Public confidence in the financial services sector fell dramatically following the financial crisis and several highly public failings in behaviour and decision-making.
With a lack of accountability potentially the cause, in March 2016 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced the Senior Managers Certification Regime (SMCR) to replace the Approved Persons Regime (APR) for the banking sector. SMCR involves assigning a named senior manager personally responsible for each of a firm’s business functions and activities. The FCA has extended the regime to all firms authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act. This includes asset managers, investment firms, insurers and consumer credit firms.
We talked about the issues and the priorities facing these firms with Priya Mehta of Buzzacott’s Financial Services team and Kimberly Bradshaw of its Human Resources Consultancy.
Priya Mehta: APR wasn’t adequately holding people accountable if anything went wrong – responsibilities fell to the board and collective management. But SMCR requires you to allocate a named individual to each role and responsibility, so if something goes wrong, that person is held liable and accountable.
Kimberly Bradshaw: In effect, it means the FCA is now tackling company culture to build public trust in the UK’s financial services. It’s all about people’s behaviour, individually and collectively, to adhere to a common set of beliefs and values, so each firm is well-controlled and knows what everybody is doing.
PM: While all the information to do with SMCR is quite easily available, there is a lot of it. We are offering our clients help on the practical points of what they need to do. It’s about overseeing, ensuring and certifying people’s awareness of their roles and responsibilities.
KB: There are several human resources aspects that fall out of that, because these businesses are very people-orientated, and the people present the biggest risk to their business. Our Human Resources Consultancy team are working closely with our Financial Services team to make sure people have the right skills, knowledge and behaviour to fulfil their roles. Not just technical skills, but personal skills, such as leadership.
There’s a long list of roles and functions exempted – cleaners, drivers and such like. But anyone outside of this could be covered by the certification regime. We’ll be helping clients understand exactly who is covered.
PM: All the roles covered need an annual assessment to ensure they comply. Then, within the normal reporting hierarchy of a firm, the most senior manager is the one accountable to SMCR and would be responsible for any error a junior made. The senior management must have the need and desire to ensure everyone is doing the right thing.
KB: Because of that, our clients need to ensure they have appropriate performance management and appraisal processes, including job descriptions and a clearly defined organisational structure, which is where the human resources element comes in. The goal of the FCA is “performance management with no surprises”.
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