FCA week in review October 30 – November 3, 2023

A busy week with action on buy-now-pay-later schemes, Consumer Duty and crypto marketing, and enforcements including yet another British Steel Pension Scheme case.


H.P.A.S Limited, which traded as Safestyle UK, has gone into administration, with Richard John Harrison and William James Wright of Interpath Advisory appointed as joint administrators.

A Confiscation Order of £355,369 ($440,661) has been issued against Timothey Coleman, a former director of IT service provider Redcentric plc. Coleman was convicted of false accounting and making misleading statements to the market in February 2022. The order covers the value of the financial benefit Coleman made from the offences.

Yet another ban and compensation order has been issued over poor advice given to members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS), a story we have covered extensively. The latest sees Geoffrey Armin was “seriously incompetent” when running Retirement and Pension Planning Services Limited (now dissolved) in the device he provided on the transfer of direct benefit pensions.

He advised 422 customers, 183 of who were members of the BSPS. Of those scheme members, 174 transferred out following Armin’s recommendation. Fees for all transfer advice given added up to £2.2m ($2.73m), with £1.2m ($1.49) retained by Armin and his firm.

Armin failed to obtain necessary information on the suitability of transfers, and in some cases only informed customers of the consequences of giving up valuable benefits after they had done so.

Therese Chambers, joint Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA said: “People rely on the advice they’re given for financial security into old age. Mr Armin’s advice not only put at risk the pensions people had worked for, it also eroded the trust between advisers and clients. Such callous incompetence has no place in financial services.”

Armin had referred the FCA’s decision to the Upper Tribunal, but a week before the hearing agreed to pay “a substantial proportion of his assets” in compensation to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and withdrew the referral. He will also pay £200,000 ($248,000) to contribute to the redress of his customers, who have so far been paid £3,961,517 ($4,912,320) in compensation.

Rules and consultations

The FCA announced it was joining forces with regulators across the world as part of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Guardian. The project is described as aiming to “share knowledge and examine the benefits, regulatory challenges, and commercial use cases of asset and fund tokenisation”.

With FCA research showing a significant increase in the use of buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) options among UK adults, the regulator has secured changes to what it saw as potentially unfair and unclear contract terms for unregulated BNPL firms.

The changes have been enforced using powers under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA, said: “When used appropriately, the product provides valuable benefits, but we want to ensure that consumers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, have adequate protections and are given sufficient information.”

Consumer Rights Act 2015

An update on progress being made in efforts to provide practical synthetic data insights for practitioners and policymakers was published. Work is being carried out by the Synthetic Data Experts Group, established in March 2021, that brings together 21 experts from across financial services, public sector, data and technology vendors, and consumer groups. The Group has met four times so far, and interested parties are still being invited to contribute.

With cryptoasset promotions targeting UK consumers now falling within the FCA’s remit, the regulator has published guidance on the new rules. Lucy Castledine, Director of Consumer Investments at the FCA, said: “While the new rules for firms marketing crypto to UK consumers are aligned with the existing rules for other high-risk investments, we’ve engaged extensively with industry and designed this Guidance to specifically support crypto firms complying.”

Speeches and media

Nisha Arora, the FCA’s Director of Cross Cutting Policy and Strategy, gave a speech at Deloitte’s Consumer Duty – Next Steps event that was held three months after the Duty came in to force. Her message was clear. “The Consumer Duty is not a once and done exercise. If we want to continue to see the benefits, we all need to keep a foot on the gas.”

Arora said firms need to take a number of actions.

  • Check and review implementation plans, and ask if they go far enough.
  • Check data monitoring processes and consider how the information is being harnessed.
  • Prepare an assessment on whether products are being delivered in line with the expectations set out in Consumer Duty for the annual report.
  • Agree actions to be taken before signing the annual report off.

The FCA will continue to test firms’ implementation and embedding of the Duty. She concluded by saying: “The Duty will remain a top priority for the FCA in how we make financial services markets work well. And it’s central to our transformation to becoming a more assertive regulator with an enhanced focus on how we use data.”