Last week's revelation of an IFA firm's difficulties with the Financial Services Authority, caused by a mistakenly-filed RMAR, provoked a flurry of reader responses.
These are a flavour of the comments we can publish.
One IFA who has asked to remain anonymous says:
"It is interesting that, if the FSA were not a tool of the government but a limited company, should it not be bound by the TCF rules? If it's a genuine mistake then the FSA should have no problem paying the money back.
"If the FSA were a limited company then they would be, in effect, a service provider and like IFAs they would have to consider their clients, who include the advisory community and treat their customers fairly, rather than waste time and our money on dotting the I's and crossing the T's on impractical processes, which do not solve the problems in the industry."
Meanwhile, Kevin Moss of 2020 Financial Services Ltd, says:
"There are probably hundreds of mistakes built into the new RMAR reporting structure, arising because of the following causes:
- Impenetrable or ambiguous FSA terminology - woe betide anyone who tries to wade through any item of FSA communication, without their glossary permanently open on their desktop;
- Timescales for completion - the deadline for completion following the end of each six-month reporting period is actually quite tight. This tends to create an increasing sense of panic as one nears the deadline.
- The FSA's 'self-auditing' modules within the RMAR give rise to increasing levels of complexity. Just because one completes a single form correctly, and it is accepted, does not mean that the entire RMAR will be accepted.
- Not all product providers are geared up to provide commission data which is coded sufficiently to allow it to be used for the RMAR. In our queries with the FSA, the (verbal) response has been to encourage us to do the best with what we have. In practice, this means interpreting data, which of course means that it is far from objective.
- Difficulties in gathering data may mean that we get uncomfortably close to the completion deadline. Whereas with the old paper-based structure, there was some possibility of flexibility, don't expect a reasonable degree of accommodation in respect of the RMAR. Submit the complete return on-time, or get fined and listed for discipline – it’s as simple as that.
- It is actually quite easy to give a 'YES' answer instead of a 'NO' if one misinterprets the FSA's terminology (we did). Despite the FSA having comprehensive records about us, which would help them interpret the answer, the new system will automatically issue a threat of disciplinary action. This is reasonably persuasive evidence either that the RMAR does not involve human beings at the FSA end, or that one department is incapable of communicating with another.
- We have discovered through experience, that the FSA Register does at times contain data which is inaccurate, inexplicable or simply not updated in accordance with our routine submissions of official documentation. It is quite possible therefore that if the FSA is relying upon Register data in order to calculate fees the amount may be overstated.
"It is interesting to observe that the inevitable by-product of rising bureaucracy is a corresponding reduction in flexibility. The basic the stuff of life - interactions between human beings - is removed from the equation, and one is left simply to cope with 'the system'. What we now have with the RMAR is of a profoundly Orwellian nature, and I am surprised that so few firms have objected to what this tells us about the relationship between Regulator and Regulated.
Des Rushworth of IFA firm Manning Rushworth adds:
"A similar thing has happened to us. We inadvertently put details of a mortgage adviser on the RMAR and we had to pay the fee. When we pointed the error out to the FSA, we were ignored.
"The FSA does not want us to see it as "the enemy" so why does it act in such a arbitrary way?
"When it makes a mistake it rectifies it and sends us a corrected invoice or letter. But when we make a mistake, if it is in the FSA’s favour it ignores us. If it is in our favour, we get it corrected."IFAonline
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