Advisers have long been struggling with the regulator shunning their concerns. But are there now signs that Canary Wharf has opened its doors to the industry?
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) seems to have distinguished itself from its predecessor the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in a most positive way.
The FCA has always said it intended to listen and respond to industry concerns and now it seems to be walking the walk and talking the talk.
Its head of savings, investments and distribution, David Geale, recently said the FCA was "trying to be as predictable as possible" in what it asks of firms and will "continue listening to firms to make sure that we can do that".
Is the new regulator listening?
This alone would have been a marked turn from the rhetoric of the old Financial Services Authority, which controversially told the Treasury Select Committee in 2011 that it would not take on board its concerns about the Retail Distribution Review as "any dilution" would "result in an increase in the cost to consumers through continued mis-selling".
And before that, in 2009, came then FSA-chief executive Hector Sants famously telling the industry to "be afraid".
While there will always be critics of the financial regulator, there have been some clear examples of the FCA's new and improved stance:
U-turn on RMAR data reporting
The FCA last week admitted that it had got its overhaul of the Retail Mediation Activities Return (RMAR) reporting requirements wrong for advisers, following a raft of complaints, and hinted at U-turns on certain rules.
It issued an interim technical note to help advisers make sense of what is being asked of them, while saying it would look at issues such as accruals-based accounting to see whether it could find a way that better suited advisers.
FCA head of savings, investments and distribution David Geale said: "We are different to the FSA and this is part of what we are trying to do to demonstrate that we are listening to firms.
"What we've done this time, and that's absolutely critical, is we've shared the technical notes with a number of industry bodies, a number of trade bodies, to make sure it actually does what we wanted it to do and that it is actually helpful for all the industry."
He also said the data requirements will be in a "constant state of refinement" based on listening to the industry and removing elements that are no longer needed.
Delay in implementing new adviser cap ad requirements
In September, the FCA said it would defer its capital adequacy requirements on personal investment firms (PIFs) - which were due to begin at the end of this year - by a further two years.
Under the proposal, phasing in of the new requirements will begin in 2015 and will be completed by 2017. The FCA said it wanted to use the time to review its entire approach to firms' capital rules before drawing up the proposals.
The Association of Professional Financial Advisers (APFA), which had lobbied the regulator on the issue, was happy with the FCA's response to its concerns at the time.
APFA director general Chris Hannant said: "We had previously raised a number of concerns with the regulator about the complexity and potential impact of the proposed rules, and we are pleased these are being addressed."
Multiple delays with SIPP capital adequacy requirements
Only last week the FCA announced it would again hold back the publication of its proposals for reforming capital adequacy requirements for self-invested personal pension (SIPP) providers.
Rather than just produce policy based on the measures suggested in its consultation last November, which proposed a hike in minimum capital adequacy requirements from £5,000 to £20,000, the FCA said it wanted to factor in the responses to its consultation on the issue and the findings of its thematic review into SIPPs.
The FCA said: "We have had a lot of responses to the consultation so it's only right that we evaluate those carefully; the additional time will also allow us to take into account the findings of the thematic review that was launched in October."
Industry verdicts on the FCA
Personal Finance Society chief executive Keith Richards: "There is a growing consensus that the regulator is now more balanced and pragmatic in its dealings across the market. It seems it is prepared to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor and actually focus attention in the right areas."
Dobson & Hodge financial services director Paul Stocks: "When the FCA comes out with things, you tend to see the logic behind it. When you read the theme that's coming out of the strands, it seems to make sense".
APFA chairman John Gummer: "We do want to see convergence between regulators' expectations and firms' understanding. There must be better communication and dialogue and that communication must be more stable. It is in this area that the FCA seems much more willing to engage and to listen."
Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie: "The regulator's spirit is willing, I'm not sure if their flesh is a little weak."
Treasury deputy director of financial services strategy Will Brandon: "The FCA is internationally respected and very focused."
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