By Luuk Jacobs
By Eva Keogan
By Jonathan Max
By Luuk Jacobs
By Andy Milner
By Lydia Francis
The following is a brief overview of the Treasury Select Committee meeting with the Financial Conduct Authority on 25th June 2019.
Woodford Investment Management
Unsurprisingly, the highly anticipated subject of Woodford Investment Management’s (WIM) shortcomings was the first topic for discussion at the meeting.
The following observations are FSTP’s own view of the possible implications of Woodford Investment Management’s demise (we still don’t know what we don’t know and feel this subject has got some distance to run before all the facts are known).
This failure of a retail fund will have serious and lasting impact on the operation of Asset Management in the UK.
It throws into sharp relief the requirements falling out of the FCA’s Asset Management Market Study, in particular the need for independent Non-Executive Directors (NED) to challenge at Authorised Fund Manager (AFM) level and the production of qualitative value for money statements for all UK funds.
From what we heard, we suspect there will be changes to the rules governing the liquidity of funds which retail investors are able to invest in. Andrew Bailey (FCA’s CEO) highlighted the Regulator’s view that European Union (EU) legislation has failed to manage retail funds. However, FSTP is concerned about an over reliance on principles based regulation (i.e. living within the ‘spirit of the rules’) in this area of Financial Services. Our clients operating in this arena are always looking for clarity and are generally welcoming of prescriptive rules in this area.
Despite the introduction of formalised rules on product governance via MiFID II’s implementation in January 2018, distributor/manufacturer relationships and due diligence arrangements appear to be falling well short of regulatory expectations. We surmise that this is likely to result in a greater degree of regulatory intervention.
The remuneration of individuals will attract the attention of the wider media and public as this situation develops. In this instance the Senior Managers and major beneficiaries of fees charged are one and the same. On the face of it there appears to be precious little individual accountability and a lack of challenge by others – the prevailing attitude seemingly being, “We pay ourselves what we think we are worth”. However, when that premise is built upon the investments of retail investors (bear in mind how much pension fund money will be tied up here) there has to be a day of reckoning. The message? If you are not providing retail investors with the service they have been led to expect, you cannot continue to reward yourselves so disproportionately. In short, Senior Managers must now be seen to be taking a more overt, moral stand on what is right and fair.
Bailey was very strict to follow what he’s already told the media and the Committee’s Chair Nicky Morgan’s question, “Does anyone at the FCA read the papers and listen to what’s going on in the industry?” received a curt reply.
The question, “Is it a failure of rules, or a failure of FCA supervision?” received a straight forward response of, “A failure of rules”, with Bailey’s reasoning being that whilst WIM has often had long periods of strong performance and long periods of poor performance, in this instance it is has not been able to save the situation, or the many reputations that have been tarnished as a result.
The responsibilities of Link – the AFM for Woodford Funds – was centred on by Bailey who reiterated the regulatory contact that is now well publicised. The Committee observed that Link – previously owned by Capita – did not have a good record of managing Investment Managers on behalf of investors, given they were at the centre of the Arch Cru issues. (N.B. An article in the FT on 25 June alleges that the FCA pressured WIM into using the services of Link – as the largest provider of ACD services – in order for the necessary regulatory permissions to be granted).
The relationship between WIM and Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) was raised by the Committee and it became obvious that once the immediate issue of fund liquidity is resolved, a review of the relationship between distributors and manufacturers will be instigated. (N.B at the Investment Association’s annual Policy Conference on Wednesday (26 June) Morgan remarked that the methodology behind Wealth 50’s composition raised questions as to whether customers are being treated fairly, after the TSC received a letter from HL confirming that its influential Wealth 50 list was not solely compiled on performance and that WIM’s inclusion on the list, despite under performance, was impacted by fee discounts offered to the platform).
Justice for individuals
A common theme throughout the discussion was ‘justice for individuals’. There is a high degree of dissatisfaction with the complexity of regulation and the consequent lack of clarity for consumers and practitioners alike, with the suggestion being made for the FCA to sort their impenetrable verbiage as most people don’t understand certain aspects such as T&Cs. This concept was understood by attendees from the FCA, who proceeded to mention that they do have enough resources to deal with all issues, and a review of systems and capabilities needs to be looked into.
The FCA was forced to comment on its responsibilities under the Equality Act, bearing in mind TSC’s disappointment with the Regulator’s response to the report, ‘Consumers’ Access to Financial Services’, published by the Committee in May 2019. FCA’s Chairman, Charles Randell, stated that this is, “By no means us saying we don’t take our responsibility to consumer vulnerability very seriously”.
Culture was brought into question and Randell mentioned that the FCA’s focus is shifting to outcomes supported by principles. After some bad tempered exchanges Rushanara Ali, MP quipped, “Some would argue that you are not tough enough with bank bosses…are you too nice to bankers. Is it better to be feared, than liked or loved?” Bailey’s quick response of, “I don’t get up in the morning hoping people will love me”, will surely resonate for some time. He also added the FCA has 650 investigations currently underway, compared to the 250 when he took on the role.
Of course, Brexit did rear its head and Bailey made frequent references throughout the discussion to the fact that regardless of the issues raised and the revisions suggested, Brexit will have a big impact on the FCA’s plans, such as the intended investment in data analytics. However there will be one area that can be assured of relatively no change post-Brexit, the Senior Managers & Certification Regime – it was made clear that the Regime will be implemented in its entirety.
Overall, Randell (above left) and Bailey (above right) held their own against some intense questioning, but one wonders how much Bailey’s ambition to be the next Governor of the Bank of England tempered his responses.
This was first published on the FTSP LLP blog.
Opportunities for asset management in a rapidly changing world.
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By Eva Keogan
Direct quote from Investment Week: The number of firms in the UK reporting their Gender Pay Gap (GPG) figures by the deadline has fallen by more than a thousand, amid claims firms have restructured businesses or transferred staff to avoid being obliged to report, or have ditched reporting altogether under the perception they will not face repercussions.
Is anyone working for a company which has done this? Is it time to name and shame as has been threatened before? Your thoughts are welcome.
This is quite worrying to read and it's not just Investment Week which has reported on this but to down size companies so they are below the 250-person threshold for reporting is incredibly cynical. Has anyone found evidence of this? Also, using Brexit as a smokescreen is not going to wash next year.
Gender pay gap reporting falls as asset managers unveil mixed results
WWW.INVESTMENTWEEK.CO.UK More than 1,000 fewer firms reveal figures
By Rob Carter
Brexit, MiFID II, GDPR, Gender Pay Gap and Diversity are the themes we consider top of mind currently which is why we’ve created the Summer 2018 AlgoMe Industry Pulse Report.
We wanted to get under the skin of some of these key events and burning issues for 2018. In doing so, we revealed some very interesting results and statistics.
Given a choice of 7 cities, Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam are the top three choices for Asset Managers, Fintech and Financial Services employees to relocate to following Brexit. While 54% would not consider moving as a result of Brexit.
When it comes to regulation; we are not surprised to find MiFID II and GDPR will affect over 60% of the roles in the industry.
Positively, 59% believe Gender Pay Gap Reporting will improve the career progression of women.
Please read the report for the full information and do get in touch if you would like to know more about your industry workforce.
Rob Carter, CEO, AlgoMe
By Pierre-Yves Rahari
The FCA outlined earlier this week, through the voice of CEO Andrew Bailey, the blueprint of the regulator's approach post-Brexit. In short - the way I read it - the FCA will aim to regulate towards outcomes in line with the European standards ("no race to the bottom") while operating with a hands' off approach ("principles and outcome based"). This is a very tight rope to walk ... Indeed, as I see it, the future UK regulation will need to be aligned with the European one, to ensure continuation of fluid collaboration and cooperation (the Europeans were quite clear on that matter during the Brexit talks), which the FCA is keen to deliver on. At the same time, the FCA seems to be responding to clamours of "too-much-regulation," which emerges regularly from some ranks of the Investment Management industry. I take the view that the FCA post-crisis approach - in line with most European regulators - has been to influence the resolution of issues that our industry is struggling to cope with on its own: Investor protection, transparency on costs, adequate governance models, conduct standards, diversity models and so on. This, to me, amounts to influencing a change of culture in our industry (which does not mean questioning the raison-d'être of the industry, i.e. increase the value of capital entrusted to us). Anyway, ten years of post-crisis regulation has brought some constructive changes to the industry, and some challenges, too, but I am not sure all has been achieved; it takes time to undertake a culture change as ambitious as the one we are tackling. As such, I find it risky that the FCA should lift their foot from the pedal so soon. In my opinion, the odds are high that the industry reverts to pre-crisis behaviours, if the regulator is already signalling that they will relax their grip on execution. I really want to hope that a change in approach will get to the ambitious outcomes that the industry needs, but we have been there before and failed to deliver. What would be different this time?
Or am I seeing the glass half empty?