Martin Wheatley, known to some since his “shoot first” directive as the dodgy Sheriff of Dodge City, has been “wounded” numerous times since – not least by mismanagement of market sensitive information that would have had the FCA down like a tonne of bricks, and no excuses, on anyone else in the city.That saw him hiring in PR deputies at vast cost to dig him out from under this mismanagement. His FCA career has clearly been tenuous for some time. His tenure, it has been announced, will expire, in a matter of weeks – his slot significantly vacant and his boots temporarily filled by a deputy. As the government’s “worldwide” search begins for a replacement, there are a whole host of issues that clamour for first place, “like words” that hang in the air jostling for space and position. Not least among them the still feral banks, but not far behind the word “innovation” and the new world of “fintech” (alongside all the usual FCA worthy guff, it’s national anthem on “consumer protection” and a rousing chorus of “fair, clear and not misleading”). So it may be worth pausing for a moment, especially in the light of the chancellor’s declaration only last summer that regulation must now adapt and support innovation –rather than it be chiseled in stone and the innovation adapt around it. We live in a time of change and financial innovation is happening at a dizzying speed, faster and more extensive than at any time in history – let alone living memory. Is there someone out there who can both do the tough but basic stuff, or better still rely on and direct a deputy for it, and get his/her head around the really big stuff? Not just the stuff that is regulated, or needs it, but the innovations that create the environment in which that now happens. The world as it is and will be, rather than as it has been in the past. I believe there are. But you’ll not find them among the usual, institutional and/or institutionalised suspects. If the UK is to fulfil anything like David Cameron and Osborne’s aspiration of being not just the best place to start a business, but the leader as the world is re-made by fintech and the crowd, this had better be a more imaginative and radical appointment than that. The FCA as an organisation has all the starch and focus on the letter and details one could wish for. Read more from Barry James:
- Could fintech rescue the Greek people from Europe’s “bully boys”?
- Do the BBC know what an entrepreneur actually is? – An open letter to Tony Hall
- The time for these business support turf wars is over
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