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MM Profile: Rory Percival

Rory Percival FSA

A keen orienteer, Rory Percival spends much of his working life navigating his way round adviser firms across the country, charged with spotting emerging risks.

Percival should have a good grasp of the issues facing the small firms he encounters, having worked in adviser compliance and technical support roles from 1987 to 2006, before joining the regulator. His qualifications include being a chartered financial planner.

However, he is quick to point out that he does not see himself as an “industry person” and instead naturally fits the “consumerist” role of FSA technical specialist.

“I have always considered myself consumerist. Even when inside the industry I did not feel like an industry person so a move to compliance was something that suited me. I still feel like that now, so I feel as though my beliefs are aligned to that of the FSA.”

Rory Percival tall 300

Outside of work, Percival spends much of his leisure time outdoors. “I am a very outdoorsy person, I do a lot of hill walking and I am big into orienteering. I also have a big allotment grow my own vegetables. I am interested in anything that involves mud and exhaustion.”

Unusually, he can also tell you to the day when he hopes his FSA career will come to an end. “Six years, two months and three weeks. That is when I hit 55 and retire. After that I will probably look to do some consultancy work and maybe take up a couple of non-exec roles. But at the moment I enjoy my work enormously I feel very lucky.”

Percival took his first job in an adviser firm 25 years ago, three weeks before the stock market crash of 1987.

“My boss rang me up, he said ‘the markets are crashing’, I replied ‘the markets can go up as well as down you know? He wasn’t particularly impressed by that comment”

He later took up his role at the FSA less than a month after the announcement of the retail distribution review.

Percival says the RDR is driving significant changes for the benefit of consumers and suggests there is more bad advice being given than advisers would think.

“We get a lot of criticism for being too hard on advisers. When I was in the industry it did not seem like there was much bad advice being given. Looking at it from this side of things, it is more significant than people who work in the industry see.

“A lot of the time bad advice is related to people’s life savings and putting entire pension pots into one unsuitable fund, this has a real, material impact on consumers.”

It is this bad advice that Percival is seeking to reduce through the implementation of RDR and further supervisory work.

“I understand that it is a challenge and a big change but it is the right thing to do. I absolutely empathise with advisers and I myself am very cautious of the implications of running a business having been a director of a smaller firm.

“It is the responsibility of directors to ensure the business is successful and the security of their employees’ jobs. We had financial problems when I was director at a small firm so I am very, very cautious of the financial and practical implications that come with that.”

Percival also warns the FSA is set to take a hard-line approach to the new qualification rules with no leniency from the regulator around qualification deadlines.

“People getting their qualifications is a zero-tolerance area, if you do not have your qualifications come January 1 then you will have to send in your deauthorisation form.”

However, he says the FSA will show flexibility around advisers’ charging models, which he says they may not get right straight away from January 1.

“We will be more flexible in terms of how firms set their charges and if they need to change how that is set up, we appreciate that is something which could take a couple of attempts to get right.

“However, we will take action if there is consumer detriment as a result.”

He says his work for the FSA is enjoyable and appreciates the opportunity to influence regulation.

“One of the things about working for the FSA is that it is a good employer and it has good managers you are very empowered here. You get the scope to have a direct input into how the FSA works.

“People like myself can have direct input which is good because we are the ones on the ground talking to advisers, the guys at the coalface on a day-to-day basis.”

Rory Percival tall 300

Percival also also keen to dispell certain myths around the RDR which have been allowed to develop, including the sugestion that advisers focused on passive investments cannot be classed as independent.

“It is very possible that advisers can remain independent. If your starting point is reviewing the whole of market across actively managed, passive, Oeics, ETFs and investment trusts etc and then end up with a shortlist you are independent.

This review could end with recommendation of just passives which is fine. However, if you start with just a list of passive options then you are not independent. We are planning to put clarification on this in the next newsletter.”

Another area which has seen much debate over recent months is adviser firms taking on permissions to operate as product manufacturers or platform providers.

Percival warns firms who undertake such models will face heavy scrutiny to ensure they are carrying out their duties as they claim to.

“If you are going into fund management or going to be a platform operator you can receive remuneration for providing that service.

“Firms cannot just do that as a smoke and mirrors tactic and really just be an intermediary firm getting someone else to carry out these functions and getting extra remuneration. That is another way of subverting the RDR rules.”

He adds the regulator will look closely to ensure the firms have the correct permissions, and expertise required.

“Permissions is core element. You have to have permissions to undertake those. You also need the expertise and capital in place. You have to become a proper fund manager or platform.”

Despite the heavily interventialist approach of the FSA, Percival says advisers must keep in mind that the most importment person to please is the client. “It is not about ensuring you appease the regulator, it is about ensuring your clients are receving a service they are happy with,” he says.

Rory Percival 350

Born: 1 January, 1964

Lives: St Albans

Education: Kings College London (Latin and Ancient History) chartered financial planner

Career:

1987 – 1993: Financial adviser and technical support, General Portfolio

1993 – 1996: Financial adviser and technical support, Medical Insurance Agency

1996 – 2006: Compliance and training officer/director, Fiona Price & Partners

2006 to date: FSA technical specialist

Likes: Orienteering, gardening, hill walking

Dislikes: Littering: a symptom of so many human failings: selfishness, laziness, arrogance and a disrespect for other people, animals and the environment

Book: Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Film: Lord of the Rings

Album: Isles Ne’er Forgotten by Ivan Drever

Career ambition: Retire without a platform service or Cip misselling scandal

Life ambition:To walk from Lands End to John O’Groats and climb all 3,000ft mountains along the way of which there are about 300, would take about seven months

If I wasn’t doing this I would be: An archeologist

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Comments

There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Becoming a headcase IFA 2nd November 2012 at 10:12 am

    “When I was in the industry it did not seem like there was much bad advice being given. Looking at it from this side of things, it is more significant than people who work in the industry see.”
    Rory Percival

    Not from IFAs, according to FOS statistics.

    I’d rather have Lance Percival looking after consumers.

  2. Excellent interview.
    It strikes me that most of the adviser-regulator “relationship” problems might disappear overnight if what Rory is effectively saying could be issued as a regulatory ethos – namely that as long as advice is clearly right for the client then any peripheral “failings” will not result in heavy handed treatment/fines/remedial work etc. Maybe that already is the case, I would hope, but Im not sure its the “impression” that advisers have?

  3. Having listened to Rory a few months ago speak about the “FSA” vision for IFA’s post RDR, and minus his beard, Rory would still do well as one of the New Model Advisers that are evolving today.

    No wonder he took to regulation if his first role was at General Portfolio. Any man of ethics would probably want to do what he is doing after such an experience.

  4. Rory is a rare commodity at the FSA – a fundamentally decent person, who plays it straight.

    So, it is a good thing that he intends to retire in a few years, as I suspect his promotion prospects at the FSA are limited (which is to his credit).

  5. “you are very empowered here”
    says it all really.

  6. Richard Allighan 2nd November 2012 at 3:11 pm

    He tried to miss sell me a private pension once. Must’ve been mid-eighties.

  7. An individual who is Chartered status yet it appears has never had a client facing role??

    Latin and Ancient History, thats normal in the real world too.

    I am just a pleb so what do I know.

  8. @ nobody cares – Mr percival is a rare commodity at the FSA. But you got one thing right, you do indeed seem to be a pleb, because if you look at his career history you will see he has held client facing roles.

  9. When you work for your self.
    Your retirment are some what limted.

    Carry working untill the brain and the body no more ,or the regulators tell you you have to stop

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