In March, the FCA launched its “In confidence, with confidence” campaign, aimed at encouraging employees and ex-employees of financial services firms to report potential wrongdoing directly to the FCA.
While the reporting of potential wrongdoing directly to the FCA is not a new concept in itself, the launching of this campaign signals that the FCA continues to view whistleblowing as a key priority, and as playing a key role in helping the regulator to discharge its duties of protecting consumers, markets and firms.
Interestingly, the campaign extends its reach to also encourage individuals who have a personal relationship with employees and ex-employees of firms to report potential wrongdoing for example, family members, close friends and neighbours. No doubt the pandemic and the new norm of remote working have played a part in the decision to extend the reach, with working from home arrangements creating further opportunities for conduct risk, and for potential misconduct to be spotted by those outside of the organisation.
To support the campaign the FCA has produced:
The FCA has also updated its website with further information for potential reporters, including emphasising the confidentiality processes that exist around whistleblowing, and explaining that whistleblowers can remain anonymous.
It has also increased its internal whistleblowing resourcing, meaning that every report will be reviewed and whistleblowers will have a dedicated case manager who they can meet with, in addition to enhancing training provided to those within its whistleblowing team so they are better placed to respond to information provided and protect identities of reporters. In addition, the FCA is working to expand the channels through which individuals can blow the whistle, by developing an online confidential form.
If more employees and/or close connections decide to report concerns directly to the FCA, there are a number of challenges for firms including:
Firms should continue to focus efforts on fostering an environment where it is safe to speak up internally, and ensuring that employees have faith in internal whistleblowing arrangements, so that employees feel confident in using internal channels as the first port of call. At the same time, firms should also ensure there are appropriate controls around, and staff awareness of, data security risks. This may be achieved through a number of means including:
Ultimately, it is hoped that the campaign will be a catalyst for positive change. It not only provides a further opportunity for misconduct to be reported, and therefore strengthens the culture and conduct toolkit available to the sector, but it s also a useful opportunity for firms to ensure that their policies and processes are robust and effective. If the campaign assists in encouraging a culture where individuals can escalate incidents when they see misconduct, safe in the knowledge that their identity will be protected and the misconduct dealt with, then it will have achieved its aim.
This article was first published by International Banker
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2021. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.
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