The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) today published a Business Plan, outlining certain goals and priorities.
The regulator stressed once again the changes it is making to the financial promotions regime. The FCA has put new procedures in place to fast-track its supervisory and enforcement response to breaches.
“We will proactively monitor firms that repeatedly breach our rules and investigate where breaches indicate more serious issues”, the regulator promises.
The FCA adds that it will shortly consult on proposals to streamline decisions about authorisation and specific supervisory and enforcement actions. The regulator propose to change the balance of decisions taken by the FCA Executive and its Regulatory Decisions Committee.
The FCA comments:
“We expect to intervene in real-time more often to prevent harm to consumers and market integrity, including, if necessary, turning down more applications for authorisation. This will strengthen our regulatory system and, over time, reduce the overall regulatory costs of dealing with firms and individuals that fail to meet our standards”.
In terms of its efforts to tackle investment fraud, the regulator notes that it welcomes the proposal to include investment fraud in the Online Safety Bill. But this should apply to online advertisements as well – the biggest source of consumer fraud – not just user-generated content, the FCA says.
Online platforms, such as search engines and social media platforms, play an increasingly significant role in putting consumers at risk of harm through adverts for financial products. These range from scams and promotions of high-risk investments to false or misleading adverts, which can fall inside or outside the FCA perimeter. Including online advertisements would support the recent change, which means online platforms have to comply with elements of the financial promotion rules.
In July 2020, the Treasury consulted on changes to the regulatory framework for firms approving financial promotions. It proposed a new regulatory gateway, which an authorised firm must first pass through before approving financial promotions for unauthorised persons. Currently, any authorised firm can approve financial promotions for unauthorised persons, even if the product or service is beyond their ordinary sphere of expertise or experience.
In June 2021, the Treasury announced it would bring forward legislation to introduce this new gateway. The FCA will continue to work closely with it and consult on relevant Handbook changes.
Finally, the FCA announces that it is investing more than £120 million over 3 years to deliver a new data strategy. Ultimately, the regulator will automate more of its data collection, better analyse data across systems and act earlier to prevent or stop misconduct, and strengthen its holistic firm assessments.
The FCA aims to review and analyse unstructured data (such as emails, documents and video files) from different sources more efficiently. It will gather publicly available information on firms and products to identify potential risks to consumers, such as financial scams. This includes, for example, using social media monitoring and web scraping to find, and raise awareness about, new types of scams and to inform its consumer campaigns.