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Are the times really-a-changing for the deeply damaged Financial Conduct Authority?

Jim Armitage
·1 min read
<p>The government wants a strong regulator</p> (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The government wants a strong regulator

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

There couldn’t be a more important time for the Financial Conduct Authority to signal that the times, they are a-changing.

Nikhil Rathi, who joined last year from the London Stock Exchange to run the City regulator, inherits an organisation waist deep in scandal. Its failure to spot warning signs around London Capital & Finance revealed an organisation in disarray, unfitting to be the watchdog of Europe’s financial capital.

It was incapable of joining the dots between concerns from the public calling its contact centre and the regulatory breaches it kept picking up in LCF’s marketing literature. One division couldn’t talk to another.

This was structural.

Instead of instructing staff to seek out and stop ne’er-do-wells, it decided that was for the police.

This was cultural.

Deaf to the warning klaxons, it let LCF raise £236 million from an unwitting public before finally shutting it down after a chance tip-off to one of its investigators.

Ditto Neil Woodford. Warnings that he was way too exposed to illiquid, high risk bets weren’t acted on, leading to inevitable disaster and losses for the public.

The fact Rathi’s hires today were women grabs the headlines, but as important are the roles: an exec-level chief in charge of data analysis could stop the failure to spot red flags; a white collar crime cop in Supervision may engender a spirit of protect-and-serve, not tick-the-box.

I say “could” and “may”.

Rathi’s first steps are solid, but the road to making the FCA fit for purpose is long.

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