The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority is getting a makeover, with several structural changes announced this week by the fledgling financial regulator in order to “sharpen” its focus.
The FCA, which took over financial regulation for the U.K. in 2013, said the changes were decided upon after a lengthy review of the organization’s strategy and priorities. Tasked with protecting consumers, the integrity of the financial system, and promoting competition, the FCA also recently assumed regulatory responsibility for consumer credit agencies. The agency said the restructuring will allow it to hone in on on how firms are regulated as well as results for consumers and the markets themselves.
“In the 18 months since the inception of the FCA, we have achieved a lot, and now is the time to sharpen our focus; to look at how we can deliver our objectives and ambitions to the best of our abilities,” Martin Wheatley, the FCA’s chief executive, said in a statement. “The financial industry continually evolves and to regulate it effectively we must evolve too.”
Overall, the changes take into account differences between the industry’s sectors, the FCA’s competition obligations, and added emphasis on data and intelligence gathering. The main changes include:
Merging the authorisations and supervision divisions, including the specialist supervisory functions of financial crime and client assets. Two new divisions will be formed in April, which the FCA said will focus on regulation of small versus large firms. Tracey McDermott, currently the FCA’s head of enforcement and financial crime, will oversee the transition and subsequently run one of the divisions, the FCA said.
Creating a new strategy and competition division, which the FCA says will boost its competition capabilities by bringing together more market-based work, backed by enhanced data, intelligence, and research to aid in shaping the FCA’s priorities. Christopher Woolard, FCA director of policy, risk, and research, has been tapped to head the division.
Creating a new risk division, focused on promoting a “strategic approach” to managing internal and external risk, which will be led by Richard Sutcliffe as acting director. Sutcliffe previously served as department head for supervisory oversight.
Creating a new markets policy and international division, headed by current director of markets David Lawton, which will be tasked will boosting the FCA’s clout on the European stage.
Creating a market oversight division, which will encompass both the U.K. Listing Authority (UKLA) and market monitoring functions, which will be led on an acting basis by current UKLA head Marc Teasdale. Other specialist market supervision functions will fall under the new supervision division, the FCA said.
As part of the reshuffling, three executive committee members – Clive Adamson, Zitah McMillan, and Victoria Raffe – are leaving the FCA, the authority said.
Other recommendations on changing the FCA’s processes came out this week as the authority released the report from the independent inquiry by Simon Davis of Clifford Chance. Davis was hired in April to look into how the FCA handled the announcement of its 2014/15 business plan this past spring. The FCA gave an exclusive briefing before the plan’s release to The Telegraph, which ran a story that the regulator was planning to look into 30 million insurance policies and could offer a free exit for savers from what the paper called “rip-off pensions and investments.” Several companies’ shares took a nosedive as a result, and the FCA quickly clarified it was not planning to review individual policies and that it would not remove exit fees for policies that were in compliance at the time.
Davis found that the FCA’s intentions were good with regard to the advanced briefing for the newspaper, but said, “The strategy and the manner in which it was pursued was, however, high risk, poorly supervised, and inadequately controlled. When it went wrong, the FCA’s reaction was seriously inadequate and fell short of the standards expected of those it regulates.”
Davis said the FCA failed to specifically address whether the business plan contained potentially price-sensitive information, and faulted the authority’s lack of controls and policies for pre-briefings for journalists. Davis noted that while the pre-briefing was intended by the FCA to avoid misunderstanding of its review of life insurance policies, the resulting article was almost exactly what the authority sought to avoid. Davis also criticized the timing and quality of the FCA’s response when the market fallout became clear, saying senior executives failed to coordinate or have a sense of urgency about the problem. He did not find fault with The Telegraph.
FCA Chairman John Griffith-Jones said the authority accepts all of Davis’s recommendations and is in the process of implementing them. He also apologized for the mistakes made and shortcomings revealed in the FCA’s systems and controls.
“As a regulator we hold ourselves to the highest standards and in this case we fell short,” Griffith-Jones said in a statement. “I am determined the FCA will learn the lessons, and we will do our utmost to ensure that a situation like this will never happen again.”