City watchdog warns of fast action against firms

The City was warned yesterday that while the new regulator will visit financial companies less frequently than before, it will come down on them fast should they misbehave.

Martin Wheatley, the chief executive-designate of the Financial Conduct Authority, said that among his new powers will be the ability to make public the launch of disciplinary action against a firm or individual rather than only when it is completed.

Launching the road map to the FCA's replacement of the Financial Services Authority in 2013, Mr Wheatley said: "The FCA offers a huge opportunity for the regulator and firms to start afresh, and work in partnership to reset how we deal with conduct in financial services.

"We see it as the role of the regulator to not only make the relevant markets work well but also to help firms get back to putting their customers at the heart of how they do business."

Treasury minister Greg Clark said the new regulator's first priority must be to promote greater competition in the UK banking sector to give consumers more choice.

Mr Wheatley praised the FSA in some areas, including its 20 criminal convictions since 2009. But he said there would be changes which would make the FCA "more forward looking, better informed" and with "a greater appetite to get things done".

The new watchdog's boss said that following a summer consulting with various consumer groups and 500 companies which will come under his regulation he had devised three key outcomes. They are: consumers get financial services and products that meet their needs from firms they can trust.

Firms compete effectively with the interests of their customers and the integrity of the market at the heart of how they run their business.

Markets and financial systems are sound, stable and resilient with transparent pricing information.

Mr Wheatley said: "Fewer firms will have regular direct contact with supervisors, as we shift resources to deal more quickly and effectively with emerging issues."

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