Speaking at a London conference, director of small firms and retail intermediaries sector leader Stephen Bland branded as “folklore” the belief that small firms can evade the regulator.
He said this misconception risks tarnishing the industry and that the FSA’s risk-based approach enables it to supervise a large number of small firms effectively. He said only a third of advisers have not had individual FSA contact in the last year.
Bland warned that the FSA is in contact with product providers, the police, Customs & Excise, the Department for Trade & Industry and other law enforcement agencies. It also uses information from the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Office of Fair Trading and whistleblowers, as well as retail mediation activities returns, to monitor every firm.
Bland said he was concerned by market commentary claiming that ARs are being driven to go direct as it is more onerous to be monitored by a network than being directly authorised.
He said recent press suggestions that advisers are deserting networks to become directly authorised are not backed up by the facts.
He said the number of ARs rose by 150 in the first quarter of 2007. The number of directly regulated advisers rose by an average of 29 a month over the last year but only a quarter were network leavers.
He said the slight drop in ARs by 3 per cent on last year is due to the collapse of two big networks and increased competition from service providers.
Bland said: “We are sending a very clear message that small retail firms are not under the radar. Our regulatory approach is based on giving help to firms who run their businesses while treating customers fairly but coming down hard on those who do not.”