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February 24, 2022

FLA: Expect UK regulatory environment to continue to ramp up this year and beyond

Trade body to launch FLA ESG Awards

Rebecca McNeil, Chair of the FLA, addressed 1,300 members and guests attending the trade body’s annual dinner at Grosvenor House, London, W1K 7TN, on 22 February 2022. Below is what she had to say:

It’s wonderful to be face to face and to return to this great venue, and to see such a fantastic turnout to support and celebrate our industry.

Thank you so much to Solifi, our headline sponsor, for helping to make this happen.

It’s been a busy year for FLA, members across asset, consumer, and motor finance, with our members providing £132 billion of new business in 2021 – 15% higher than in 2020, with £20 billion of this going to support SMEs.

We’ve managed to achieve this during a period of significant change in our economy and regulatory environment, which will only continue to ramp up this year and beyond.

For example, the introduction of the FCA’s new Consumer Duty is intended to bring a higher level of consumer protection across retail financial services. It will have implications across the board from product development, to distribution, price, all elements of customer experience, and to senior manager oversight. This is a huge agenda item, and one which the FLA is working on closely with members. 

And of course, alongside this, reform of the Consumer Credit Act remains a priority for the FLA. In the opening months of the Covid crisis when members were working flat out to provide prompt forbearance to 1.8 million customers, the CCA proved a constant barrier with its cumbersome 1970s requirements it reflects a period when process was deemed more important than customer, which is not acceptable.

We’ve repeatedly recommended complete reform of the CCA, and while Government recognise the need, they’ve had to prioritise other tasks. We hope this will change in the near future and will continue to champion its reform.

A further lesson learnt during the pandemic is that a bank-centric approach to liquidity relief during a crisis will not ensure that funding continues to flow to all corners of the economy. We’re therefore continuing our call for an Independent Liquidity Funding Scheme for independent business and consumer lenders. Conversations between Treasury and the Bank of England are ongoing about how the mechanics of the scheme would work.

We’ve also worked closely with the British Business Bank throughout the year and were particularly pleased to see that the Recovery Loan Scheme was extended as we recommended. We’re now discussing a successor scheme with the British Business Bank and Treasury and drawing up proposals for how that scheme should work.

Along with regulation, our physical landscape is changing rapidly too, as witnessed by those of us caught up in last weeks’ storms. With members’ help, the FLA has made a compelling case to Government for a Green Finance Wholesale Guarantee, addressing elevated residual value risk attached to many green goods. If lenders are left to cover the entirety of that risk in the short term, the finance offered will inevitably be more expensive than that offered for established, but less green, options. This means many will delay their green purchase for some time – and time is a luxury we do not have if the Net Zero targets are to be met.

Supply issues are already complicating what is in effect a very compressed timeframe. We’re at the start of 2022, and one of the first big targets – the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – comes into force in 2030. To achieve a smooth transition and avoid market shocks, we need to be getting increasing numbers of people into electric vehicles during each of the next 8 years, and that means having competitively priced finance available for customers. We look forward to seeing what’s included in the Government’s Green Finance Strategy that’s due to be published this year.

To reinforce our focus here, I’m delighted to tell you that we are launching the FLA ESG Awards to recognise the contribution that members make to the environment, society, and good governance. The awards will be independently assessed, and we’re very pleased that Philippa Foster Back CBE has agreed to chair the process. The initial focus this year will be net-zero and the environment, and the winners will be announced at the next annual dinner. Full details will be published soon.

Continuing on a theme, I’m delighted to introduce our new charity. The Marine Conservation Society is the leading UK charity fighting for a cleaner, better-protected, healthier ocean: one we can all enjoy. Our oceans cover over 70% of our planet, provide more than half of the oxygen we breathe, and absorb nearly a third of our carbon emissions.

But today, it is in crisis. Every year, between 8 and 13 million tonnes of plastic enters our oceans. From cleaning beaches to working with the business community and shaping government policies, the Marine Conservation society is working to ensure that the oceans can play a vital role in helping us fight climate change and support life. You can donate by visiting their website.

It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Linda Charles Richards and the team for organising tonight’s event, and to all of you for coming along, thank you.

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