Introducing the SIB's annual report for 1996/97, Sir Andrew Large, chairman, also welcomed the planned merger of the Bank of England's supervisory operation with three other regulators and the SIB as an "exciting opportunity".
Sir Andrew, who retires at the end of July, said the redesign of the system to regulate financial business would "benefit customers and the industry and that will provide continuing and justified confidence in the UK as a global financial services centre".
The report said the agency had been involved in an unprecedented trans- national enquiry into the Hamanaka copper scandal over the past year. It had also investigated more allegations of unauthorised investment business than ever before.
The creation of a "super SIB" has been an important plank of New Labour policy, fuelled by several high-profile banking collapses such as BCCI and Barings, which hit the Bank of England's reputation for supervision. The move to take banking regulation away from the Bank has created tension between the Government and the Bank.
In the report Sir Andrew criticised the two-tier system of Self Regulatory Authorities (SROs) introduced in the 1980s as flawed. He said the system framed by the Financial Services Act 1986 to protect individual consumers and investors had led to duplication, inefficiency and delay.
The chairman pointed to delays to the pensions review, caused by the requirement for each of the front-line regulators separately to consult their members on the SIB's guidance.
Sir Andrew also pointed to difficulties in following up the consequences of major management failures, such as Barings and Morgan Grenfell, due to the need to co-ordinate the policies and actions of three or more independent regulatory and supervisory organisations.
However, Sir Andrew said that, in spite of the inefficiencies caused by the two-tier system, over the past five years the regulators had secured higher standards in many areas. These included more effective regulation of firms by front-line SROs such as Imro and the SFA.
The past few years had seen increasing levels of training and competence in the UK's financial services industry, and the extension of individual registration for financial advisers.
The pensions mis-selling scandal figured highly in the report. Andrew Winckler, the SIB's chief executive, warned: "The industry now has no excuses for further delay. We will expect any failure to meet targets for completion of case reviews to be dealt with robustly through the disciplinary process."
Turning to SIB's enforcement activities, the report said SIB was involved in "a major investigation of great scope and complexity into the conduct of certain Financial Services Act regulated investment firms in world copper markets over recent years. This investigation continues and involves close liaison with criminal and regulatory agencies in Japan, the USA, the UK and elsewhere."