I have been in the financial industry for 15 years, and over that time I have seen and experienced many changes, some good and some which are not so good.  I do feel however that there is a requirement in the sector for ongoing reform; a way to ensure that regulations keep pace with financial markets and how consumer needs are evolving.

Whilst sometimes those changes and reforms may not always be well thought out and could have a negative effect on how we work with clients; it is important to look at what is behind where the industry is going and remain focused on ensuring that consumers are at the heart of everything we do.

In this article, I briefly look at the industry in general; our regulator and what they are looking to do; how the industry is reforming for consumers and how we, as advisors are working to improve trust and integrity for the services we provide.

The Financial Industry

The City’s research on “Investing in Britain’s Future March 2015” reports that:

  • 1 million people are employed within the industry
  • £180bn was contributed to the UK economy in 2013
  • Over 50% of all UK families have savings and pensions managed by the fund management industry
  • £50bn was lent to UK SMEs in 2014
  • 12% (£66bn) was contributed to the UK’s total tax revenue in 2013/14

From financing and protecting your home and business, managing your money through banking products to saving for future endeavours (including your retirement), finance is a core element of everybody’s daily lives.

Regrettably, the market downturn, the sell off of banks, financial scams and product mis-selling among other things has done nothing over the last few years to help the view of the industry, or to build the trust we so need from the people we are trying to serve.

There is a lot of work to be done, but progress is being made in many areas to turn things around and improve confidence in the industry as a whole.

Regulation

Regulation is a key part of the finance industry and it’s important to understand the objectives of our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in managing the expectations of both consumers and authorised firms. They released their Annual Report and Accounts for 2014/15 in July this year, stating that their strategic objectives are to:

  • To secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers
  • To protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system
  • To promote effective competition in the interests of consumers

The report also states that they have recently taken on several new, high profile responsibilities, which will have a significant long-term impact on the future shape and direction of the UK’s financial services sector. Those include the regulation of consumer credit firms, as well as working towards the implementation of recommendations from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS), and preparation for the operational launch of the Payment Systems Regulator and competition concurrency.

The Consumer Viewpoint

As a user and a provider of financial services, I know that our expectations of the industry are very high indeed.  We want to see the value of the very personal investments we are making with our money.  Communication and knowledge are key to helping us stay informed and updated about what changes directly affect our finances.

We’ve had pension reforms, new laws on taxation and how we report this to HMRC, new ISAs (NISAs), Help to Buy ISAs and a new personal allowance for our saving plans.  Innovation is a key element of reforming the industry and providing consumers with better access to a range of solutions (online and face-to-face) is a major element of this reform.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that there has been a rise in financial scams especially because they are regularly highlighted in the media.  So, taking the time to understand what to do in those circumstances is something that the FCA and regulated firms are taking very seriously.  There are a range of resources available online on how to recognise a financial scam and what you should do in those instances.  If you have any questions or need any further advice on what to do in those circumstances, we will be happy to guide you.

The Business Viewpoint

Firms within the industry are under more scrutiny than ever, particularly with what’s happened over the last 7 years.  However, I do feel that the majority of those working within the industry are doing their best to deliver a high quality service and ensure that we meet the best possible standards through the professional development and the financial exams we undertake every year.

It is down to those of us that are building an honest business and working with our clients to help them achieve their goals to do whatever we can to improve the image of the industry.

Working alongside the regulator, the government and other financial authorities, we are able to give our ideas and feedback on what needs to change and how we can work in a more cohesive way to deliver on the expectations of consumers; be that through innovation, market reviews, competition policies or consumer protection.

Financial products and services are vital not only to the UK economy but to the world overall.  With our markets intertwined so closely, what affects one country is bound to affect another be that good or bad.  As long as in the main we are working to drive forward positive growth and expectations we will, hopefully, create a better industry for the future.

The purpose of this article is to provide technical and generic guidance and should not be interpreted as a personal recommendation or advice.

 

 

Angus Kirk

Financial Planner at Bridge Investments
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