Information comes to light about a financial services organisation
'Pssst,' whispered a voice from the shadows. 'Not yet,' I replied. 'Although I'm sure it's only a matter of time.' 'What?' said the voice. 'Oh ¦ no ¦ I meant 'psssssst', as in 'Please may I surreptitiously gain your attention'.' 'Oh, I see,' I said. 'Consider my attention well and truly gained ' although perhaps we might adjourn somewhere a little more congenial?'
That wouldn't have been hard ' it was 9pm and we were standing on the top storey of an NCP car park in the City. Not really my sort of thing, of course ' a bit too much like real journalism for a start and, more importantly, I'm running out of clever codenames for my contacts. Still, my anonymous informant ' provisional code-name 'Cheap Stoat' ' had said on the phone he had some very sensitive information to impart.
'I have some very sensitive information to impart,' he confirmed. 'So I think we're better off staying here. And when you hear what I have to say, I think you'll feel the same way too.' 'OK, shoot,' I said. 'Don't say things like that,' Cheap Stoat hissed nervously. 'Not ever. Now listen ' I'm hear to blow the whistle on an organisation that's trying to take control of the whole financial services industry and is wasting huge amounts of time, money and resources in the process.'
'You're not exactly narrowing the field,' I said. 'Could you be a little more precise?' 'How about this?' came the reply. 'They keep changing the goal posts. For example, they recently stopped referring to Oeics and now call them investment companies with variable capital. What's that ' an 'Incvac' or something? Where's the logic in switching names just as everybody's vaguely getting used to the first one?'
'I believe the thinking comes from the same planet as dumping the term 'IFA' after 15 years just as consumers were beginning to understand what it actually meant. And I suspect the Investment Formerly Known As Oeic will eventually get called an 'Icey-Veecey'. Anyway, I see we're talking about the Financial Services Authority and ¦ hang on a minute ¦ chairman, is that you?'
'I don't know what you mean,' said the voice. 'I wouldn't know the first thing about running an investment company.' 'I doubt you'll get many arguments on that point,' I replied. 'But look ' I know it's you so we can either discuss the FSA's shortcomings up here and catch a cold or hit that funny-looking pub across the street. What do you say?'
'This doesn't alter my view that the FSA is becoming a menace,' said the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet after we has settled ourselves into a discreet booth at the back of The Questionable Class Action. 'Did you know that in the last month they've issued consultation papers on issues such as regulating past performance, pensions projections and widening the range of those blasted Incey-Wincey things? Then there are all the new regimes that follow previous consultations ' and that's all before they invaded Iceland.'
'Actually I think they just gave it a bit of a telling-off ' and it was the supermarket not the country,' I said. 'But I take your point. They do seem to have upped a gear recently. I've no problem with change ' but so much that's done by our friends in Canary Wharf appears only to be for change's sake. Maybe I don't have the capacious intellect of Mr Davies but I can see all the paper that's got through in the consultation processes ' and since his mob started raising their game I understand three new tribes of Amazonian Indians have been discovered.'
'So what are you going to do about it,' asked the chairman. 'I wasn't really planning on doing anything,' I replied. 'I'm not altogether comfortable with this whistle-blowing lark. In my experience, it generally comes down to a vested interest somewhere or other and a truly altruistic whistle-blower is a very rare creature indeed.
'And, of course, if I acted on every whistle-blowing tip-off I received, I'd have to start asking you a couple of questions about SmallBlue's stable of split capital investment trusts.' 'You don't mean ¦?' spluttered the chairman. 'Well, of all the ungrateful ¦ Yes, well I see your point. Now, another drink, I think ' and you wouldn't happen to have a name for this anonymous soon-to-be ex-employee of mine, would you?'
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