Three hours. Three hours I have spent wrestling with Gabriel, archangel of misery, bringer of despair, who demands pointless information just to keep someone in Canary Wharf in a job.
I have just completed my six-monthly battle with the regulator’s godawful system for reporting regulatory information. Once again I am left with one major question banging inside my head: why?
Why does the FCA need to know how many new clients I have taken on in the past six months? Why does it need to know the number of new cases of adviser charging paid for via a product provider as distinct from a platform?
I wonder what possible benefit some of this data can provide for the FCA. Long and short: clients are happy, I am getting paid. I see no problem here.
I understand the need to report complaints (I have received none) and to demonstrate the financial health of my business from the balance sheet and profit and loss (very healthy, thank you). But I am required to submit this information using a system with a user experience that feels like I am wallpapering my hallway from outside my front door. And through the letterbox.
Most of the digits are only half-visible once I have entered them in the correct fields. Four sections have to cross-validate each other but you have to save and close one before you can fill in another. Why can one field not automatically populate the corresponding one in the other section?
And don’t get me started on the fact that the entire system works to the nearest whole number – except for one section which requires figures to two decimal places.
Who among us has not crossed their fingers when clicking the “Validate” button only to have their hopes dashed by the vicious red error messages at the top of the page?
I imagine I would be a little happier if I had any explanation as to what the regulator does with this information. I confess I have not looked to see if this is explained anywhere but I cannot understand why anyone would need to know the kind of information I have to submit in the new Section K.
The regulator must get better at explaining what it does with this information and how it benefits me and, more importantly, the general public. With costs rising each year,
I begrudge the time and mental effort a little more every time Gabriel and I square up for another scrap. There simply must be efficiencies to be gained from simplifying both the amount of data required and the system used for collecting it.
My only comfort is that mine is a smallish business, with five advisers and five staff, and we have honed our management information systems to make the job as easy as possible. I cannot imagine the systems and people that must be needed for the nationals or networks to report this stuff. The thought of doing their returns makes me go all shivery.
Come on, Mr FCA, make an effort to make the financial services world a little more pleasant for all involved. Retire Gabriel and replace him with a better system requiring less time and effort. Then I can get on with filling this advice gap I keep hearing about.
Pete Matthew is managing director of Jacksons Wealth Management