Scam

The chairman’s secret camera on the financial world reveals the chief executive of the FSA in the guise of an FBI agent. Could it have anything to do with the retail distribution review?

”What am I looking at exactly?” I asked the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we watched the giant screen in his office while sipping a glass or two of Chateau Zwaanstra.

“It’s Chaimovision,” said the chairman. “My hidden-­camera window into the thinking – or not – of the politicians and regulators who toy with our lives and our livelihoods.

“But then surely you know that?” “I do indeed,” I nodded. “Top exposition, by the way, but what I meant was, what is this scene I’m looking at? Or, to put it another way, why is Hector Sants dressed as an FBI agent?” “This is from a few days ago,” said the chairman. “And my best guess is he is using the costume to help get in the mood for his latest appearance in front of the Treasury Select Committee.”

”Judging from the reaction to his performance, he might do well to hang on to the bullet-proof vest”

“Oh, I get it,” I said. “It’s the scene from the first Die Hard movie when Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson, no relation, are discussing the risks of a helicopter assault to rescue the hostages.” “Listen,” smiled the chairman, turning up the volume on the television. “OK, let’s take it from the top,” said a second man on the screen, who appeared to be coaching everybody’s favourite FSA chief executive.

“I say ’Figure we take out the terrorists. Lose 20, 25% of the hostages – tops’ and you reply …” “Er,” erred Sants, adjusting his matching black bullet-proof vest and baseball cap. “I can live with that … I can live with that … I can live with that.” “Good, good,” replied his coach. “Although may I suggest you put the emphasis on the ’that’?

“After all, regardless of your actual feelings on the subject, it’s probably best you don’t sound too enthusiastic about the prospect of a quarter or so of all financial advisers going out of business. So, again – I say ’Figure we implement the retail distribution review. Lose 20, 25% of the IFAs – tops’ and you say …” “I can live with that,” replied Sants deliberately. “Perfect,” smiled his coach. (Scam continues below)

“So what do you think?” said the chairman as he paused the screen. “It doesn’t come as the biggest surprise,” I said. “Mind you, he might do well to hang on to the bullet-proof vest. Judging from the reaction to his performance in front of the committee, I fear he may have got a bit too far into the character and casual indifference of Agent Johnson.

“So do you have anything that can throw some light on the current FSA take on financial advice?”

“You mean two Canary Wharf personnel trying to square the need for ­people to have access to good financial advice with a raft of policies that, while well meaning in places, will reduce – at least for the near future – the number of people qualified, well, able to give that advice?” asked the chairman.

“Then, continuing the FSA’s complete inability to see a difference between what is cheap and what is good value, they then conclude that what the vast majority of UK punters need is one of two financial advice options – the first of which is a quick chat at one of Otto Thoresuarus’s financial Citizens’ Advice Bureaux with someone who once read a copy of Bloomberg Money (may it rest in peace)?

“And the second of which is to risk visiting one of the gurning piranhas at a high-street bank, the ineptness of whose mis-selling and customer complaints record is matched only by the Jedi-like mind powers of their lobbyists? Well, as it happens, I’ve got loads. But wouldn’t you prefer to watch my tape of Lord Turner being debriefed after his own appearance in front of the Treasury Select Committee?

“Watching him grapple with the basics of supply and demand and the idea that a reduction in the number of advisers is more likely to see consumers’ costs rise than fall really warms the heart, I can tell you.”

“Yes, that does sound amusing,” I said. “Although please tell me the fancy-dress theme does not carry through into that particular video – I don’t think someone of my delicate sensibilities could take the sight of Lord Turner dressed as a schoolboy.”