Extension of relevant authorised persons regime to all authorised persons

Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 11 February 2016.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I fear that the harmony in the Committee might diminish with clause 20, which introduces schedule 4, making provisions to extend the senior managers and certification regime across the financial services industry to all authorised firms, replacing the discredited approved persons regime.

Before setting out the reasoning for that, it is worth outlining the history and development of the senior managers and certification regime. Currently, individuals who work in the financial services industry are regulated through the approved persons regime. Under that regime, authorised financial services firms may not employ a person to perform “controlled functions”, by which is meant functions specified by the Prudential Regulation Authority or the Financial Conduct Authority in their rules, unless that person has been approved by the appropriate regulator following an application by the firm concerned.

The financial crisis in 2007-08 and more recent events have highlighted concerns about the performance and behaviour of many of the individuals working in the financial services industry. It is clear that the approved persons regime has not been a successful way of regulating individuals working in the industry.

As the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards argued, the regime is too broad and insufficiently focused on senior management. In fact, it called it a “complex and confused mess”. Specifically, the commission criticised the approved persons regime for being mostly

“an initial gateway to taking up a post, rather than serving as a system through which the regulators can ensure the continuing exercise of individual responsibility at the most senior levels within banks”.

In addition, the commission noted that there was a lack of clarity around the responsibilities of individuals at the senior level, and that institutions did not take enough responsibility for the fitness and propriety of their own staff at more junior levels. It is clear, therefore, that the approved persons regime is not fit for purpose. It is being replaced from March by the senior manager and certification regime for firms in the banking sector.

This regime requires the regulatory pre-approval of individuals at the top of the firm, along with statements of responsibility setting out the areas of the firm’s business for which they are responsible. It also requires certification for other key individuals upon hiring, and thereafter annually.

This new regime represents a significant strengthening of personal accountability among the top senior management in firms. It will improve corporate governance, thereby advancing the safety and soundness of regulated firms. It also provides a more effective and proportionate means to raise the standards of conduct of key staff more broadly, supported by robust enforcement powers for the regulators.

It is important to recognise, however, that the activities of firms outside the banking sector can pose significant risks to market integrity or to good outcomes for consumers, and the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards expected that the deficiencies of the approved persons regime would not be confined to the banking sector.

Consequently, the Government have decided to extend the senior managers and certification regime to all authorised financial services firms in all sectors of the financial services industry. This action is also supported by the recommendations of the fair and effective markets review, which argued that misconduct in fixed-income currency and commodity markets had not been limited to banks. Indeed, the review noted that extending the senior managers and certification regime would emphasise the personal responsibility of individuals working in all firms to observe proper standards of market conduct.

The application of the senior managers and certification regime to all authorised financial services firms will bring in a stronger, more comprehensive regime across the financial services industry. It will enable the effective and efficient regulation of groups with a variety of financial services firms within them, and it will support a level playing field for competition. Therefore, extending the senior managers and certification regime to all authorised firms is covered by clause 20.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Mr Brady, I seek your guidance. We on the Labour Benches have no problem with a schedule 4 being added to the Bill, which is what clause 20 would do—we are therefore content with clause 20. However, regarding the exact content of schedule 4 and the attendant linked debates, we wish to have an opportunity —in a moment—to put our views, after the stand part debate on clause 20, I would suggest.

I can reassure you, Mr Marris, that there will be an opportunity subsequently to do exactly that.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Thank you.

Do you have any further comments?

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4