Interview: A Year in the Life - Being the FCA Consumer Panel Chair

Interview   –   18 May 2020

Wanda Goldwag is Chair of the FCA’s Consumer Panel, the independent statutory body that influences the way that consumer interest is incorporated in the development and implementation of financial services regulation. One year after her appointment began, Moloney Search dropped by to find out what life is like as Chair of the Panel.

Moloney Search: It has been just over a year since you started your role as Chair. How did you find the Search process that led to the role?

Wanda Goldwag: I thought the process was a particularly good one. It helped that the consultants at Moloney Search were well informed and you could see that they took care to fully understand the FCA and what the role was about, which is not always the case!

MSL: For those who may not know, what does the FCA Consumer Panel do and what is the role of the Chair?

WG: The FCA Consumer Panel is the panel set up by statute that advises the FCA on everything they do from a consumer perspective. The Consumer Panel Chair is the voice of the consumer within the FCA and makes sure that voice is heard at all levels of the FCA.

MSL: Your executive and non-executive leadership experience spans both the public and private sectors. How has this experience impacted the way you approach the role on the Consumer Panel?

WG: I am fortunate that I have an understanding of the similarities and the differences of these two sectors! While the private sector allows for more fluid movement, things often take longer in the public sector. However, this additional time is given to the extra thought, care and justification that is required in the public sector, which I have found particularly useful and important in regulation.

MSL: What were your priorities coming in as Chair and how have they evolved as the year progressed?

WG: I believe that most people working in the financial services industry enter with the intention not to cause harm, as they will have family and friends who are consumers. What goes wrong is that other imperatives are imposed: maximizing profits, keeping shareholders happy etc. This forces the consumer down the list of priorities. My priority was and still is to make sure that the voice of the consumer is heard again and is top of the list of priorities.

MSL: The consumer side of financial services regulation is always a high-profile and emotive subject. As the public face of the Panel, how do you approach this?

WG: Before I joined the FCA, I believed that when consultations were sent out by the FCA, every organisation responded in full. However, I found that the FCA Consumer Panel was the only organisation that has the time and resources to produce the robust responses to these consultations, with other organisations engaged with serving consumers directly, for example through debt advice. As the public face of the Panel, it is important to show that the Consumer Panel maintains its commitment to interrogating the status quo at the FCA, by making sure that the consumer response is taken into account in these discussions.

MSL: The role has quite a large time commitment. Do you have any other roles in your portfolio and if so, how do you balance them with your role as Chair at the Consumer Panel?

WG: I always have three to four roles that I am engaged in, where my primary role is to Chair complex and difficult meetings! The Consumer Panel role is by far the most time consuming and is my main role, however, I balance all of my roles by making sure they are in different sectors so that they don’t overlap. For example, my role on the QC Appointments Panel requires a lot of thought and period of intense work, but the time commitment overall is not heavy, taking up around 20 days per year.

MSL: What was the most valuable thing you have learned in the last year and what are your priorities for the coming year?

WG: The most valuable thing I have learned over the last year is just how complex the world of financial services regulation is. The FCA in particular deals with the most number of products in this space, a lot of them highly complex. In the coming year, which will be a particularly difficult one due to the public health emergency we are experiencing, I hope to help all of us focus on the consumer. This is because when faced with such an extraordinary emergency, decisions tend to be made without thinking about the consumers who will have to deal with the consequences of those decisions.

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