New financial year, new ways of working

14 April 2020, Jo Prowse, PSA Chief Executive

At this time of year, I usually blog about our new business plan priorities for the new financial year but, after four weeks working remotely, I thought it would be a good time to update you personally on our recent activity.

Working remotely
Our first priority has been to ensure all our core regulatory activities continue to operate effectively. I’m pleased to say that the team have adapted well to all working from home, with all functions up and running quickly. The contact team are fully operational, taking calls and handling web enquiries. We saw an immediate fall in the number of calls to us and web enquiries as the new social distancing measures came into effect.  We will be seeking to understand whether this reflects a change in consumer behaviour as people adapt to current circumstances, or whether there are other factors in play – we look forward to discussing this at the next [virtual] ILP meeting in May.

We have spoken to a number of you about how you are adapting to the changes in circumstance. Our new approach to stakeholders is helping us understand the challenges you face and how we can support you to deliver good, compliant services that consumers want. The compliance advice and industry support service is there to provide free assistance to help you meet your regulatory requirements. 

Code compliance is as important as ever despite this challenging environment. Our monitoring and investigations and enforcement teams are operating as normal, scanning the market, assessing issues and investigating potential Code breaches. The Code Adjudication Panel has continued to sit, albeit virtually, with the remote process now running smoothly, including informal (oral) representations. We understand that engaging with an investigation or Tribunal may be challenging at this time and we will look to be as flexible as possible with those who approach the process constructively.

Upcoming priorities
In late March, we published our decision to reduce the amount of regulatory change in this uncertain period. We are very conscious that many companies need to focus on delivering for consumers and may not have the time to engage in policy development or implementing changes to regulation. Therefore, we have suspended our refunds guidance statement and put on hold our planned consultation on new due diligence, risk assessment and control guidance. 

Our policy focus is now developing Code 15 and other emerging issues. Your input is essential to Code 15. We have already held five Code webinars – the team will be blogging on this soon – and have further virtual workshops planned. We have extended the Code 15 review programme by three months meaning the deadline for the Code discussion document is now early July, to allow you ample time to respond should you wish to.  Even if you are not able to contribute at this time our stakeholder engagement continues and there will be further opportunities to respond when we  issue the formal consultation on a new Code which we plan to do in early 2021. 

The business plan sets out our other FY 2020/21 priorities in more detail, including managing the implementation of policy changes from last financial year, prioritising our enforcement work and ensuring our support functions are first rate. Clearly, we will keep this under review as the current situation unfolds will keep you updated if we have to make any further changes.

Finally, looking forward to the time, whenever that may be, when we can get back to Canary Wharf, we are learning from the experience of having to run the organisation remotely. For all the challenges we are facing we are trying to take positive lessons which we hope to apply when we get back – such as taking better advantage of technology to engage with you.

Stay safe,
Jo