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FCA rethinks register in light of British Steel pension worries

FCA rethinks register in light of British Steel pension worries

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will address concerns raised about its register after the database was attacked for being too difficult for consumers to use.

The British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) controversy has brought consumers’ frustration over the FCA register to light, with many pointing out it is too hard to find whether a firm has stopped advising on defined benefit pension transfers. 

Speaking before MPs yesterday, British Steel shift operations manager, Rich Caddy, said he found it very challenging to navigate the register entry when making decisions about which adviser to use.

‘The advice we have been given is to look on the FCA’s register to find out who is suitably qualified. Looking just recently I have found someone who is suitably qualified and I have discussed this with a few advisers and it is only when you go to certain drop down boxes that it says restricted.

‘You need some sort of degree to find a suitably qualified adviser,’ Caddy added.

Another issue with the register was highlighted by a Channel 4 report on British Steel in which the FCA was challenged over the difficulty in finding if a firm has permission restriction.

This was raised by showing the complicated steps required to find the pension transfer restrictions on the three firms the FCA has intervened in over the BSPS scheme.

Responding to this issue, the FCA’s director of supervision, Megan Butler, said the regulator is listening to these concerns.

‘We recognise it is not always easy to find [restriction on firms],’ she said. ‘We are thinking about the register very hard. As consumers are likely to use it more and more, I think we will have a look [at it].’

Register changes

At the same time as BSPS issue has played out, the regulator is also consulting on changes to the database as part of the new Senior Managers Regime. However these have been roundly attacked for hiding important information.

The proposed move would see the removal of all CF30 advisers from the FCA register, in favour of including only designated senior managers of firms.

Alistair Cunningham, director of Wingate Financial Planning, said these changes will make it even harder to spot bad advisers when recruiting.

‘The register is a bit unwieldy for the layperson, but for pension professionals and trustees to ensure that advisers used by members have the relevant permissions, it is a solid resource.

‘I use it for interviews, and have had cases where we have avoided hiring somebody because their CV did not match up to their records on the register. If they are not being truthful about having worked somewhere for three months, what else might they be hiding?’

Other advisers have also criticised the changes, with Informed Choice managing director, Martin Bamford, describing it as a as ‘a gift for scammers’. Phil Young, director of Zero Support, also decried it as a move away from transparency and public trust in financial services.   

In a new consultation paper on the Senior Managers & Certification Regime, published yesterday, the FCA assured that it has ‘listened to feedback’ on the FCA register, including ‘concerns raised around the potential impact of excluding certain people from the Register’, and is considering ‘next steps as part of our preparations to implement the new regime’. 

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