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Are financial services truly on the road to reform or will the next couple of years see them gradually revert to the ‘me first’ culture which drove quick profits at the expense of people and business?
Reactions were mixed when the news of Martin Wheatley’s departure from the FCA was announced. On the one hand, there were those who believed that his job was unfinished with financial services organisations still being a long way off providing the level of probity and customer care required of them. On the other hand, there were those who believed that reforms so far has been too restrictive and had stifled free-trade.
His job was never going to be easy. Balancing the needs of multinational organisations with those of the consumer and business, whilst the same time creating the conditions which would enable London to continue to be a major financial centre, is a tricky juggling act at any time. Coming, as it did, off the back of a major recession and global financial crisis, it was never going to be possible to please all the people all the time.
The message of reform which arose strongly from his tenure was that of doing things right, of creating a culture of fairness and consumer service which would be so embedded within financial services organisations that they would continue to act appropriately whether or not the regulator was watching.
That that process had started is undoubted. What is in question is whether the government, financial services regulators and the organisations themselves have got the strength of character to ensure that the process continues until an appropriate culture is embedded firmly in every organisation. Culture change is never easy and it is all too common for the initial impetus to be turned aside when faced with barriers to change. Are financial services truly on the road to reform or will the next couple of years see them gradually revert to the ‘me first’ culture which drove quick profits at the expense of people and business? Only time will tell, but what is certain is that the spotlight is now firmly on regulators and organisational leaders to ensure that the hard work of the last couple of years does not go to waste.