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The biggest disappointment of my time at the FSA has been the failure of firms, and particularly their senior management, to learn the lessons of past mis-selling. Sadly, the recent history of the British retail financial services industry is proof of the adage that those who fail to understand the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them. Though the pensions mis-selling debacle, which cost the industry over £11 billion in compensation, should have been a stark lesson of the dangers of uncontrolled and unsuitable selling, it is hard to see evidence that that lesson has been widely understood. Again and again we find examples of High Street firms disregarding the suitability requirements in our rulebook. Requirements which merely, in my view, describe what most service companies would regard as good customer service.

Unfortunately, much of the industry remains focused on short-term gain from shifting product. Indeed many firms are happy to see themselves described as “product providers”, terminology which in itself distances them from their customers, many of whom assume that they are being given advice which takes their personal circumstances into account and who see their relationship with their bank or life insurance company as one for the long term and not solely transaction-based.

Sir Howard Davies former chairman of the Financial Services Authority in the UK.

Mark OByrne

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