Whistleblowing in Financial Services

If you have concerns about a situation or behaviours that are dangerous or illegal and which affect others such as customers, members of the public, or even your organisation, you should raise these.

It is common to feel uncertain about speaking out, however it is still best to discuss your concerns with someone and your organisation should have a policy in place to help you do so safely. Speaking out internally should be supported by your organisation and every financial service firm is required by the regulator to have a senior manager that champions whistleblowing.

However, if you feel that these avenues are not appropriate then you can raise your concern directly with the FCA https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/whistleblowing.

Before taking your next steps, you may wish to consider the following:

 

What is considered to be Whistleblowing in Financial Services?

When someone blows the whistle they are raising a concern about danger or illegality that affects others (e.g. customers, members of the public, or their employer). The person blowing the whistle is usually not directly, personally affected by the danger or illegality.

Consequently, the whistleblower rarely has a personal interest in the outcome of any investigation into their concern - they are simply trying to alert others. For this reason, the whistleblower should not be expected to prove the malpractice. He or she is a messenger raising a concern so that others can address it.

This is very different from a complaint. When someone complains, they are saying that they have personally been poorly treated. This poor treatment could involve a breach of their individual employment rights and the complainant is seeking redress or justice for themselves. The person making the complaint therefore has a vested interest in the outcome of the complaint and, for this reason, is expected to be able to prove their case.

For these reasons, it is not in anyone's interests if an organisation's whistleblowing policy is used to pursue a personal grievance. Most organisations have a grievance or complaints procedure and this will be more appropriate for making a complaint.

Within The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) qualifying disclosures are disclosures of information where the worker reasonably believes (and it is in the public interest) that one or more of the following matters is either happening, has taken place, or is likely to happen in the future:

  • A criminal offence
  • The breach of a legal obligation
  • A miscarriage of justice
  • A danger to the health and safety of any individual
  • Damage to the environment
  • Deliberate attempt to conceal any of the above.

 

What can you do if you see a whistleblowing situation?

While every situation is different, and so it is sensible to seek advice before blowing the whistle. It is always best to try to resolve this informally in the first instance with your line manager. There are some general points to keep in mind when raising a concern:

  • Remember that you are a witness, and not a complainant (see above)
  • Consider do you want to raise this complaint anonymously, or in person. Think about the risks and outcomes before you act
  • Let the facts speak for themselves - don't make ill-considered allegations
  • Remember that you may be mistaken or that there may be an innocent or good explanation
  • Do not become a private detective
  • Recognise that you may not be thanked.

You will have an internal policy that outlines how to raise concerns including contacting a senior manager who will be the whistleblowers’ champion. Financial services companies must now produce annual reports on whistleblowing and update contracts and training to reflect their internal policies.

If you feel that these avenues are not appropriate then you can raise your concern directly with the FCA https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/whistleblowing

Protection for whistleblowers will extend to anyone who raises concerns with the regulator, even if the concerns are not about a suspected breach of the rules.

 

Further information

The source material used to compile the above overview and further information on this topic can be found at:

Protect https://protect-advice.org.uk/advice-line/

Financial Conduct Authority https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/whistleblowing



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