Tom Kean: Advisers face fight for survival as regulatory costs mount

There is a very real danger that, given half a chance, someone like me who is fortunate enough to be able to vent their frustrations in this column starts to sound like a stuck record. But risking mildly offensive comments online, I am going to say this anyway because I believe it does make a difference.

With the slow motion, echo-ey thud of a film noir, our regulatory fees once again metaphorically land on the doormat and make us wince with ever-increasing pain.

Few outside of our profession would really have much sympathy at our plight, but it has become so expensive to be regulated that many are fearing the worst.

No longer is it an issue of the good paying for the errors and dishonesty of the bad – it has become a real fight for survival. Even the biggest and most profitable companies are beginning to cry out as the soul-sapping increases to regulatory fees have a material effect on their businesses.

If one ponders for a moment at all the quangos that now exist, it all starts to make sense.

The the FCA, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, the Financial Ombudsman
Service, the Money Advice Service, Pension Wise, The Pensions Regulator, The Pensions Advisory Service, Citizens Advice, not to mention the plethora of commercial sites like MoneySavingExpert and the like, all adds up to a large army of well-meaning bureaucrats determined to justify their own jobs. And no offence to all the good folk who work at these organisations, especially the volunteers; my gripe is not with you. It is with the way this whole alternative industry has emerged, unchecked and mostly paid for by myself and the rest of the adviser profession.

I cannot help but see the glaringly obvious here, and it is not just me. There are plenty of those who can see that lots of the work undertaken by these organisations is readily undertaken by some of the others.

I have only ever worked in financial services, and even I am confused. I lobbied long ago that the MAS should have been strangled at birth, and that the well-thought of Citizens Advice be tasked with running what the MAS are trying, and failing, to do.

And I still cannot for the life of me work out exactly where TPR and TPAS fit in. It is no wonder people still do not know to only ever deal with FCA-regulated advisers and to fully understand if something seems too good to be true, then it is.

All I want is for the costs to feel like value for money, both for me and the consumer. The plain fact is all this “protection” does not seem to be working. Just this week I happened upon  a company which is very clearly a scam, but a very polished one nevertheless and deeply worrying. I am not sure what can be done about it though.

And here is my point. The unintended consequence of all this is the bad guys end up going deeper underground, further from the prying eyes of the regulator, leaving the rest of us to mop up the mess.

Tom Kean is director of Thameside Financial Planning