Examination of Witnesses

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:11 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Jesse Griffiths:

I think that the absolutely fundamental issue with regards to the Bill is that it is an opportunity to put social and environmental purpose at the heart of both the regulation and the duties of the regulators. I do not think it would take a huge change, or huge amendments to the Bill, to set that precedent and really kick-start what I agree is a cross-party consensus that we need to deal with the climate crisis and the rising problems —inequalities caused by covid and so on—and that the financial system is central to that. How it is regulated determines a lot about how it will react to those points.

I can give some examples. Of course, it would be helpful if the Bill required the FCA to refer to the Climate Change Act when preparing secondary legislation. If you wanted to be more ambitious, it would obviously be helpful if capital requirements for investment firms introduced weightings on environmental, social and governance issues—for example, by penalising assets that have climate risks.

I know the Bill covers legislation on PRIIPs—packaged retail and insurance-based investment products—which is a huge, €10 trillion market in the EU. One specific example we have suggested is that, if we could improve the key information document that investors receive when they are looking at PRIIPs to include disclosure on environmental, social and governance issues, and ask the FCA to ensure that that happens, that would be an important signal.

I think that there are real opportunities here to change the nature of the discussion and set the UK as a leader in this area. We know that the direction of travel is towards much greater ESG integration across the financial sector. Investors are pushing for it. We do a lot of work with the big four banks in the UK, and many of them are pushing a purpose-driven agenda. It is the way that we are going, and I think about this as a real signal that the UK wants to be the leader in this field and takes it very seriously.