FCA staff back Nikhil Rathi in latest staff survey but some feel negatively about changes

A majority of staff at the City’s watchdog feel confident about new boss Nikhil Rathi but some are grappling with job security concerns, alongside worries over ongoing changes at the regulator.

Just over 60% of around 2,800 FCA employees responding to the regulator’s most recent staff survey, seen by Financial News, gave “favourable scores” when questioned about their confidence in the watchdog’s leadership, while 72% of survey participants also gave positive feedback about its culture. Positive responses to both queries had ticked up four percentage points on the previous year’s poll.

But reservations remain — 8% gave “unfavourable scores” when questioned about their job security, and 11% gave negative feedback about “innovation and continuous improvement” within the organisation, according to an FCA report on the survey results seen by FN. The report flagged such responses as among the “least favourable” within the survey as compared to the results of the FCA’s 2020 annual staff survey. 

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In July, FN reported that the FCA’s board had warned the regulator must stay watchful over potential staff departures as Rathi pushed through his bold new programme for change.

Results from the survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and provided to FN via a Freedom of Information Act request, come at a critical juncture in the eight-year history of the UK markets watchdog. Under the leadership of Rathi since October 2020, the FCA is grappling with mounting workloads as Brexit gives more powers to UK regulators. It is also tasked with getting back on track initiatives derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, all while undergoing significant structural change as part of Rathi’s ambitious “transformation programme” for the FCA.

FN reported in June that the FCA had lost 93 of its most senior staff as part of a “voluntary resignation programme”, prompting fears that star workers are fleeing the watchdog just as it battles the twin crises of Brexit and the pandemic. The FCA’s annual report for the year to April 2021, published on 15 July, said the cost of the scheme amounted to more than £7m.

The nine-person board tasked with holding the UK’s financial regulator to account highlighted the “challenge” of implementing Rathi’s plans to reform the watchdog “whilst continuing to foster staff pride, retention of top talent and motivation”.

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The group, which includes former The Co-Operative Bank chief executive officer Liam Coleman and HSBC’s former global head of strategy and planning Bernadette Conroy, “discussed the complexities” of driving forward Rathi’s reform agenda and “the considerable change” it would require within the UK’s top markets watchdog, according to minutes from its latest meeting on 3 June, posted online on 7 July.

Rathi said of his reform plans in November that he wanted to focus on “maximising [the FCA’s] use of data and technology”, making the FCA “more diverse so that we can bring a full range of perspectives and ideas to our work, and using the lessons of this extraordinary year to build on the best elements of our organisational culture”.

The FCA declined to comment. 

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Lucy McNulty

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