A distinct absence of bliss
Recently, one of the less impressive organs of regulation asked me to document certain aspects of our guidance on suitability that we had issued prior to, and after, the year 2008. Speaking as someone who has inhabited a kind of closed-loop of analysis, guidance, updates and reassessment over this period, this was something of a challenge.
After all, having started off writing 'compliance manuals' (anyone remember the old 'Best Practice Platform'?), we began to realise that the only possible way of keeping up with the FCA's wide-bore pipeline, spewing regulatory updates, was to continually update our website, almost in real time. I am writing this piece at 5.00am because...well...needs must. This is the world we inhabit, the one created by regulation.
When it came to gathering the 'evidence' of our guidance publication activity, several challenges were encountered. Firstly, it has become apparent over time that the personnel employed by this particular branch of regulation have a very strange stance when it comes to reading and interpreting 'evidence' in a proportionate way - which raises questions about how even the most helpful and comprehensive summary is likely to be misused or misunderstood. And, secondly, I found myself somewhat spoiled for choice. If nothing else, the exercise demonstrated just how committed ValidPath have been to the business of delivering carefully-interpreted, and practically applied guidance in place of the FCA's impenetrable, convoluted and unworldly material.
For instance, our Pension Transfer Specialists have recently received our updated framework and guidance for handling DBTV work - a product of weeks of reflection, in relation to the FCA's publication which required very, very careful analysis indeed, given the style of the genre that we have to work with. And, of course, I'd like to think that we are doing this work for a purpose - that is to say, that our Members would actually read the stuff! It should not need pointing out, but the process of issuing relevant, dependable and applicable guidance is not the kind of thing we do in order to provide us with an alternative to watching daytime TV, or to prop up a fragile sense of self-worth.
No, we issue the guidance so that Advisers, who are subject to exactly the same regulatory regime, may read and learn. One of the benefits of ValidPath membership, is that you'll receive reliable compliance and best practice guidance which is tailored to the way you work - you won't find that within a Direct Authorisation context, even with the help of a service provider or seven. You have a team working for you, every single day of the working week, to make this stuff comprehensible - because we know from experience just how much of your life will get sucked down the u-bend if we don't.
It is therefore a concern to encounter instances where guidance published years ago, guidance which has been repeatedly tweaked and updated to reflect the FCA's moving goalposts, and guidance where we have notified members regularly of those updates, has been studiously ignored. Thankfully, this is a very infrequent event, but in this particular context it seems important to point out that ignorance is very definitely not bliss.