I had been labouring my way through completing my firm’s latest Gabriel return when I decided to ring our compliance consultants for advice on how to complete one of its new sections.
The consultant told me his firm had received many calls from IFAs who were struggling to complete the form. I asked him for his opinion of it and he said “The Gabriel return is a joke.” Coming from a compliance consultant I thought that was quite a telling comment.
Gabriel is an acronym for “gathering better regulatory information online”. No doubt an external consultancy firm was paid to create the acronym – yet the letter E is plonked in it without actually representing a word. Perhaps the FSA should have asked for a discount.
I’ve dreamt up an alternative acronym for Gabriel, which I’ve called Devil for the following reasons:
The document is difficult to complete. I’ve yet to complete it without getting multiple red warnings over errors in inputting data such as leaving a box blank when I should have entered zero.
The design of Gabriel and its navigation is outstandingly bad. The dictionary definition of egregious is shocking, appalling, terrible, awful, horrendous, frightful, atrocious, abominable, abhorrent, outrageous. I think these descriptions are fitting.
It is virtual in the sense that it is an online form but that assumes it’s useable. When I completed the form I was thrown out of the system 11 times out of 15 attempts, often when I was part way through completing the form. I couldn’t click through to the help and frequently asked questions section of the site, despite several attempts. Also, Gabriel has weekday and weekend opening and closing times like a shop. Whatever happened to 24/7? You really couldn’t make it up, could you?
It’s an incredibly irritating form to complete. Where there are figures none of them are automatically added up for you like in an Excel spreadsheet. The language is unfamiliar and confusing like Sir Humphrey’s civil service speak in ‘Yes Minister!’ I’ve never heard anyone in the real world us the word “decumulation.”
Why isn’t the form pre-populated with answers from the last completed return to be edited or updated? Why are answers not automatically used to pre-populate other sections of the form which require the same answer. so you avoid having to input the same data more than once?
I was going to make the acronym devilish rather than devil by adding the words illogical, soul destroying and ham-fisted but it would have made this article exceed its permitted word count.
I hate to think how much of my firm’s hard-earned money paid to the FSA in fees was used to pay for this system. However much it cost was too much.
Like most government bodies the FSA, or FCA as it is now known, is good at spending other people’s money wastefully. This is just one of many examples I could give you of FCA waste. Just go along to its offices at Canary Wharf and you will be stunned and dismayed at how much money has been spent not only on building its offices but also on furnishing and decorating them.
Tony Byrne is financial planning director at Wealth And Tax Management