David Prosser: FSA's windfall comes from fines on banks

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The Independent Online

Outlook Many in the financial-services sector will welcome the announcement yesterday from their regulator that this year's compensation fund levy will be a little lower than previously expected. But the explanation for the smaller bill is pretty miserable: the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has imposed so many swingeing fines on the industry it polices that its coffers are flowing over.

So to which bank should consumers turn if they want to avoid the sort of behaviour that forces the regulator to impose fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds. It's a little tricky to answer that one. Certainly not one of the Big Four providers – Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland have all been on wrong end of some very stiff penalties over the past couple of years. What about Santander, which is snapping at those banks' heels?

Well, it's fine-free for now, but the FSA is currently looking into the small matter of how the group accidentally sent as many as 35,000 customers' bank statements to the wrong address. One imagines a fine may soon be winging its way to the Spanish bank.

In fact, run your finger down the list of large-scale current-account providers in the UK and the only players with a clean record are Nationwide Building Society and The Co-operative Bank. It is another advertisement for the mutual ownership model in banking (though possibly not as big a reason to go mutual as the fact that every single building society that demutualised in the Nineties was devastated by the credit crisis).