How far will the FCA stretch FIT?

16 December 2014

Yesterday's Burrows final notice is a further sign that the FCA will look at the personal conduct of Approved Persons outside of their roles in financial services in order to assess their fitness and propriety.

Mr Burrows was not convicted by a court of any offence but his admissions to fare evasion, to Revenue Protection Officers and later in interview with the FCA, were sufficient for the FCA to consider his behaviour not fit and proper (FIT).  It was therefore deemed appropriate to prohibit him from carrying out controlled functions.

Is this a new world? At the start of the year, a broker was banned because of the High Court's findings that he "stuck to the truth where he was able to, but departed from it with equanimity and adroitness where the truth was inconvenient". With increasing professionalism come high standards of personal conduct and integrity.  This is familiar to the more established 'professions'. Having defended and 'prosecuted' before professional disciplinary panels and as a member of such a panel, I have seen accountants, lawyers, medics and even army officers being struck off, heavily fined, placed under close supervision, suspended and removed from post, for conduct not directly connected to their office or profession.

This is the new reality for financial services professionals. Professional bodies (certainly those with Chartered status) require their members to meet the standards of professional codes of conduct which stretch to cover their conduct outside of their professional activities. Now the FCA is making clear that it expects the same of Approved Persons. When found wanting for honesty, there can be little argument, but how long before the concept of integrity is stretched further into people's private lives?  The FCA said Burrows "should have been a role model for others...".

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