Pay the regulator a site visit soon

Familiarise yourself with the complicated layout and menus of the FSA website early on and you could save yourself time and frustration in the long run, says Bill Warren

Given the daily stresses and strains of working compliantly within the Financial Services Authority’s rules, many readers would probably prefer to surf any website other than www.fsa.gov.org.

But a familiarisation journey around the FSA’s website will help you access useful, interesting and important information more easily in future and save you time in the long run.

One good reason to familiarise yourself with the layout is that the search facility can often produce a list of results that is rather confusing with summaries that make little sense, and some of the click-through references take you to long documents or chunks of the Handbook you then have to plough through to find the precise piece of information you are seeking.

A problem with accessing information from websites is that they tend to be built by people who like nesting information progressively through headings and sub- headings like a set of Russian dolls, with each piece of information hidden until you open the one before. It is thus impossible to scan the whole thing quickly to find what you want.

This is as true of the FSA website as it is of so many others, so familiarity with its structure will pay dividends in terms of finding what you want quickly in future.

This week I am covering the first three sections which are – About the FSA, Doing business with the FSA and the FSA Library.

The About the FSA section has a straightforward menu down the left containing all the ‘who we are and what we do’ information you might need. The sub-heading, FSA Publications, only contains access to three high level FSA publications and it’s the Media Centre section that holds the most interesting information. This is not necessarily only for journalists.

Here, the Russian doll effect of topics within topics is in full evidence. While the homepage of the media section shows the expected list of recent press releases, the side menu offers more choices including topics of interest, briefing notes, facts and figures, and press office.

If you open the first of these you find the Financial Risk Outlook on the page with more options down the side. These include Financial Capability and Reform (meaning depolarisation, although it doesn’t say this on the menu). Thankfully this layer is the end of the chain. If you have a liking for tabloid newspaper-style naming and shaming, I recommend you go into Facts and Figures and bring up the fines list where all the fines that make up the 43.75m levied so far are listed in order of size. Not too many mortgage-related ones yet. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Under the Doing business with the FSA section, two out of the eight menu options are worthy of mention. The Being regulated sub-section contains information on such vital topics such as paying fees, reporting requirements, financial promotions, Treating Customers Fairly, and more. Not only do these appear on the side menu, they are all listed on the main body of the page, with a short clear sub-heading and a click-through facility to access more detailed information. If this approach were to be adopted throughout the site, it would be a joy to use it.

The other useful sub-head in this section is the small firms zone that offers a click-through to mortgages under which can be found a wealth of useful information for smaller mortgage companies. This includes recent relevant press releases, a boxed list of current priorities and a reminder to take a look at the tailored handbooks section. An FAQ section also contains a lot of information but if the person in charge of the FSA website happens to be reading this I suggest extending this section to include more pieces of essential information should be made a priority as it is far from comprehensive as yet.

Finally, the FSA Library section contains a full record of FSA publications and it’s worth browsing it to see what sort of information is included under each menu heading. These include policy documents, communications documents – such as newsletters, Dear CEO letters, speeches and statements – and other publications too numerous to list here. Next week it’s the turn of the other three sections, which are FSA Handbook, FSA Register and Consumer information.