My Friend Doug’s Response to the FAMR

One of my best business friends is called Doug. He has, over the years, been a mentor to me, an adviser, a client, a supporter, and a darned good friend.

I first met Doug at a Business Link meeting in 1999 (Business Link was a Govt funded organisation that provided business advice and support). I had been asked to speak about on the topic of self invested pensions for small businesses to a group of their finance advisers.

I was shown into the room and asked to sit in the corner while the previous chap finished his presentation. I wasn’t sure precisely what he had been speaking about, but he was clearly a central Govt chap, had a fund to dish out in the form of grants, and had been explaining the necessary criteria.

His session was in the Q&A stage. I got an inkling that he was rather enjoying being the centre of this attention. The Chair went round the table and asked each adviser for their view of what they had heard.

The first chap (they were all men) said something along the lines of “We should open lines of communication with the Govt department.” The second chap said stuff about “Working in partnership”. And so it went on, with more comments about “signposting” and “facilitation” and “consider a review of our provision.”

Then it came to Doug. He hadn’t said anything to this point, but I had watched his body language, which was a little different to the others. He drummed his fingers and kept looking at the ceiling. The Chair asked Doug for his view with, it seemed to me, a degree of trepidation in his voice.

“Yes, I do have a suggestion,” said Doug. “Why don’t we…. do something. Not talk about it, but actually do something. You’ve got money. We’ve got businesses that need money. Let’s put them together. No more dialogues, no more reviews and consultations. Let us make a difference, right now, to the people that need us. Let’s do something.”

The room went silent for a moment as Doug finished speaking. Someone shuffled their feet. A seagull squawked outside the window. Eventually the silence was broken by a weary sigh from the Chair, who turned to the next person. “And what do you think, Andy?”

I knew right there and then that Doug and I were going to get along.

This morning I read the line in the FAMR review document from the FCA that says “…FCA should consider whether to undertake a review…”. I thought of Doug and imagined his response.