Regulation with Rosie: The financial meltdown

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on coping with financial meltdown.

With saturation press coverage of the performance of financial markets over the past month, discussions about the implications of this financial turmoil are as omnipresent as those about rising house prices used to be.

Given this level of media focus, I was surprised to hear about one chief executive of a sizeable charity who left it until last week to call his umbrella body to ask whether now might be a good time to review the charity's investments.

The speed at which developments are happening means trustees really need to keep up to date with events regularly. In terms of compensation, this means checking the Financial Services Compensation Scheme website at www.fscs.org.uk. Our own website has information about both the FSCS scheme and the situation for those with money stuck in Icelandic accounts.

Well-run charities will be reviewing their investments to decide if they are suitable. The options for diversification should be considered as soon as possible: putting all your eggs in one basket is a worse idea now than it has ever been. You should also periodically review your investments; new options are cropping up regularly. As a minimum, we recommend a review at least one a year.

Trustees of charities with funds in Icelandic banks need to ensure they get, and consider, proper advice - unless, of course, the size of available funds is so small that buying advice is not cost-effective.

Many charities will inevitably take serious hits from the current crisis. The steps they can take to mitigate these risks and safeguard investments now will be key.

- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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