Everybody remembers Hector Sants' comment that people should be frightened of the FSA.
Perhaps recognising that this is not the kind of relationship the FCA should be seen to have with the regulated community, Martin Wheatley (the FCA Chief Executive) recently used rather different language to describe the FCA's approach. In a press conference on 21 March 2013, he said that people would not hear the "be afraid" words of the FSA. The FCA wanted, he said, to get back to having a discussion with the CEOs of firms.
That's all well and good; a regulator's relationship with its members should not be defined by fear. However, whether or not you call it a relationship defined by fear, the FCA is openly looking to further the goal of credible deterrence. One way that it will do so is by holding individuals more to account.
In that vein, it was in the very same press conference that Wheatley argued that heavy fines would not change the behaviour of institutions, as ultimately, these are just passed on to shareholders. He said that it was not until management were held to account that there would be changes in firms. Indeed, credible deterrence is an approach that remains central to the FCA's pursuit of enforcement. To achieve this, it says that it will pursue more cases against individuals and hold members of senior management accountable for their actions.
The timing of Martin Wheatley's comments are interesting. They came just a week before the FSA fined the Prudential a substantial amount of money and censured its CEO, Tidjane Thiam (see elsewhere in this edition "Prudential companies fined £30m and CEO censured for failures to inform regulator"). For all that the FSA insisted that the Thiam Notice should send a clear message to all board members of their collective and individual responsibility for the decisions they make on behalf of their companies, it was difficult to avoid the impression that the FSA were disappointed by only achieving a censure. Maybe Wheatley's comments about individuals one week earlier were laying the groundwork for the FCA's desired direction of travel on punishment of individuals.