In his address at the FCA’s Annual Public Meeting on 17 July 2019, Andrew Bailey took the opportunity to raise the resource intensive work of Brexit, welcomed the conclusion of long standing issues (including the GRG probe), and considered the future of regulation.
At a time when the FCA has been widely criticised for the protracted delays that have become the norm in Enforcement cases, and its failure to bring to a close so called 'legacy' cases, Bailey reflected on the extensive resources (including staff of between 320 – 450), dedicated to issues relating to Brexit. Interestingly, he noted that whilst the FCA could not take a position on the rights and wrongs of Brexit, it was "…fair to say that there [were] aspects of [the FCA's] regulatory approach that may have developed differently had they done so unilaterally." It is plain that the FCA sees Brexit as an opportunity to reset its agenda, including quite possibly, its approach to Enforcement.
Bailey reported on the work done in the past year to protect the most vulnerable retail consumers, including issues such as high cost credit, the rent-to-own / buy-now-pay-later markets and unarranged overdrafts. Pensions were noted as an area of continued interest and no doubt we will see further commentary, if not action, in this area.
Unsurprisingly, Bailey referred to the extension of the Senior Managers & Certification Regime (SM&CR) to all insurers and to the 47,000 authorised firms that will shortly become subject to the new regime, and he referred to its importance in drawing clear lines of accountability (see elsewhere in this issue "SMCR Implementation for Solo-Regulated Firms"). Outside of SM&CR, in a nod to what we have seen as the increasing role of Supervision in terms of the prevention and remediation of issues before they get to Enforcement, Bailey said that culture remains an important focus, and that its supervisors were focused on the "drivers of behaviour, staff incentives and governance arrangements" in its dealings with firms on a day to day basis.
In terms specifically of Enforcement action, Bailey reported that the FCA had issued 265 Final Notices, and secured 288 outcomes using its enforcement powers, with financial penalties totalling £227.3m in the last year. In line with the FCA's continued focus on market abuse, he also noted its success in securing convictions for insider dealing offences.