Life is precious and fleeting
If the title for this week's blog sounds a tad lugubrious, then that may be a reflection of our experiences in the WWoR (Wonderful World of Regulation) over the last few weeks. Our own existence, since the beginning of 2018 has been dominated by MiFID II, GDPR and DB Pension regulations. And when I say "dominated", there have been points in time when this has been literally every waking hour - and for good reason: there is a significant onus on firms such as ValidPath to get it right for our Members, not just ourselves. And that includes the all-important decision as to how much we should 'bother' you, and distract you from your legitimate focus on your clients.
But regulation never goes away. It's not like a slightly irritating backseat driver in the car - no, regulation is continually trying to grab the wheel, leading to a neverending sequence of swerves as one proceeds. Sometimes, in one's more maudlin moments, one is tempted to think that this is some special phenomenon, restricted to financial services, but this is not the case. Recently, I was chatting in a social context with a lady who runs a childcare nursery. In the course of conversation, someone mentioned 'GDPR' (it wasn't me, honest!) and she immediately burst into tears. Another (elderly) friend, a trustee of a small charity has actually been losing sleep over the whole thing, and is now being treated for nervous exhaustion. And, I suspect, this is just the tip of a very, very large iceberg.
The problem isn't GDPR per se, but rather the underlying character of modern regulation with its pathology of shoehorning us into 'groups' in order to 'regulate' us cost-effectively, rather than in any way considering us as individuals. It is no surprise that the whole business of acquiescence is termed 'compliance', because it always and inevitably requires the individual to subsume his or her own insights and gifts into a kind of groupthink, imposed from above, usually under some kind of dire threat linked to the kinds of penalty which render dissent an impractical option. Regulation, from this perspective, is a pretty brutal kind of thing - a presumption of your guilt unless you ensure that you fit into someone else's straitjacket. It is, in essence, the complete reverse of what happened with English case-law.
And, as we have seen with MiFID II, this kind of regulated groupthink results in the disenfranchisement of precisely the kinds of customer that one would have thought the regulators would wish to protect. It has been a surprise to learn that the FCA is aware of this, and does not regard it as a problem.
Compliance, therefore, is something that can easily entrap us, thereby preventing us from doing anything worthwhile for our clients in the real world. We need to remain continually vigilant about the very possibility, and I suspect that part of the answer lies in simply continuing to focus on improving our own culture and practices, so that we stay one step ahead at all times. At ValidPath, we're committed to the regulatory heavy-lifting, so our Members can concentrate on the things which matter to them.
Notwithstanding, there has been one very obvious benefit from all this GDPR malarkey - one I suspect you may also have noticed. Over the last few weeks, we've been on the receiving end of thousands of emails from service and product-providers, inviting us in increasingly desperate tones to 'opt-in'. I have used the opportunity to unsuscribe from literally hundreds of marketing databases, where I know I have little interest in their services, and less time for their communications. From now on, I am acting on the understanding that life is precious and fleeting, and so I'm creating a little more space to breath.