We recently notified the FCA that our trading name, not our company name, has changed from Wealth And Tax Management Independent Financial Planners to Wealth And Tax Management Chartered Financial Planners.
The name change was itself prompted by the FCA’s onerous requirements for us to continue to qualify to describe ourselves as independent.
I was shocked when my administrator informed me that the FCA initially objected to our change of name on the basis that it was a “sensitive name”. We had to provide further evidence that we were a firm of chartered financial planners. We sent them a copy of our certificate issued by The Personal Finance Society and two weeks later to our relief they accepted our new name.
The reason we were given why they considered this to be a sensitive name was because they were concerned that some firms would just use the title whether they were qualified or not. Well forgive me but knowing the immense sanctioning powers of the FCA, I think any IFA firm foolish enough to call themselves chartered when they’re not would be inviting a serious reprimand and a fine, if not suspension.
What disappoints me is that we have to go through such hoops at all. A quick search of the PFS website would very quickly show that we are an accredited chartered firm.
Firms describing themselves as chartered should be given the benefit of the doubt in the first instance and not be put through such a ridiculous process.
After years of toiling over Gabriel Returns I have now delegated the task to our office manager. What a relief. Regular readers of this column will have read my previous article on this subject when I renamed them Devil returns!
I finally found out why I kept getting thrown out of the system. It was because I was using Microsoft Internet Explorer. I don’t want to get into a rant about Microsoft, but since converting to Google Chrome I’ve not been thrown out of the Gabriel system once.
Woe betide anyone who leaves the Gabriel return to the last minute to complete it. Like many government or quango websites, the FCA site has opening and closing times on weekdays and closes at weekends like an offline shop. I really don’t get it. Surely the whole idea of an online system is that it should be available 24/7?
No doubt we will be getting our annual FCA bills shortly containing the usual hefty bill for the Investors Compensation Scheme. It never ceases to amaze me that we have to pay compensation to the clients of other failed firms. It is a not insignificant cost either. Last year it represented 80 per cent of our annual FCA fees.
Last but not least is the subject of the FCA’s free Money Advice service. It really bugs me that this service was set up using our fees after we were ourselves forced to start charging fees to our clients. So we now have to pay compulsory fees to the FCA to provide a competing free advice service which is portrayed by the media as a government service, no doubt encouraged by the FCA.
Financial services regulation in the UK in 2014. Barmy isn’t it?
Tony Byrne is financial planning director at Wealth And Tax Management