April 7, 2017

Imagine you’re a senior broker. If you really are a senior broker (and by senior we don’t just mean old), then you can sit out the imagining bit and just carry on being yourself.

You’re quietly going about your business as usual. Perhaps you’ve just adjourned to a crowded public house with your comely young protege to balance out the after-effects of a convivial client lunch.

Your associate has repaired to the bar to get a couple of drinks in, when a mysterious gentleman in a raincoat across the table lowers the newspaper that previously obscured his face and catches your eye.

He nods his head subtly but significantly, then, once certain he has your attention, announces that his firm has its eye on you. He eases open his raincoat to reveal… the dreaded insignia of the FCA.

This, he assures you, is just a quiet word he’s having with you now. Mind your step, he continues, and it need go no further. He glances bar-wards, checking for any sign of your colleague returning, then produces a hefty volume from inside his coat and slides it across the table.

That’s our ‘handbook’ he tells you. You might want to reacquaint yourself with certain of its provisions. You blink. Enough said, he concludes. Consider this a line we’re drawing, you and I, in the sand, if you will.

Thus far, he adds, tracing an extended horizontal in the damp sticky residue of some previous patron’s pint across the varnished veneer between you. And not one inch further. Are we clear?

Finding your voice at last, you assure him that perfect clarity has indeed been achieved and that, as he suggests, any further elaboration would be wholly superfluous. With a grunt of grudging satisfaction, he folds his paper and heads for the door.

Your companion returns with your drinks and a cheery comment. You stare back uncomprehendingly. You look like you’ve seen a ghost, they repeat brightly. No, you begin limply, I just… But your mind is a blank. Your evening is utterly ruined.

What you’ve just experienced – and, don’t worry, you’re not the only one – is a ‘secret warning’ from the FCA. The regulator recently revealed that no fewer than 18 senior broking executives have received ‘secret warnings’ (aka ‘private warnings’) between 2011 and 2017.

During the same period just one insurer boss was similarly put on notice, a disparity from which Bankstone News would suggest you may draw your own conclusions. So secret were these secret warnings, that nobody even knew they’d been made, until someone put in a Femdom of Infotainment request.

Now it’s out in the open, some people are questioning whether the secret nature of secret warnings might in some sense run counter to the FCA’s public commitment to transparency.

Thusly challenged, the FCA has said that ‘Given our desire to be more transparent, we will review the use of ‘private warnings’.

However, the regulator adds, ‘firms may appreciate that ‘private warnings’ offer a quick and clear resolution to concerns which can be achieved more quickly than a full investigation’.

Which is about as transparent an observation as any transparent observation, we feel sure you will agree, could ever conceivably aspire to be!


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