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Five years leading the FSA through crisis is enough for anyone


There really has been a lot of rubbish written about Hector Sants’ decision to step down as FSA chief executive.

And some of the worst rubbish has been reported in the supposedly best informed places with pure ‘tittle tattle’ that he has been forced out by Westminster or Whitehall. I just do not buy this at all.

I am not surprised in the least by his decision. Like many of us, I was surprised in 2010 when he said he would be staying on to oversee the transition to the new regulatory regime. Remember he had been on the record before the general election opining serious misgivings about the Conservative Party’s plans to scrap the FSA.

But his decision to stay on and provide continuing leadership has been extremely important at this juncture.

He was appointed FSA chief executive in July 2007 just weeks before the sub-prime market cracked. So his tenure which ends in the summer of 2012 is defined by the ongoing financial and economic crisis. As CEO he has never known ‘normal’ – whatever that is anymore.

When he became chief executive many in the retail industry had the knives out for this former investment banker – what would he know or care about the average consumer. And some have used this mantra as a constant refrain against Sants. Despite this on the RDR he has stuck to his guns and, in the end, he has carried considerable political traction with the arguments.
He put his hands up quickly on Northern Rock and cried ‘mea culpa’ for the FSA’s failings. Then he quickly put in place the supervisory enhancement programme for major firms which has radically altered the landscape and modus operandi of the regulator.
Finally he has set in train the functional separation of the FSA’s day-to-day operations well in advance of the formal passing of the legislation creating the PRA and the FCA.
Whatever you think of those changes this has been no small task.
People in public life these days are subject to ongoing opprobrium which makes most of us think twice about leaving the private sector to do public good.
Five years at the top of the UK’s financial regulator through this crisis would be long enough for anyone.
You may not like everything Hector Sants has done – but you can’t say he has not been focused on the job.

Iain Anderson is director and chief corporate counsel at Cicero Group


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There are 32 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. What absolute rubbish Iain!

  2. Speaking as an IFA – Hector may have been “focussed” but what has actually been achieved under his tenure? Piles of bureaucracy and industry cost, investors no better protected and an RDR which may delight a few only evangelists but in practice is doomed to achieve very little.

    I for one will not mourn his departure.

  3. A simple typo in the final sentence has clearly caused confusion so I’ll clear it up for you. What Iain Anderson meant to say was “You may not like everything that Hector Sants hasn’t done….” There now, that’s better.

  4. Aye and got well paid for his trouble and the golden handshke will be even better.
    I’d love a shot at the job!

  5. Money Marketing has to look seriously at it`s editorial content. If we continue to be fed this kind of drivvel by Ian Anderson, Nic the Cutie et al then I for one will stop reading. What a waste of space!

  6. Is it 1st April?.

    There is one word missing from the article heading, and that is either ‘BLINDLY’, ‘OBLIVIOUSLY’ or maybe even ‘ARROGANTLY’. Possibly all three…

    Iain, I admire your blind faith, but this man will not be missed by many IFAs.

    He did NOT hold his hands up to the Northern Rock debacle. In fact he made it abundantly clear (in a recent article) that HE has not been to blame for ANYTHING on his ‘watch’!. (not that there have been many debacles…..ahem!). Sure, he admitted that ‘the FSA’ had perhaps not handled it as well as they should, but of course, that was BEFORE he arrived.

    When on 9th March 2011 he and Sheila Nicoll faced the Treasury Select Committee in an attempt to defend the RDR, he floundered badly. In fact, it looked more like ‘Mr & Mrs’ with him and Sheila helping each other out when trying to answer questions. Crikey, he was not even aware of to whom the FSA were accountable!.

    In fact, one of my questions in the recent L4 qualification process was exactly that. (for your information Ian, the answer is apparently…, nobody!).

    I am sorry, but if Hector was thinking of inviting any IFAs to his leaving party, I know of a fairly clean telephone box just a few yards from Canary Wharf.

  7. 5 years have been long enough to endure Sants & glad to see the back of him.

    Seems you have been quite profitable from his term in office !!

  8. “Five years at the top of the UK’s financial regulator through this crisis would be long enough for anyone.”
    You ought to try 5 years as a victim of his neglect and of his crazy policies – without the fatcat salary and the option to duck out on a fatcat pension….

  9. I suppose some one needed to take the role of Horatio at the gate.

    Behind every insignificant and unpleasant failure is a mouth with the job of bigging him up.

    Other men who have stuck to their guns:

    Lord Cardigan, Haig, Kitchener, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon and Nero. To be fair Nero stuck to his fiddle and not his guns.

  10. Iain I fear you are in cuckoo land. HS is an arrogant, self opinionated wind bag who has been responsible for the ruin of thousand of advisers jobs thus far, and many more to come. He has desimated an industry, is responsible for huge costs being added to clients transactions and has contempt for anyone and everyon involved in this business who is not employed by the regulatory body or the banks. And people in public life admire what he has done?????? He treats elected politicians with equal contempt – ie the immediate refusal to contemplating RDR delay as per TSC recommendations. Signs off on a 1 page report into RBS failure, has never once had directors of any bank sacked or brought to account over some of the biggest scandals in our business – ie PPI misselling. He has cost the industry billions so far with more to come with RDR which, like every single important decision to come from the FSA, it is likely to fail the very people it is there to supossedly protect. Any organisation who’s board decides on a 3 to 2 majority to continue down a track at full steam ahead without any form of hesitency needs reformed. Now the 3 heads that did vote for this have gone with H S being the last. Far from being an outstanding public servant he should be hauled before a commons committee to answer for his failings since taking charge of the FSA. A lot of providers/networks are having pay huge redress to clients for advice that companies they bought gave prior to the purchase. They are deemed to be ultimately responsible for previous actions of that firm, yet this hateful prat has the audacity to try blaming previous FSA falings on his predecessor and refuses point blank to accpet any liability for absolute disaster waiting to happen in the RDR. Even the mention of his name makes me want to puke.

  11. What a cv this man will have,and I guarantee he will get a top job somewhere else.
    Its strange that those who are rubbish at their jobs are seen by others as good recruits!
    So which idiot will we get next for his job??
    ps Kazakhstan has Tony Blair as their top International advisor-see what I mean!!

  12. Incompetent Regulators Award Team 19th March 2012 at 1:59 pm

    was So if a murderer says sorry I was wrong and influenced by others, that’s OK then is it? Lets let him off.

    What a load of tosh. With a hefty salary, pension, unaccountability for incompetentce, arrogance, bad practice and to cap it a 500k pay off, I wonder why he stayed so long even though he was not up to the job?

    Articles like this are an insult to ones intelligence.

  13. One of the weaknesses of Hector Sants was his arrogance and his inability to listen to others.
    I also didn’t, as did many financial advisers who have taken therisk and started their own business take too kindly to his threat of be very afraid of the FSA.
    Hopefully, things will change and there will be more dialogue with the industry moving forward. In order that for that to happen we will have to have the support of Parliament hopefully, the Treasury Select Committee if that aspiration is to be fulfilled.

  14. My heart bleeds ! The FSA has created its own crisis. It has failed to protect the public, the economy or finance industry from excesses. It has acted like a dictator, unlistening and unanswerable to anyone. It has failed to give clear guidance of what is required by the industry preferring to hide within copious guidelines of what is not required. It has failed to agree basic interpretation of risk, failed to stop the ingriduction of very dodgy products acting after the horse has bolted ad theerby destroying all public confidence in the industry. It has punished the many for the bad practices of the few. Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish !!!!!

  15. “People in public life these days are subject to ongoing opprobrium which makes most of us think twice about leaving the private sector to do public good”.
    Public good? Hector? FSA? you must be mad.

  16. Hector Sands. The man behind RDR. Is this his parting shot to destroy an industry that has destroyed his career by standing up to him ?

  17. I am not even going to google this man, and please stop quoting latin, we dont know what you are talking about. What a load of shit.

  18. “People in public life these days are subject to ongoing opprobrium which makes most of us think twice about leaving the private sector to do public good.”

    Public good? “Who are they kidding.?

    NOTHING this bunch of ne’erdowells has been to the advantage of the public, RDR is a mess, the regulations are so draconian, that in future we should see the banning of the sale of any financial product which is not deposit based as it is too risky.

    As for attending any function which sees off this inadequate functionary of government, even a clean telephone box is not appealing.

    I am not normally disposed to vitriol, but these guys take the biscuit, a more useless and worthless bunch it is harder to imagine.

    I would sincerely advise any young graduate thinking of coming into this industry not to do so, stacking shelves in Tesco would be more personally rewarding and at least you would not have the threat of an indefinite liability for so called mis selling 10,20,30 yrs down the line and into retirement.

    After 30 yrs in this industry, 22 as an IFA it is clear that the IFA sector is going to be reduced to a rich mans privilege and anyone who has built up any business of worth, should consider selling up now and getting out.

    I love my job, I really like dealing with my clients (the public) what I hate is this continuous back slapping of these inadequate, ill informed, biased and failed functionaries getting a pay off.

    You could not make this stuff up, it is far to real.

    AND what happens now, who is really going to correct these errors of judgement, (Cock ups by any other name are still cock ups).

    No one.

    Major networks CEOs take note, the greatest threat to our practices and ultimately YOUR jobs and the value of your business is the FSA, whose relentless and determined cliff edge RDR mentality will see us all ruined.

    They even have the gall to admit that a major portion of less well of clients will no longer be able to seek cost effective financial advice. Who exactly are these people changing our industry for the worse.

  19. Comes down to believing the article header or not.

    “Through a crisis” or into a crisis with no hope of coming out the other end as most IFA’s believe.

  20. A maelstrom of claptrap and whitewash but bereft of facts. So full marks to the man with 20 years of political lobbying and media manipulation and no actual financial services experience to be able to defend the indefensible. A useful contribution to the debate. Well done.

  21. What a silly article!

    By the way, any insurer or investment house which employs Sants will immediately lose our account.

  22. Sants will not be missed. Like most bureaucracies, the FSA is stuffed full of trendy lefties who want to see bigger government — that is why he was disappointed by the Conservatives’ plan to scrap the FSA — he didn’t want to see ground captured in the left’s revolutionary struggle to be handed back so easily. Good riddance to him. If he had one iota of proportion he would refuse to take the money for his gardening leave.

    Everybody has been running businesses through the financial crisis. But IFAs have been made the scapegoat. For the FSA to claim that their attention to the RDR is what caused them to miss the financial crisis is appalling. They are, in effect, saying that the detriment caused by IFA’s to their clients is worse than the whole of the mess the banks caused. Sants was at the top when the FSA said that. He is completely out of touch with reality.

  23. This is mearly a balanced article, you may not agree with the message, but comparing Sants to a murderer, Hitler or Stalin is disgusting. Go back to reading the daily mail, and keep your vitriolic hatred to yourselves.

  24. Such a vivid imagination!

  25. “There really has been a lot of rubbish written about Hector Sants’ decision to step down as FSA chief executive.”

    And, there’s even more rubbish coming from the likes of you Iain. Only someone trying to be deliberately provocative or just plain stupid would try and defend this man’s record. The FSA is in one holy mess, has an appalling track record and has created a costly monster in RDR, and as the man at the top he has to take some of the responsibility. But no he walks away with people like you jumping on the sycophant bandwagon trying to big him up. The one thing you did get right is; five years at the top of the UK’s financial regulator through this crisis would be long enough for anyone. Yes, we’ll agree with you on that point, but not in the way you intended.

  26. We all need to calm down a bit! The facts are these. Sants took over a wholly dysfunctional organisation that that had been woefully led by John Tiner. With real energy, and with no chance AT ALL, to avert the financial storm that was about to break, he set about a complete overhaul of his appalling inheritance.

    He is one of the very few public servants who has walked the walk etc.

    His decision to go, as the author states, is hardly surprising, but is a loss to the FSA when it can ill afford it.

  27. Reality Check | 20 Mar 2012 9:52 am

    My Mother used to say to me 2 wrongs doesn’t make a right. Are you seriously saying the FSA couldn’t see what was wrong with the banks during the years up to 2008? Are you seriously saying the FSA didn’t know PPI miss-selling was happening or that credit cards were being given to people who had no possibility of ever making the repayments. Are you also saying “self cert” mortgages weren’t a charter for disaster and 5% deposits for BTL wouldn’t explode at some point? I could list a whole page of areas that were totally neglected by the FSA in their “fairy land light touch regime”. They might not have been able to avert the full force of the financial crisis but they certainly aided and abetted the problem in the UK by turning a blind eye to the nonsense that went on in the Banking Industry. It’s actually you that needs to calm down a bit and wonder why this guy who incidentally; is on over £800k pa is walking away at this point.

  28. And just who or what is the Cicero Group that Iain Anderson is a director of. Is a ‘spin doctor’ agency -“Cicero offers government relations and regulatory affairs counsel to the financial sector in the UK, the US, Asia and across Europe.” ahhh! Sants & co have called you in to smooth the muddied waters. Well let me tell you, there is nothing you can say which will make us think the FSA under Hector Sants did financial servces and the general public any good. He has been the architect of the downfall of the financial backbone of the UK and perhaps the world (at the very least instrumental in the worldwide failure). You cannot tell us anything different as we have seen it with our own eyes, it is similar to those who try to deny the holocaust happened.

  29. You talk hyped up rubbish Iain! Let’s have a BBC PANORAMA program on his tenure and gbe effect on financial services. A monster was created which to maintain itself continued to make rules and decrees just to keep itself growing. Instead of carrying out its regulatory duties, it meddled in distribution, livelihoods etc. he will always be remembered for his words, “be afraid, be very afraid”. These are not the words if a statesman but of a buffoon and tyrant.

  30. AH 5.30pm
    Hitler made it very difficult and then impossible for one section of society to carry out their livliehoods, so such a comparison may not be as disgusting or far fetched as it appears.

  31. Even if we’re prepared to grant HS credit for a few positive achievements, these are surely outweighed by all the failures and various things that haven’t improved under his leadership.

    Is the FSA any more accountable than when he took over? No.

    Is it any more transparent than when he took over? No.

    Has it demonstrated any greater degree of willingness to listen to and to engage constructively with the industry? No.

    Has it shown any respect at all for Parliament, in the form of the TSC? No.

    Has it made any effort to reform its budget and how it manages it? No.

    Has it made the slightest effort to observe the precepts of the Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators? No.

    Has it improved its response to reports of wrongdoing (whistleblowing)? No.

    Has it granted any respite to the sector of the industry with by far the lowest complaints record, thus posing the lowest risk of consumer detriment? No.

    Has the FSA shown any willingness to treat with respect the sincere efforts of AIFA to secure fair treatment for IFA’s? No.

    As for writing that “He put his hands up quickly on Northern Rock and cried ‘mea culpa’ for the FSA’s failings” ~ yeah, and then sanctioned a £612,000 pay off for Clive Briault who was in charge of the department that was supposed to be overseeing Northern Rock.

    He may have “set in train the functional separation of the FSA’s day-to-day operations well in advance of the formal passing of the legislation creating the PRA and the FCA” ~ and then announced that the transition is going to cost a staggering £50m!!

    The list goes on and on, and these are facts, not rubbish. I think your article needs very considerably more balance, Iain, because I for one certainly don’t agree that Hector Sants has done anything approaching a good job.

  32. Lets be honest about this.
    silly old Hector has not exactly lead us through the rough seas. Rather he has led us into a maelstrom.

    Like the captain of the Titanic he wants to show everyone how wonderful he is at leadership, regardless of what is happening within the ship looking for the nearest iceberg to sink the good ship IFA, Looks like he is doing a good job of it so far – how soon before he is leading a bank?

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