Regulating through a crisis

Maggie Craig is Head of the FCA in Scotland

A lot has been said about the impact of COVID-19 on our everyday lives. We are facing an unprecedented challenge, caused by the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes, and the magnitude and duration of the economic shock resulting from coronavirus is highly uncertain. At the FCA, our main priorities in responding to coronavirus, have been to ensure that financial services businesses give consumers the support they need, that people don’t fall for scams, and that financial services businesses and markets know what we expect of them.

As I reflect on the past few months, I do feel an immense sense of pride in the work that the FCA has done to help consumers. Teams across the FCA have been gathering insight from our consumer partners, including those in Scotland, to help us understand how the crisis is impacting on the financial lives of ordinary people across the UK. We have brought in a series of measures designed to help all consumers who, as a result of the crisis, find themselves in temporary financial difficulties. These include our recent announcement about extended support for those who are struggling to pay their mortgage. We’ve introduced measures on consumer credit such as credit cards, motor finance, high cost credit, rent-to-own, and we are pleased to have seen some great examples of good practice from financial services firms reaching out to their vulnerable customers.

We’ve also acted to help insurance customers, providing measures to help policyholders in financial difficulty, and guidance for insurance firms to consider the impact of coronavirus on the value of their insurance products. We’ve also taken the unprecedented step to obtain a High Court declaration to resolve contractual uncertainty in business interruption cover. This is all alongside other work we are doing to protect consumers including warnings about scams and on pension savings.

Yet what has struck me most about our work during the crisis, has been the speed of our response. We have delivered policy at pace, made faster and more effective decisions, and provided a lifeline to those who have needed it most. As an organisation, we have adapted and learned to work in a more agile and flexible way, and I believe that we will learn from this period to inform future ways of working. In our business plan, published in April, we committed to transforming how we work and regulate. The coronavirus outbreak has changed the world in which we regulate and accelerated our need to respond, and we have continually adapted to raise our standards. Going forward, we need to consider how we prioritise and deliver outcomes, how we use data and technology, what capabilities we need to be fit for the future and how we work with our global partners. We have already started this work and will continue as we move into 2020/21 and beyond.

In Scotland, my team and I have continued our engagement (albeit in a virtual way) with Scottish Government, industry, and the third sector, and it has been a privilege to work with Scottish Government colleagues in a number of ways to provide regulatory advice. Some of you reading this may have heard me speak at various webinars on our coronavirus response and our priorities for the year ahead, and I have been delighted to continue speaking engagements in the virtual world.

Like everyone else, I have had to adapt to my world becoming a much smaller place. I have swapped the daily commute for a walk with the dogs and I have learned that I am not the technophobe that I once claimed to be. We face huge challenges ahead, but with a clear plan the FCA is committed to deliver on our objectives and in the public interest.

Published 29 July 2020