It seems to me the FSA assumes it is easier to regulate a small number of large organisations than a large number of small ones.
Experience tells us, however, that the opposite is true. If a large organisation decides to behave badly, all you get is a large number of people behaving just as badly.
Having said that, I would rather believe that it was collective ignorance. When so many people get enthusiastic about a new product launch, for example, no one dare stick up their hand and shout 'stop'. Everyone ends up thinking someone else understands what it is all about, but it turns out no one does.
The FSA needs to understand that small IFA firms take their business personally, unlike the banks and nationals. And that usually means they do business ethically too. The regulator therefore needs to make the lives of small IFAs as easy as possible. After all, we don't have various departments to deal with specific issues.
The FSA needs to remove obstacles, not put them in place. In doing so, it will free up our time to do a better job for our clients. Instead, our lives are so stretched and difficult, we inevitably start to cut corners and see less of the people we are meant to be there for. More regulation means fewer people get advice.
If the average adviser's life is made unutterably difficult, inevitably some will start to become unethical in their ways just to make ends meet. That, or they would give up and try something else, which again does nothing to help the client.
It seems that every diktat we get simply adds to an already burgeoning workload of non-income producing tasks. Just for once I would love to hear from our “gamekeepers'″that they have studied a directive from Brussels but deem it unnecessary to implement. Maybe this already happens, in which case there is a PR issue to address.
I wonder if the FSA could form a department to think of ingenious ways to actually ease the pain for us all. Maybe it could have a fresh look at what we do and suggest a few out-dated procedures we could do away with (some of the more paltry elements of money laundering would be a good start).
The Analysts has been in business for nearly 20 years and in all that time not a single item of correspondence has been discarded. The storage is an increasing problem, but it has helped us fend off several phase 2 Pensions Review claims of dubious merit, not to mention a recent endowment claim.
With the knowledge that records are the key to a successful defence, we have taken it upon ourselves to move into the digital world of phone systems; not because we want trendy handsets, but because we now have the ability to record conversations.
Aside from a few twiddly bits, we will now be able to record conversations between advisers and clients (and life offices of course) and even email them within our internal network as an attachment.
We are hoping this will raise everybody's game. I suspect it will make us more focused in our own telephone procedures, and encourage a more thorough service level from life offices. Most important, we can refer back to conversations to clarify our dealings with clients.
I am also hoping it will separate us from the rest of the crowd. I believe it is a clear sign that we are confident, professional and happy to be put under the microscope.
That's the positive spin. The downside is naturally the cost – it is a considerable sum of money, which could have been spent on developing staff, or employing more of them.
Tom Kean is compliance officer for The Analysts