FCA should not leave it to advisers to fill in the gaps

Katie Marriner 700x450

In what must be one of her final speeches at the FCA, acting chief executive Tracey McDermott extolls the importance of transparency in financial regulation.

Using the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium tragedy as an example of poor practice by authorities when it comes to transparency, fairness and justice, McDermott said where facts are not known “rumour, innuendo and speculation will fill the gap”.

She added: “While I recognise that the purpose of enforcement is very different from that of a full public enquiry, we do have a role to play in ensuring – to paraphrase the X Files – that at least part of ‘the truth is out there’ and that it is out there quickly. And we also need to recognise that in many scenarios the work we do may be all there is.”

It’s a good point but it is also fair to say the FCA has a way to go before it can live up to its ambitions.

Just last week, attempts by Money Marketing to garner more details about vague statements in the FCA’s April board minutes were shut down.

The minutes mentioned “issues affecting the Gabriel system” but when asked what those issues were the regulator said it could not comment further.

Many advisers will have experienced problems with Gabriel but those issues may not be the same ones concerning the regulator.

Without more facts, advisers are left to fill the gaps.

It is also questionable whether the Freedom of Information Act should have to be so frequently relied on to get to the truth.

Recently, Money Marketing sought to find out how many of the 271 projects being supported by the regulator’s innovation hub related to the advice sector.

The FCA said it did not have a breakdown of the data by sector and, when asked if this could be obtained through an FOI, it was considered that such a request “won’t be an easy task” for the information team.

Added to this is the pressure the regulator’s FOI team is under, proven by an email response from the Information Access Team asking for more time due to the high volume of requests currently being processed.

Last month, the regulator responded to adviser concerns about a lack of transparency in some of its recent reports saying that it now releases more information than ever before.

That might be true but there is a strong argument for quality alongside quantity.

It’s not enough for the FCA’s top dogs to talk the talk on transparency, they need to walk the walk too.

Katie Marriner is regulation reporter at Money Marketing.