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The Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) is finally upon us. After years of preparation, the FCA has finally rolled it out to virtually all regulated firms in the UK. Anyone performing a role designated by the FCA as a senior manager position will now be given designated responsibilities for which they are personally responsible.

With the rules now fully implemented, what can we learn from the FCA’s statements and investigations so far?

Convictions are difficult

Despite a number of investigations using SMCR powers, there has only been one high profile conviction when Jes Staley was fined more than £642,000 for failing to act with due skill, care and diligence in his response to a whistleblower in 2016. In a large firm, it is proving difficult to conclusively prove that one person should be held accountable for wrongdoing. The burden of proof is on the FCA which makes it difficult to secure a conviction but…

… Convictions may be higher for smaller businesses

With SMCR now extended to solo-regulated firms, that conviction rate could climb. While it can be impossible to prove personal responsibility in a large corporation it will be much easier in a smaller firm.

Firms should be proactive against non-financial misconduct

Non-financial misconduct will form part of the FCA’s assessment about who is a fit and proper person. In a Dear CEO letter Johnathan Davidson, Executive Director of Supervision, retail and authorisation wrote: “Following recent, publicised incidents of non-financial misconduct in the wholesale general insurance sector, I am writing to set out our clear expectation that you should be proactive in tackling such issues.” The FCA says it expects firms to identify what drives bad misconduct and, ‘modify those drivers’ to improve conduct.

Governance, governance, governance

As another Dear CEO letter highlights, this time from Marc Teasdale, the FCA is disappointed about standards of governance:

“Overall standards of governance, particularly at the level of the regulated entity, generally fall below our expectations. Funds offered to retail investors in the UK do not consistently deliver good value, frequently due to failure to identify and manage conflicts of interest,” he wrote.

A key issue, according to Teasdale, is liquidity management in open-ended funds. Liquidity, he said, should remain the responsibility of the asset manager even if outsourced to a third-party provider. While it is possible to delegate control, it is not possible to delegate responsibility.

SMCR is an opportunity

Much depends on how companies choose to perceive SMCR. Some will see it as simply being a compliance project, another box to be ticked in order to satisfy the regulators. However, it helps businesses get their governance in order. It includes all the things that companies should be doing in any case and helps companies highlight risk. Those who see this as a positive element of strategy are likely to see real benefits.

Smaller businesses are still getting to grips with SMCR. There may be bumps along the way, but every investigation, enforcement action and statement from the FCA contains lessons for the wider sector.


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