The top brass of the Financial Conduct Authority have defended the watchdog at the end of a difficult year for the regulator.
In messages posted on the FCA intranet on December 23 by each member of the executive committee, with their best moments of the year, seen by Financial news, board members praise the work of regulator employees during a hectic year for the City.
The regulator’s teams “handled a lot of heat in the markets this year,” wrote chief compliance officer Mark Steward.
Chief Markets Executive Sarah Pritchard praised the “agility of the teams for some of the fastest policies ever implemented at the FCA and the tenacity of using intervention tools to drive an improvement in standards, even in cases where those who use those tools has been challenged. “
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There is “enthusiasm for focus on the future,” according to director of data, information and intelligence Jessica Rusu, as the FCA continues an attempt at modernization under a renewed senior team.
In its July Business Plan, the first under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Nikhil Rathi, the FCA pledged to act faster and toughen up on the players that put markets and consumers at risk.
Highlights raised by the executives included the FCA’s first money laundering prosecution of a major bank and a successful legal battle to secure business interruption insurance payments for companies impacted by Covid-19.
“We didn’t have to, we took chances, we were victorious,” writes attorney general David Scott of the insurance case.
However, the messages were not well received by all staff, who continue to raise objections to the planned reforms for payments and benefits after a consultation on the package closed on December 20.
One FCA staff member said: “Sorry, staff come to work to earn money. We can’t live with the warm feeling of being an FCA employee … I realize they posted that bilge after most of their colleagues left for Christmas. “
Those plans to reform the regulator’s performance culture have dominated staff concerns since the consultation opened in September, potentially causing the traditional discretionary bonuses that went to most staff to be replaced by a new ranking system and a lot of new ‘working families’.
“I’m proud that five department heads … took the risk and participated to work on key focus areas in the transformation program, in a new way,” writes outgoing transformation director Megan Butler, who led the plans. “I am very proud of the great role model they have shown.”
The reforms have raised fears that more staff will end up leaving the FCA in favor of higher-paying jobs in the private sector.
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While the regulator has said that outflows have not been significantly higher this year, the Financial times reported in early December that at around 500, compared to a typical level of 300, vacancies are higher than the long-term average at the regulator.
In her Christmas note, Emily Sheppard, executive director of authorizations, wrote: “I am very proud of our continued recruitment efforts, reducing backlogs by increasing resources in key pressure areas.”
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