I caught up with some industry friends for a couple of drinks the other week. Nothing new there, those of you who know me might say. Over evening drinks the three of us, who are all engaged, compliant business principals, sat and chatted through the issues we are all currently facing.
Recruiting and retaining quality staff and their rising pay-scales; cost inflation of the services and goods we have to buy; fee compression; defined benefit pension transfer pressures; continuing sector consolidation and all the other topical things you would expect.
It was a really enjoyable evening and as we broke up, we agreed to do it again soon; to share information and documentation that might help the others from a compliance and governance standpoint.
As I emailed my documentation contribution to my friends in the following days, it set me thinking about just what I was compiling and how things are definitely changing at an ever increasing rate for business owners and operators.
The regulatory and attaching resources and time burden — albeit all for the good of the investing client — is set to become massive. Regulation and compliance always seems to loom disproportionately large in a small firm but it really is sobering to contemplate the imminent arrival of Mifid II, General Data Protection Regulation, the Senior Managers Regime and all the rest.
We can now look forward to the loss of what was once readily available investment research; call recording on mobiles as well as land-lines; each piece of data potentially representing a business risk; evidencing compliance with every facet within a new tranche of regulatory regimes, working ever harder in aligning business objectives and strategic execution to exacting board governance standards. All this within a working week dealing with clients is going to take a real commitment to research, application and implementation.
As a backdrop to all of this we have the rise of fintech, digital and on-demand, sector consolidation, fee compression and rising client expectations. And the public still largely don’t understand what we do, how we charge or how the whole sector, with the invested capital they entrust us with, supports the UK through taxation and infrastructure investment.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, the discussion with other advisory business owners wasn’t about all things client. It was really all about complying with big company standards within small enterprise.
Don’t take me wrong: like you I am all for meeting compliance and business governance standards and I absolutely believe in looking after the investor to the utmost of our abilities. I just worry a little about the current discussions, or my own at least, which seem to be struggling to balance doing the right thing for clients as opposed to be being seen to comply with a huge range of new regulation which aims to do the right thing, and finding the sheer amount of time it will take to do so.
Lee Robertson is chief executive of Investment Quorum