Examination of Witness

Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:14 pm on 17th November 2020.

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Gurpreet Manku gave evidence.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton 3:57 pm, 17th November 2020

Q We move on seamlessly to Gurpreet Manku from the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, who is joining us remotely. We have until half-past four. We are three minutes early; we have made up some time. Gurpreet, could you introduce yourself for the record and for the Committee, please?

Gurpreet Manku:

I am Gurpreet Manku, the deputy director general and director of policy at the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. The BVCA represents more than 300 private equity and venture capital firms in the UK, ranging from the smallest venture firms investing in start-ups, all the way through to growth-capital and mid-market firms investing domestically. We also have a number of larger pan-European and global fund managers.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

Thank you very much. We are going to follow the time-honoured tradition of going first to the Government, then to the Opposition, and then to other members of the Committee. We will start with the Minister, John Glen.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Q Thank you very much, Gurpreet, for coming before us to give evidence. I will start by addressing one of the key headline measures in the Bill that enables the FCA to implement a more proportionate prudential regime for investment firms. I would like you to give us your perspective on that measure, how you think it could be helpful, what you are looking to see come out of it, and whether you expect to see improvements based on the discretion that the FCA will have.

Gurpreet Manku:

We welcome the Financial Services Bill as it implements a prudential regime for investment firms that is tailored to the specificities of the UK market while maintaining world-class regulatory standards. To give you some context, the UK has already regulated private equity and venture capital firms. Broadly, there are two categories. First, we regulate the managers of private equity and venture capital funds. Those entities are regulated under the alternative investment fund managers directive. We also regulate advisory entities under MiFID. Those firms will be most impacted by the investment firms prudential regime. These advisory firms advise on and arrange private equity transactions for other regulated fund managers, sometimes within the same group. Those other managers tend to be based overseas, including in the US, Asia and Europe.

That is important because the fact that the UK has a lot of those advisory entities signifies that the UK is a global hub for private equity and venture capital. Many international firms choose to make the UK a base for carrying out UK, European and, in some cases, international investment and fund-raising activity. Since the inception of the investment firms review, the BVCA has been in dialogue with both the FCA and the Treasury about its implementation.

We welcome the introduction of a tailored regime that appropriately covers the activities of these firms, as well as their size, and the relative risk they pose to the financial system when compared with other banks and financial institutions. The new regime will lead to additional requirements for some of those firms, particularly the advisory entities that I mentioned, including higher capital requirements. We submitted feedback to a recent FCA discussion paper on the need to calibrate these new requirements for the risk posed by those firms. Our key ask for the FCA and the Treasury is that an appropriate transition period is available to those advisories.

Interestingly, the FCA’s discussion paper acknowledges that while there are transition provisions in place for other categories of investment firms, there is a gap for the category that includes these private equity advisers. That FCA category in the UK is known as exempt CAD—capital adequacy directive—firms. That is not just an issue for private equity and venture capital firms. There are many other types of firms in this category. My understanding is that they tend to be smaller financial services firms, such as corporate finance advisory boutiques and other consultants. That reflects the UK market, which has a huge number of financial services firms at the smaller end.

We think that the omission of this transitional period in the EU text was not deliberate and was just a mistake. The category of advisers that we are referring to should also have a transition period. The benefit of the Financial Services Bill is that it will enable the FCA to correct this omission and ensure that all types of investment firms benefit from transition rules.

Finally, I welcome the confirmation that the target implementation date is January 2022, because I think that will give sufficient time for the FCA to consult on the detailed rules and we need that lengthy consultation period. It will also give firms the time that they need to implement them.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Q Thank you. I will follow up with one question. You have helpfully set out the context of the range of firms and the different and proportionate levels of capital requirements that are required. Can I ask about your level of confidence in the FCA’s ability to implement the appropriate regime with the degree of customisation and detail, in terms of competence? Do you have any reservations about their capacity to do that? How comfortable is your working relationship with them?

Gurpreet Manku:

Interestingly, we have been speaking to the FCA about this since 2016. The need for a special investment firms prudential regime emanated out of discussions in the UK, because there was a recognition that regulatory requirements that apply to banks do not necessarily work in an investment firms context.

The FCA does understand the breadth and variety of firms that operate in the UK. The confirmation that there will be a bit more time to think through how the detailed rules will operate in practice is really welcome. If I had one ask, it would have been for more time to look at the details of what would follow.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Q Good afternoon, Gurpreet. Thank you for speaking to us today. Does the Bill mean that your members will have to hold less capital against their activities than would otherwise be the case?

Gurpreet Manku:

No, actually they will be holding more. The bulk of the members most affected are in that category known as exempt CAD. It is an odd category that exists in UK legislation. At the moment, that broad category of firms is required to hold a level of capital set at €50,000. Under the new regime, the calculation methodology will change to a quarter of their fixed annual overheads. For many firms, that will lead to an increase in capital requirements, which is why I referenced the need for a transitional period. A few years ago, we recognised that this was coming, and the transitionals were always going to be a feature of this regulation. In terms of what it means in practice, for some firms, there would have been a fixed requirement of €50,000, and that will move to several million pounds; for others, it might not be much of a jump. There is a wide variety of firms out there in the UK market. Those that might not be in my constituency could also be significantly affected.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Q Looking to the future and the onshoring of all this EU regulation, from your members’ point of view, what do you think needs to change in order for the UK to become more competitive in the BVCA field?

Gurpreet Manku:

What I have seen in recent years is that other jurisdictions have tried to emulate what we have here. That is because the UK has always been an attractive jurisdiction, because of its highly regarded legal and regulatory framework, as well as the quality and depth of the financial and broader professional services ecosystem. In practice, that means that global institutional capital can be raised from here. So when it comes to the onshoring and the development of regulation in the future, we would be looking for continued high standards, but clear and effective regulation.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Q What are the EU regulations that you would most like to get rid of? What is on the bad list?

Gurpreet Manku:

Sorry, I had not thought about that for this session. Interestingly, one of the regulations that probably caused the most concern was referred to earlier—the PRIIPs regulation. Most of our members will market to professional institutional investors rather than to retail ones, but where that particular regulation is relevant, it has led to information that many have felt is misleading. Seeing that changed and the changes being introduced in the Bill is welcome.

The investment firms regime is probably one of the biggest changes to come—we are implementing that now. If we are looking ahead a few years, we want to look at how the alternative investment fund managers directive changes. The way it was implemented in the UK historically—through the work that our authorities and regulators have done—has meant that it was implemented in a proportionate and sensible way. We want that to continue.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

Q Finally, we have heard about a difference in philosophical approach between the European approach of codifying lots of financial services regulation in very detailed directives—often lengthy and dense documents—and the more independent British regulator approach, which it has been argued is more flexible. From the point of view of the BVCA, what would you rather be dealing with—the UK regulators or the traditional European directive approach?

Gurpreet Manku:

Throughout the past few years, we have continued to work with both the Treasury and the regulators. Given the body of legislation that has come to the UK’s shores and the work that we have done historically, it makes sense for the policy-making and rule-setting process to sit within the regulator, and there is an appropriate accountability framework around it.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Q You have talked about the importance of having clear and effective regulation, which all of us around the table can probably agree with. Have you any concerns about the transparency issues around the regulations, with the regulator taking on so much more of the responsibility?

Gurpreet Manku:

I think that what will be important to see over the next year and in future is sufficient time for consultation, because that leads to further transparency. The documents that the FCA publishes are generally quite good and detailed, but I have seen some cases in recent years, and not just domestically, where there were very short windows to respond to quite technical consultations. Ensuring that there is sufficient time to review and digest any changes and to sit down and speak to the regulator about them will be helpful, and will also support the transparency objectives.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Q What kind of time period would you be looking at? You mentioned that some of the firms that you represent are quite small, so obviously there might be capacity issues in making sure that they can turn responses round.

Gurpreet Manku:

A typical consultation process is usually three months, which is usually enough time for us to gather the feedback from our members, whether they are large or small firms, and turn it into an industry-wide submission.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Q That is useful. A lot has been reported about the impact on venture capital of the uncertainty around Brexit, with money going elsewhere and all the rest of it. Do you feel that the Bill gives enough confidence to the sector for people to continue to invest money in the UK?

Gurpreet Manku:

Yes, I believe it does, because robust regulatory standards and a clear and stable legal and tax framework attract global investors. While I recognise that there are concerns about Brexit, over recent years we have seen the continued ability of our members here to raise international capital and invest it.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Q Lastly, is there anything more that you can tell me about the impact of equivalence decisions within your sector?

Gurpreet Manku:

Equivalence is important for us as well. I agree with all the feedback that has been provided to you throughout the day; I have been listening in on some of the sessions. Our members are prepared for all eventualities, which in practice means looking at setting up additional structures and obtaining additional licences in Europe to cover a period where equivalence decisions might not be available. Thinking about institutional fundraising more broadly, there are other ways to access EU investors, and some firms will have been looking at those routes in the absence of equivalence.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

If there are no further questions from Members, let me thank Gurpreet—who did a panel all on her own, remotely—for her evidence.