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.
Asset management firms realise that culture has a real impact on a company’s long-term reputation and sustainability. It is the underlying culture that influences the way people think, act and make decisions. Senior leaders may be confident that their firm already has a healthy culture that supports its strategy however there are always opportunities to consider how your culture may be influenced by changes, and reviewing and embedding your culture should be a continuous process.
The IA's Culture in Investment Management Forum is expected to be the gathering for influential speakers and industry experts to further the discussion on the key challenges faced by the asset management industry, and analyse potential best practises and strategies to overcome them.
By Luuk Jacobs
The FCA has now recognised the increased use of big data and AI across the Investment Management and banking value change. It is aiming to better understand the impact it has and will have, the benefits and harms and implications for regulation. One of their focus points in their 2019 Research agenda on the theme of technology, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) is the economics and ethics of this theme.
The economics of the use of big data and AI in general are already quite well understood. They have changed the way of doing business and generating value enormously. Industries have been and continue to be disrupted; examples like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Uber and even Microsoft have shown how the philosophy of platforms has moved us from single supplier mentality to open marketplaces. These places where producers and consumers come together in interactions that create value for both parties, whether it is peer to peer or direct to consumer and disrupt the existing status quo.
Platforms are not an entirely new phenomena as it has existed already in traditional open air market places around the world or for example in stock markets. What is new, is the addition of digital technology enabling platforms to enormously extend their reach, speed, convenience and efficiency.
I would argue that the real impact of big data and AI has not hit Investment Management yet. Yes, there is robo-advice providing digital financial advice based on mathematical rules or algorithms (examples like Nutmeg). The majority of them however have been struggling to make their platform economically viable and according to a Deloitte report robo-advisers would need around £6bn assets under management to generate enough revenues to cover their costs. Nevertheless, also Investment Management is at the start of using big data, blockchain/ Distributed ledger technology and natural language processing. The benefits are seen already in better informing (investment) decisions, driving operational efficiency and fraud prevention and compliance.
Arguably lesser known are the potential ethical impacts that will be associated with the use of these technologies while companies move from the traditional commercial yardsticks to include ethical and value-based decision making.
The established players like Facebook and Alphabet (through the accusations of distributing fake news), Uber (sexual harassment and leadership style), AirBnB (destroyed properties from their users), have and continue to show that the ability to embed ethical awareness and decision making across functions will emerge to be a key attribute of successful digital organisations. The Investment Management industry is to be warned.
Governments are stepping up (the FCA research agenda aims at looking at the implications on regulation) and, for example, GDPR is a first step. Nevertheless, the industry should not be waiting for governments and regulators to step in. I would argue that especially in an industry like Investment Management which is based on trust, companies that put ethics and morality front and centre of their organisation and especially with regards to big data and AI, are more likely to engender the trust of customers and differentiate themselves from competitors in the market.
So what are the ethical questions ‘big data and AI’ that should be asked?
Can artificial intelligence exacerbate, hide and create unintended biases? Do network effects reduce competition and, in turn, impact consumer choice? How can we be accountable for big data? How do we define big data? How do we adjust risk management frameworks? What are the benefits and, more importantly who will benefit and who might be at risk by this?
According to Charles Ellis, CFA, and chair of the Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, the “biggest challenge” with regards to ethics for the investment management industry is to “find the pathway to reassert the dominance of the profession over the business”; an inherent conflict of interest in the Investment Management business as they are supposed to deliver financial performance both to their owners and their clients.
Regulation is in the end already in place and leaves little room for ambiguity ie to treat the clients in a fair and ethical way with the general principle to always put the clients’ interest first (AIFMD, UCITs IV and MiFID II).
It is up to the industry now to ensure that these principles are followed and embedded when using big data and AI. There is no magic pill for it yet, but the market shapers and early adopters will show how easy or difficult this might be.
By Luuk Jacobs
I ran today onto one of these quotes and was wondering what others experience is with regards to:
By Andy Milner
Since the global financial crisis our sector has experienced a period of unprecedented change. While the various issues of good - and bad - culture in banking have been the focus of much attention, there has been less visibility of the work undertaken in investment management. There is much we can learn from the sell-side and banking culture, however investment management firms operate differently; having different driver, motivations and needs that should be addressed from a sector-centric standpoint.
The Investment Association’s inaugural Culture Forum will provide you with an overview of the major themes that will shape the discussion about culture in our industry over the years to come. Topics for discussion will include a range of critical current and future issues around culture; perspectives on how to assess both internal culture and external influencers; and key indicators to measure a healthy culture.