consists of a two-page form to be completed and submitted to the Financial Services & Markets Tribunal situated in the Bloomsbury area of London.
Their plea will be heard by the tribunal under its president, Stephen Oliver, QC, who promises to hold most cases in public and to keep the experience both “civil and civilising”. Above all, however, he is an independent force appointed by the Lord Chancellor's department as opposed to the original suggestion of the appointee being a Treasury candidate.
So who do they have to thank for this eleventh-hour concession by the Treasury? Well, interestingly enough, the tribunal is seeing the light of day thanks to the insight and doggedness of a group of politicians including Francis Maude, Howard Flight and Lord Saatchi – together with the members of a cross-party Parliamentary committee under Lord Burns.
And who else do the members of the financial services industry have to thank for the knowhow and determination of these politicians?
For a start, they should consider thanking the pugnacious Garry Heath, predecessor to Paul Smee at Aifa, who stood up so firmly against the onslaught of Patricia Hewitt.
Without that successful stand and the hope that it gave to many in financial services, I suspect that great numbers would have got out or have been driven out of the industry.
The encouragement given to many by that stand resulted in some financial professionals banding together, originally at the behest of Peter Lilley (then shadow chancellor), in order to make him aware of some of the pending injustices against, and downright impediments to, a vibrant commercial world which is appreciated both at home and internationally.
Remember the trade figures reference to “hidden earnings” often running into hundreds of millions of pounds and reflect what might have happened and indeed what oppressive deterrent could now be hanging over the industry had not a few intelligent, resourceful, articulate and influential people got together to promote fair and open regulation.
R A Francis
The City Group, London