Tag Archive | fca

New FCA Measures Continue to Support Firms’ Focus on Culture

In what has been a turbulent regulatory time, one thing has remained consistent throughout – the focus on culture change in the Financial Services sector. We are now six months into the new Senior Managers’ and Certification Regime, and the FCA has this week revealed plans to add more measures to further strengthen its success across the sector.

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It is reported that these new measures will continue to build on the regime’s focus on individual accountability, and clarify how firms are expected to view the roles of senior managers within their organisations. In support of the new regulations, the FCA is also set to publish a discussion paper about how those heading up the legal function in firms should be treated under the Senior Managers’ and Certification Regime.

Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, said: “Six months on and, in a great many cases, firms have made a substantial effort to get this right and embrace the importance of the key principles underlying the Senior Managers and Certification Regime, namely responsibility and accountability.”

Knowing who is responsible for what is critical for firms and regulators and we have seen genuine engagement on this from the Board down. – Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive, FCA

“Generally, we have observed that firms are taking their responsibilities seriously and have broadly got the regime right. But we recognise culture change takes time and there is still more to do. So we have to keep a watchful eye on the progress firms are making.”

Topics of responsibility, accountability and governance in financial services firms and their impact on conduct has been, and remains, a priority for the FCA with a focus on the most significant drivers of good or poor mindsets and behaviours. Ongoing focus around these new regulations is testament to the FCA’s determination to succeed in exacting cultural and behavioural change across the board – something that shows no sign of letting up.

The FCA has also confirmed to consult on a number of other areas in the coming months:

  • Guidance for Senior Managers on the ‘Duty of Responsibility’
  • A new requirement for UK branches of overseas banks to tell their UK based employees about the whistleblowing services offered by the FCA and the PRA
  • Extending the conduct rules to all non-executive directors of banks and insurers

Read more about the new Accountability Regime here.

ABCUL Unicorn Partnership Announced

ABCUL letters in light and dark blue on a white backgroundABCUL – the leading trade association for credit unions in England, Scotland and Wales – is helping its members improve and demonstrate their skills and professionalism thanks to a partnership with financial services training specialists, Unicorn.

With new innovations and opportunities for credit unions, plus the recent arrival of the FCA’s new Senior Managers Regime and Certification Regime, training and evidencing competency is more important than ever.

Credit unions – member-owned providers of savings, loans and a range of financial services for communities and workplaces – serve more than 1.2 million people in Britain and hold over £1.3 billion in assets, and are regulated by both the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). ABCUL (the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) has therefore launched a comprehensive and innovative new compliance training solution for members to meet the required regulatory standards.

ABCUL Learning Academy is powered by Unicorn’s award-winning Learning Management System (LMS), populated with an extensive compliance eLearning library, which provides credit unions with the means to reduce risk through relevant practical training designed to encourage the right behaviours in staff and directors.

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Rosanna Donovan, ABCUL Head of Member Services, believes ABCUL Academy is already transforming how credit unions meet their training needs. “Over the last decade, British credit union membership has doubled and assets have trebled,” she says, “so our rapidly expanding sector recognises that we need to meet and demonstrate the highest standards of knowledge and compliance to reassure the growing number of consumers who trust us with their money.”

“As credit unions are governed by volunteer directors and many also have volunteers in operational roles, Unicorn’s LMS and content suite is the perfect solution to allow credit unions to train their people in a way that suits their lives, and to track and demonstrate compliance to their members and regulators.”

ABCUL Academy meets the industry demand for ‘snackable’, just-in-time and role-relevant learning delivered online that embeds core knowledge in line with FCA regulation and heightens awareness of the serious consequences of non-compliance.

New diagnostic tools, Apps and mobile learning, with on and offline syncing, video and role-specific scenarios all create impactful, personalised learning pathways within ABCUL Academy. These instantly connect learners with their day-to-day activities and embed the learning required for firms to meet all the FCA’s regulatory demands.

Simon Mercer, Unicorn Product Manager, continues: “The FCA is challenging firms, credit unions included, to prove their staff or volunteers are competent and compliant, so the evidencing is as critical as the training itself. We are delighted ABCUL has partnered with Unicorn for the solution to support its members.

“ABCUL Academy enables the deployment of content, monitoring, reporting and automatically assigning learning from its content catalogue, CPD, creating role-based pathways and sending email reminders to effectively deliver the right learning. For those who may not need to do a whole course but want a refresher or reminder, highly visual summary module PDFs provide a useful referral tool for key messages.”

In 2016 Unicorn’s learning managment system, was ranked the world’s top LMS for the financial sector for the second successive year, and fourth overall across all sectors, in the Top 50 LMSs Report 2016, compiled by the influential Craig Weiss. For more information about Unicorn’s solution for the financial services sector visit www.unicorntraining.com/complianceserve

Top 10 Highs Of Unicorn’s Record Year

Unicorn smashed through the £6m sales mark for the first time ever in the last financial year (2015-16), a new record in any 12-month period and £1m up on our previous financial year best. These are our top 10 highlights of our record-breaking year (in no particular order)…

White text on a pink backdrop 'Unicorn: A year in numbers'

1 SkillsServe ranked the World’s top LMS for financial services (again)

You’ve probably heard of Craig Weiss? He’s widely considered to be the most influential person in eLearning in the world. Every year Craig produces his Global Top 50 LMSs Report and for the second year running, in January 2016, our learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, was recognised as the world’s best in our field.

dean_collage_med2 Unicorns who completed The Big Issue Foundation ‘Big London Night Walk’…

…in addition to the number of other Unicorns who did amazing stuff supported by our Fundraising Team. This included Dean, Tai, Katrina and Simon all completing multiple distance and endurance running challenges raising money for The MS Society, Macmillan Cancer Support, Macmillan Caring Locally and The Samaritans, while Sam and Xiomara pounded the capital’s streets in the wee hours in their quest for The Big Issue Foundation.

3 Million+ course activities were completed on SkillsServe

Off the shelf courses, user-generated content and eCreator courses, CPD recording, Training and Competency (T&C), on-the-go learning and Apps, you name it and SkillsServe has probably helped the financial services industry achieve it.

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4 the position SkillsServe moved up to in the overall LMS global rankings

You know Craig Weiss’ LMS report we just mentioned? As well as maintaining top spot for financial services, SkillsServe also moved up a place overall from fifth in 2015 to fourth this year. In the report Craig said: “New User Interface, expansive features. I love that they have a CPD mobile app. Regulatory is strong which is a must since their target vertical is Financial Services. An overall, top tier performer.”

NSASECTOR_Logo_Col3D_CMYK(9) [Converted] [Converted]5 the number of key areas Unicorn was assessed to receive Service Excellence accreditation from the National Skills Academy for Financial Services

This means Unicorn has demonstrated its dedication to high-quality, professional customer service and commitment to consistent improvement in service and staff training. With Helpdesk now 11 strong, 4,000 more calls were dealt with last year compared to 2014. This is reflected in an SLA of over 95% between March 2015 and March 2016. Already in 2016 Helpdesk have dealt with more calls month-on-month than 2015. What does this mean? Quicker and more effective issue resolution for our clients and happy customers ☺

6 Million – the company’s sales for the first time ever

It was looking good at the end of the calendar year, when we reported sales exceeded £5.6m ($8.5m), but we are delighted to report continuing strong organic growth in our core business streams, culminating in sales crashing through the £6m for the first time.

logo_116ISO 27001 – our information security standards certified at the highest level again

We first received ISO certification in 2011, but 2015 saw Unicorn transition to the new ISO27001:2013 standard from the previous ISO27001:2005 benchmark. The new standard reflects the changing demands of IS security in the face of challenges that didn’t exist in 2005. To maintain ISO27001 certification requires monthly security audits and an annual British Standards Institution (BSI) assessment.

peterp_headshot8 where Unicorn Training CEO and founder, Peter Phillips, is ranked in the Top 10 of the UK’s most influential people in corporate eLearning

Now in its seventh year, the 2016 annual lists of the ‘Top 10’ most influential people in the corporate eLearning sector – in the World, North America, Europe, the UK and Asia-Pacific – saw Peter break into the top 10 for the first time ever as one of four debutants in the UK rankings.

9% higher knowledge retention in those trained via video games…

…according to a University of Colorado Denver Business School study (2010). This is a snippet from our 2016 White Paper ‘The Future of Game-based Learning’ (produced with our games partners, Amuzo). Games are still BIG news in learning and, in its first year, this partnership has helped clients, existing and prospective, really understand games aren’t just fun they’re effective and it’s mobile technology shaping this.

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10 (+1) the number of our commercial, trade and professional industry partners

These relationships are invaluable in underlining Unicorn’s long-standing position as the solutions provider trusted by the financial services industry. As regulation tightens, having our partners’ expertise in helping inform the direction of the learning and supporting the development of appropriate learning tools, makes Unicorn the only credible choice. A great example is the work we’re doing with FSTP and the BBA to develop ComplianceServe in response to the FCA’s Accountability Regime for banks, building societies, credit unions and designated investment firms.

News: New ComplianceServe Launched As Regulation Grip Tightens

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It’s ComplianceServe Jim, but not as we know it! Today (Friday 29 April) sees the launch of a new version of Unicorn’s industry-leading compliance training solution, ComplianceServe.

The objective is to continue to help firms bring about genuine cultural and behavioural change and more effectively meet their regulatory obligations.

The FCA’s new accountability regime for banks, building societies, credit unions and designated investment firms, which came into force last month, again brought into focus that the need for effective training and robust processes for evidencing competence has never been greater.

This is why ComplianceServe has been enhanced and given a new look and feel, to help firms embed the knowledge and understanding of why this regulation matters and drive the behavioural changes that will lead to better outcomes for customers.

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At a glance

  • ComplianceServe’s fresh new appearance reflects the latest thinking in user experience.
  • It is easier and quicker for employees to find the right learning and create personalised training plans.
  • ComplianceServe’s new integrated CPD system automatically tracks completed online learning against a generic scheme based on FCA guidelines. It also allows the recording and tracking of other CPD activities such as face-to-face training, attending conferences or accredited body events, research and reading.
  • Over the past six months, with the support of industry partners including FSTP and the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), 11 new eLearning pathways have been added to the ComplianceServe library to help firms respond to regulation.
  • The new ComplianceServe also provides on-demand refresher training, using highly visual PDF summaries, to overcome the infamous ‘forgetting curve’.

Simon Mercer, ComplianceServe Product Manager, explains: “The new regulation has not only challenged firms to improve their compliance training practices but also provide robust evidence of their employees’ competency at whatever level they work. Staff must really understand what the regulation means and how to apply it and firms must be able to prove they can.

“The key is delivering personalised, ‘snackable’ chunks of learning on demand from their device of choice, while highlighting the potentially serious consequences of non-compliance for employee and employer. It lets them ‘fail’ in a safe environment where they can learn from the experience.”

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The 11 new eLearning pathways immerse learners in realistic scenarios relevant to their job roles, with the opportunity to make decisions and see the consequences in a way that shapes new behaviours. The eLearning features various bite-size learning activities, including teaser videos, case studies and quick summaries, which all contribute to elevated engagement levels, knowledge retention and cultural change.

Simon adds: “We know new knowledge is rapidly lost if it’s not applied quickly following a training intervention and where there is no regular reinforcing activity. Instead of the once a year ‘sheep dip’ approach, ComplianceServe allows firms to push short bites of learning, tests and refreshers to learners on a regular basis to ensure understanding improves over time, behaviours change and culture shifts.”  

New ComplianceServe learning pathways include:

• The new Regulatory Framework in Banking
• Conduct Rules
• Cybercrime


• Senior Managers Regime
• Foreign Tax Compliance Act 2010 (FATCA)
• The basics of CASS (Client Assets Sourcebook)
• Consumer Credit – Handling Arrears


• The Certification Regime
• Three Lines of Defence
• Vulnerable Customers
• Transaction Reporting

In 2016 Unicorn’s learning and performance platform, SkillsServe was ranked the world’s top LMS for the financial sector for the second successive year, and fourth overall across all sectors, in the Top 50 LMSs Report 2016*. For more information about ComplianceServe visit www.unicorntraining.com/complianceserve

* This report is compiled annually by Craig Weiss, named as the most influential person in the world for eLearning for the past two years.

News: ‘Landmark Financial Services Regulation Has Brought Clearer Training Focus’ Says Sector Expert

MJ_Colour_Cropped_medUnicorn Commercial Director, Mark Jones, believes the industry has seized the opportunity to “look at compliance in the context of cultural transformation” as landmark new Accountability regulation comes into force on Monday (7 March).

Mark insists the training industry’s response has been pivotal in firms preparing for the Accountability Regime, which includes a new Senior Managers Regime, Certification Regime and Code of Conduct, in an overhaul of the regulatory framework by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

As the new regulation around accountability comes into effect, being able to show clear lines of reporting, roles and responsibilities, and producing evidence of competency within the wider context of compliance is critical for regulated firms.

Mark thinks bringing a more targeted and streamlined approach to T&C and compliance for firms has helped them meet the Accountability deadline, while also providing a firm foundation from which to support them in meeting future regulatory deadlines.

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He said: “Compliance should be treated as part of, not in isolation to, an individual’s career development plan, and we’ve seen a shift towards that as the Accountability Regime deadline has loomed.

“There continues to be a real demand for ‘snackable’ just-in-time and role relevant learning delivered online that not only embeds the core knowledge in line with the new FCA regulation amongst staff, but also heightens awareness of the implications of staff going off track in encouraging genuine behavioural change.

“New diagnostic tools, Apps and mobile learning, with on and offline syncing, video and role-specific scenarios are all critical elements in creating impactful personalised learning programmes that instantly connect a learner with their day-to-day job role, and embed the learning required for firms to meet all FCA regulatory demands.”

Unicorn’s comprehensive online compliance solution, ComplianceServe, provides firms with the means to reduce risk through relevant practical training designed to encourage the right behaviours.

ComplianceServe_pathway

ComplianceServe enables the deployment of content, monitoring, reporting and automatically assigning learning from its sector-leading content catalogue, CPD, creating role-based pathways and sending email reminders to effectively deliver the right learning through desktop or mobile device.

Meanwhile Unicorn’s partners, leading financial services consulting and training specialists, FSTP, continue to deliver complementary face-to-face training for more senior roles and/or those requiring highly complex and/or specialist knowledge.

Mark added: “The Accountability Regime leaves no hiding place in the FCA’s aims of raising standards and restoring public trust and confidence in the regulated sectors.

“The FCA has already proved it has no problem biting as hard as it barks, as many large fines and sanctions imposed on some of the world’s biggest financial institutions have shown.

“Only effective, robust training strategies will keep firms out of the FCA’s jaws and it is up to us to keep delivering the best solutions to help them.”

For more information about ComplianceServe visit www.unicorntraining.com/complianceserve

NEWS: Handle Emotive Issues With Care Warns Financial Services Training Expert

Helping staff stay on top of their regulatory and ethical responsibilities around such emotive issues as vulnerable customers and financial promotions must remain a priority for the financial services training industry.

That is the view of Simon Mercer, Unicorn Training ComplianceServe Product Manager, speaking ahead of the BCCA Annual Conference in Derbyshire on Friday (27 November).

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The BCCA is a leading trade association for the UK’s alternative lender market, and they have teamed up with Unicorn to offer online compliance training to their members for the first time, through Unicorn’s ComplianceServe training solution.

Last month BCCA CEO, Jason Wassell, revealed their relationships with vulnerable customers are part of “nearly every discussion” he has had with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

vulnerablecustomers_nov15This followed the FCA’s challenge to firms to review their approach to consumer vulnerability, with some customers being confronted by a “computer says no” response when they seek assistance and support from firms.

Meanwhile, financial promotions for consumer credit are amongst the issues also under scrutiny from the regulators, with both a high-profile media and political focus on the advertisement of high cost, short- term credit products.

Simon will be on the Unicorn stand at the BCCA conference, speaking to delegates about their approaches to staff learning and development on these and other credit industry topics. He insists when staff lack the knowledge, empathy and ethics to deal with such issues effectively, the consequences go way beyond being purely financial.

FCA_VC_feb15“It only takes one bad news story to destroy a firm’s reputation; one customer who has been treated unfairly, one ad that is viewed as exploitative, appearing on the news or held to task by the consumer advice media.

“The regulator will make its own judgments on penalties and sanctions for companies found in breach of its standards, but realistically it can be public condemnation and PR impact that can prove more damaging long-term.

“Having a training approach where such issues are included as part of a firm’s wider ethical business culture, and not treated in isolation as a ‘tick box’ exercise to appease the regulators, can go a long way to avoiding such reputational damage.”

Earlier this year, Unicorn Training joined forces with FSTP to introduce the enhanced, sector-specific compliance learning solution, ComplianceServe, which includes integrated T&C guidance and CPD management.

FSTP_logo-2As two of the UK’s most prominent financial services training providers, this partnership brings a more targeted, streamlined approach to compliance, to help regulated firms embed the genuine cultural and behavioural change needed to deliver better outcomes for customers.

FSTP was recently named ‘Business Partnership of the Year 2015’ by the Debt Resolution Forum (DRF) and Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA), while in January Unicorn’s learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, was ranked top LMS for financial services, and fifth overall, in the global Top 50 LMS Report 2015.

Unicorn has been creating L&D and compliance solutions for the UK’s ever-changing financial services sector for over 25 years. FSTP provides first class training and consultancy services across all sectors of the financial services industry.

For more information about ComplianceServe visit www.unicorntraining.com/complianceserve and for further details about FSTP visit www.fstp.co.uk

BLOG: Is It OK To Like ‘Blended Learning’ Again?

Being the cheerful sorts we are at Unicorn, we love a bit of good news!

FSTP_logo-2So we were beyond chuffed for our partners, FSTP, when they won the Debt Resolution Forum (DRF) and Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) ‘Business Partnership of the Year Award 2015’ last week!

Consumer Credit is just one area we are working with leading financial services consulting and training specialists FSTP on in bringing a more targeted and streamlined approach to compliance for FCA regulated firms. It’s always fab to have it recognised you’re working with the best of the best ☺

grocott_FSTPPhilippa Grocott, Partner at FSTP, has written a great piece about how, as a partnership, ourselves and FSTP are supporting clients with blended learning and why a blended solution is right for today’s financial service firms.

Through a worked example, she provides a case study of how FSTP helped a Learning and Development Manager from Bank X who required training on the new Individual Accountability Regime in Banking identify what needed to be studied by who, the best format for delivery (face to face or eLearning) and where their budget should be spent.

In the blog Philippa writes: “The blended approach has improved beyond expectations over time, and solutions, using both the classroom and virtual delivery methods, have rightly earned their place and are a must in any annual L&D programme for all organisations.”

It’s a must-read for any FCA regulated firm currently trying to get their head around how to best meet the demands of the new Accountability Framework before the March deadline.

You can check out the full blog here – Supporting Clients with Blended Learning

In December 2014 FSTP won the Thomson Reuters 2014 Best Compliance Consultancy Firm Award, voted for by FSTP clients. Meanwhile in January 2015 our learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, was ranked as the top LMS for the financial services sector, and fifth overall, in the Top 50 LMSs Report 2015. Congratulations again FSTP!

BLOG: Five Months To Go – How Are You Rising To The Accountability Challenge?

simonmercer_editedThe new Accountability Framework in banking is one of the hottest topics in the FCA regulated world – with less than 6 months until the deadline Unicorn Product Manager, Simon Mercer, explains how Unicorn’s union with FSTP is helping firms rise to the challenge.

When the FCA launched its 2015-16 Business Plan in March, all eyes inevitably looked straight at the deadlines.

‘Senior Manager’s Regime’, ‘MiFID II’, ‘Mortgage Credit Directive’, ‘Certification Regime’, ‘Code of Conduct’ etc are all major changes to the regulatory framework, with even greater consequences and sanctions for non-compliance.

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Read the full paper here

But, as usual, the deadlines are tight, for example, the new accountability framework for individuals in banks, building societies and credit unions comes into force on 7 March 2016 – now less than six months away.

Earlier this year we joined forces with leading financial services consulting and training specialists, FSTP, to bring a more targeted and streamlined approach to compliance for FCA regulated firms.

Now, with FSTP’s help, we’re adding new eLearning titles to our comprehensive compliance training solution, ComplianceServe, to help organisations embed the cultural and behavioural changes demanded within the new framework.

When it comes to the Accountability Framework there are four supporting courses…

  • An Introduction to the New Banking Regime
  • An Introduction to the New Senior Managers Regime
  • The Certification Regime
  • The New Code of Conduct

These titles are designed to meet the demand for ‘snackable’ chunks of learning that can be digested little and often, for a more pervasive learning experience that supports the goal of continuous learning.

ComplianceServe-logo-RGB-tightLearners have to understand and, most importantly, value the possible implications of their actions in terms of how it affects their promotion prospects, earning power, professional reputation and personal pride. This is why compliance should be treated as part of, not in isolation to, an individual’s whole career development plan.

The by-product of this is the benefit it brings to your business, both commercially, and with regards to regulatory compliance when the FCA calls.

All of these new titles are being added to the ComplianceServe library at no additional cost, and like all our compliance titles, we’ll continue to update them in line with ongoing changes in the regulations.

Utilising FSTP’s capabilities in instructor-led training, we’re also able to provide our clients with a truly blended approach – combining our eLearning modules with face-to face-workshops – for the more complex and risk laden roles i.e. Senior Manager and Senior Responsibility function holders.

Want to know more?

Visit www.unicorntraining.com, email enquiries@unicorntraining.com or call 0800 055 6586.

 

News: FSTP and Unicorn Deal Raises Compliance Training Bar

FSTP_logo-2Leading financial services consulting and training specialists, FSTP, has joined forces with online learning and performance developers, Unicorn Training, to introduce an enhanced sector-specific compliance learning solution that includes integrated T&C guidance and CPD management.

As two of the UK’s most prominent financial services training providers the new strategic partnership brings a more targeted, streamlined approach to compliance for FCA regulated firms.

Firms and their employees will be able to access industry-leading online compliance training specific to their sector, which is constantly evolving in line with regulatory change and emerging industry challenges.

ComplianceServeScreenshots_webThe partnership builds on the early success of Unicorn’s flagship online regulatory training solution, ComplianceServe, launched last summer to help firms manage their compliance needs through one secure portal that combines a library of high-quality learning assets with advanced content, development and management tools.

In December 2014 FSTP won the Thomson Reuters 2014 Best Compliance Consultancy Firm Award, voted for by FSTP clients. In January 2015 Unicorn’s learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, was ranked as the top LMS for the financial services sector in the Top 50 LMSs Report 2015*.

Mark Jones, Unicorn Commercial Director, said: “With FSTP we are enriching existing content and developing new titles within the ComplianceServe library, including creating sector-specific case studies and scenarios. With integrated T&C and CPD tracking, ComplianceServe will be the market’s broadest, most comprehensive compliance training solution.

“Compliance goes far beyond just training, it’s embedding genuine wider behavioural change. ComplianceServe has been well received and with FSTP’s expertise and experience in consultancy and face-to-face training we will be able to deliver a truly blended and tailored learning experience.

FSTP are hugely respected within financial services. We have worked with FSTP in a few different ways previously and this is a formalisation of that relationship to bring real compliance benefits for those working in heavily regulated environments where time is precious.”

ComplianceServeScreenshots2_webPhilippa Grocott, Partner at FSTP, added: “We recognise the importance of delivering blended learning solutions that deliver at the right level to the right audience, with engaging content which can be accessed at the right time.

“Unicorn is well known throughout the financial services industry for its quality online learning solutions. It makes perfect sense for two award-winning firms to combine capabilities to deliver ComplianceServe, an essential requirement for any financial services firm that wants to stay ahead of the regulatory focus.”

Unicorn has been creating learning and development and compliance solutions for the UK’s ever-changing FS sector for over 25 years. *As well as being ranked top financial services LMS, SkillsServe was also 5th overall in the Top 50 LMSs Report, compiled by global eLearning analyst Craig Weiss.

FSTP provides first class training and consultancy services across all sectors of the financial services industry.

For more information about ComplianceServe visit www.unicorntraining.com or for further details about FSTP visit www.fstp.co.uk

GUEST BLOG: Two months into new regulator – are you on the front foot?

We’ve been working with FSTP in numerous different ways for a while now, and we know they know their stuff when it comes to the challenges Learning & Development, Compliance and Senior Management face in achieving the right outcomes through people.

grocott_FSTPNow two months into new FCA regulation of consumer credit, FSTP partner, Philippa Grocott, asks ‘Are you on the front foot?

According to research by the Government’s Money Advice Service (MAS), nine million Britons are considered in serious debt and facing serious problems with debt, with just 1.5m having sought debt advice while 1.8m people don’t even acknowledge they are in debt.

Having worked in the regulated financial services world for some considerable time, you know when the word ‘serious’ is used twice in one sentence by a government department there will be a very keen interest in all firms whose activities are in that area – Consumer Credit.

It is almost two months since CCA firms have had the FCA as their regulator.

Some firms were on the front foot before the 1st April 2014, taking a proactive approach to finding out what this would actually mean for them.

Others have taken the more relaxed view, like the MD of one particular firm we’re aware of – “Regulators are all the same, tell them what they want to hear and they usually go away.”

So which approach are you taking?

The FCA is a very different regulator to the OFT. This one has teeth and bites.

Or as Martin Wheatley, CEO of the FCA put it in regulatory speak, “We won’t shy away from taking tough, decisive action to make sure that the people who rely on these products are treated fairly.

“There will be some firms that don’t get the message, or won’t play ball, those firms should know that we won’t let them carry on.”

corporate-debt1The new regulator has three operational objectives:
1.    Securing an appropriate degree of protection for consumers
2.    Protecting and enhancing the integrity of the UK financial system
3.    Promoting effective competition in the interests of consumers in financial services markets

To put it succinctly, if you can’t prove you have got the customers best interests at the heart of everything you do, the regulator is likely to take an intrusive and intensive interest in you, which could be extremely damaging to your bottom line.

Beware of the dog!

In the first four months of this year, the FCA fined firms a total of £104,884,500 for not adhering to practices that support their operational objectives. Almost £105m! I expect a number of stitches were required after those bites…..

Ask yourself the following questions
•    Do you understand what it means in practical terms to have the FCA as your regulator?
•    Are you an approved person who holds a controlled function in your business?
•    As an approved person, are you aware of what your responsibilities are and what this means to you personally?
•    Are you comfortable with how to apply the 11 Principles for Business to your business?
•    Have you got the correct systems and controls to mitigate and manage conduct risk?
•    Do your employees understand what the regulator means by treating customers fairly?

If you have answered no to any of these questions, or you don’t know whether you do or you don’t, then it’s important to remember that you’re not on your own in the compliance maze.

Burying your head in the sand isn’t an option if you want your business to continue. But trying to make sense of things you may not fully understand can be extremely time and energy draining.

ComplianceServe-logo-RGB-(on-white)We’ve been working closely with Unicorn in trying to make the process of consumer credit compliance as smooth as possible for those who need it.

Helping businesses understand the regulator requirements and how to apply them practically is nothing new for neither ourselves nor Unicorn, in fact it is what we’ve both been doing for more years than we would probably care to remember!

It doesn’t cost to have a conversation to understand how a blended learning solution could enable you to really appreciate what it means for your business to be regulated by the FCA.

We don’t bite but we know a regulator who does!

For more information visit our website or find our contact details here.