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FSA Chief Executive: Depolarisation was black spot

When John Tiner steps down in July, he will have been at the regulator for six years and chief executive for three but the industry is split on the legacy he will leave behind.

Compliance consultant and former PIA Ombudsman Bureau second ombudsman Adam Samuel says that, after the reign of Howard Davies, Tiner’s priority was to “bang some heads together” and replace the words of Davies with some definite action.

Syndaxi Financial Planning managing director Robert Reid says Tiner needs to be congratulated on tidying up the problems caused by Davies and be seen as the man who brought some common sense to Davies’ blue-sky thinking.

Treasury select committee chairman John McFall praises Tiner for his contribution, in stark contrast to his attack on Davies for being “asleep on the job” as the split-cap scandal emerged.

Tiner led the FSA investigation into the split-cap debacle soon after he became managing director and took a hard line with providers, also forcing them to act over mortgage endowments.

Aifa director general Chris Cummings is positive about Tiner’s focus on making the regulator easier to deal with.

Samuel says praise is due for the fact that no life offices went bust on Tiner’s watch, with credit given to the decision to suspend some solvency rules during poor stockmarket conditions in 2003.

Samuel also suggests the endowment misselling row with Legal & General, which most commentators classed as a score-draw, was more the fault of former head of enforcement Andrew Procter.

But depolarisation is the big failure of Tiner’s tenure, says Samuel, with the adviser community feeling the effects of his mistakes in this area. Samuel says: “Tiner failed the industry by not standing up to the Government over depolarisation. He refused to step up to the plate and take on the huge pressure from the Treasury and OFT and tell them that the regime would not work.”

Reid is more generous in his assessment of this issue, saying the industry got what it deserved in the form of the payment menu, suggesting that the FSA never had confidence in it but accepted the market’s proposed solution.

But in a Money Marketing internet poll, only 25 per cent of advisers believe Tiner’s tenure at the FSA has had a positive effect on the industry.

Pharon director Nicholas O’Shea says, as chief executive of the FSA, you are never going to win many friends and advisers have had to cope with the negative effects of depolarisation which were brought in to satisfy the big banks with little thought for the IFA sector.

O’Shea says: “It is still wait and see with regard to the effects of Tiner’s move to principle-based regulation and the results of the retail distribution review he launched but whatever happens, the IFA sector is resourceful and can deal with whatever is thrown at it.”

Tiner’s time at the FSA

April 2001

Joins the FSA as managing director of consumer, investment and insurance, responsible for the IFA sector, after 25 years at Arthur Andersen where his work included investigating the Nick Leeson affair.

February 2002

One of his first major duties is to investigate the split-cap debacle.

April 2002

Sends out the ‘Tiner letter’ to mortgage endowment providers and large IFA firms warning them of the FSA’s concern regarding endowment complaints handling and asking them to review and revise complainthandling procedures.

July 2003

Takes over as chief executive from Howard Davies

April 2004

Launches major financial capability initiative.

May 2004

Attacks European Commission for trying to implement Mifid too quickly.

June 2005

Financial Services and Markets Tribunal halves the £1.1m fine against Legal & General rejecting the FSA’s assertion that the misselling was widespread but suggested the regulator had not acted unreasonably. FSA reviews enforcement procedures.

June 2005

Depolarisation comes into force after the FSA’s original plans for the defined payment system were watered down. Regime is widely seen to have failed in its objective of increasing competition and consumer choice.

June 2006

Tiner announces retail distribution review to ask fundamental questions about the future of the industry.

November 2006

Announces radical simplification of the rulebook to fit in with Mifid and the move to principle-based regulation.

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