The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out its business priorities for the year ahead – with specific focus on the challenges presented by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
In responding to the challenge of coronavirus the FCA says it will focus on ensuring that financial services businesses give people the support they need, that people avoid scams, and that financial services businesses and markets know what we expect of them.
Alongside HM Treasury and the Bank of England, the FCA has already made a series of interventions at unprecedented speed to protect consumers, firms and the markets.
These have ensured that customers retain access to essential banking services and are able to benefit from flexibility on mortgage and other debt payments.
Throughout the pandemic, the FCA will:
- protect the most vulnerable – ensuring that they can get the financial services and the help they need
- tackle scams – helping consumers avoid the scams that spring up as the pandemic develops
- ensure fair treatment for consumers and small firms – making sure that firms give strong and clear support to customers, recognising challenges that everyone is facing
- keep markets working well – ensuring that markets remain orderly
- mitigate firm failures – mitigating the impact on consumers where firms fail in these challenging circumstances
Looking ahead to the medium term the Business Plan sets out four priority areas where the FCA will address continuing harm.
The FCA aims to ensure that consumers:
- can rely on safe and accessible payments to receive their pay or benefits, settle bills and access cash
- do not get into unaffordable debt and are treated well if they do
- can make effective investment decisions about their savings, and are not exposed to risky or poor value products
- are offered fair value products in a digital age and are not at risk of being treated unfairly in the pricing and other terms they receive
The FCA is also focusing on transforming its operations. This includes looking at its entire system – from the data it collects, to how it analyses, manages and shares intelligence across the organisation, and how it decides which firms and individuals can operate.
It will also look at how firms are supervised, and how unacceptable firms and individuals are stopped and removed from the regulated sector as quickly as possible.
To deliver these outcomes, the FCA will build its capacity by investing in skills, systems, people and technology.
The FCA will review its plans as the implications of coronavirus become clearer and provide updates as appropriate.
Chris Woolard (pictured), FCA interim chief executive, said: “In a matter of weeks, coronavirus has altered the UK’s financial landscape dramatically.
“At times like this it is more important than ever that the FCA leads the way on the protection of consumers, firms and the markets.
“Our Business Plan recognises the impact of coronavirus on the financial services industry, while looking forward at how we transform the FCA’s operations in future.”
David Miller, partner at KPMG, added: “It’s clear the FCA has been very fleet of foot in responding to Covid-19, this plan isn’t a cut and paste of what it would have been working on to date, it’s specific to the new environment firms are operating in. For one thing, its 26 pages represent a notably abridged version of what they would typically release.
“Despite customer treatment being the long-term regulatory priority, COVID-19, and how firms are responding, has heightened this focus. A great many people have been thrown into financial vulnerability, and the risk of fraud has spiked making customer protection more important than ever.
“This response to Covid-19 could prove a useful blue-print for being more proactive, pragmatic, outcome-focused as a regulator; the FCA has clearly streamlined a range of ongoing activity into four key macro priorities. However, a balance will need to be struck between the short term aim of protecting customers and firms versus the more ambitious objectives of transforming its own operations and the regulatory framework.”