Regulatory Round Up: September 2023
The first full month of the Consumer Duty is now under our belts, and as firms across the industry continue to flesh out the early building blocks, we are starting to learn how the Financial Conduct Authority will be threading the Duty through their research and supervisory activities.
The FCA noted that they were investigating the fair value assessments of nine lenders, following concerns that not all savers are getting good deals. The firms have been asked to provide assessments of the value their savings product offers, and the FCA plans to publish an update later on in autumn. The update could include any steps the regulator plans to take, either with the affected firms, the sector, or issuing broader guidance.
The FCA’s consultation on financial promotions closed this week. The Guidance Consultation is designed for both consumers and authorised firms communicating or approving promotions on social media. The previous guidance was published in 2015. Acknowledging the changes in how social media is used to promote financial products, the new guidance takes into account the part played by influencers and streamers, and new platforms and channels such as Threads and Discord.
The guidance also covers the increasing use of social media by young consumers looking to invest and the influence that social media has in driving that behaviour. It also clarifies the FCA’s expectations under the Consumer Duty, requiring a consideration of whether the material would remain fair, clear and not misleading even if it was to end up in front of a non-intended recipient.
Supporting vulnerable customers
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has awarded three UK banks its ‘Advanced’ rating through its ‘Mental Health Accessible’ programme for banks and essential services. These are the first firms to achieve the Advanced rating, which is awarded in recognition of the measures taken by essential services providers to support their customers with mental health problems.
The programme was established on the back of research that found that people with mental health problems face serious barriers to carrying out essential financial admin. These include difficulties using the phone, problems with concentration and ‘admin anxiety’, which, when unsupported, can prevent people from engaging at all.
Although the programme is open only to essential services providers, reviewing the best practice used by these providers is a great way to assess whether improvements could be made in current practice. These include:
Using data-driven insights to identify and anticipate the needs of vulnerable customers
Providing holistic training to frontline colleagues dealing with customers in vulnerable circumstances, to help them identify and support those customers
Increasing the sophistication of gambling blocks.
FCA Reviews treatment of PEPs
The FCA has published the issues it will consider as part of its review. Law changes are not within the FCA’s remit, however the review will look at how firms are applying the definition of PEPs to individuals, conducting risk assessments and applying enhanced due diligence in practice. The review, which will also look at rejections, communications and controls, will be reported on by the end of June 2024. If any deficiencies are identified, then the FCA would look to take immediate action.
In a speech made on 6 September, Sarah Pritchard, Executive Director of Markets and Executive Director of International at the FCA reminded firms that domestic Politically Exposed Persons should “generally be treated as a lower risk” and that the FCA would act immediately if they see firms persistently acting disproportionately.
Keeping your firm’s details up to date
The annual reminder that firms must ensure that the regulators have the correct information for them by checking, amending and confirming their details at least annually. Checks and changes can be made by the FCA’s Connect system.
A reminder that some of the information will be published on the Financial Services Register.
ICO Guidance on sending bulk communications by email
The ICO published a warning to firms to use alternatives to the BCC email function when sending emails containing sensitive personal information.
The Director of Regulatory Cyber noted that a failure to use BCC correctly is one of the top breaches reported to the ICO every year and is not enough on its own to properly protect people’s personal information.
The ICO is asking firms to assess the information and the potential security risks; if sensitive personal information is being sent electronically, then bulk email services, mail merge or secure data transfer services are useful alternatives.
The full email and security guidance is available here.
Customer contact staff are a firm’s front line in supporting vulnerable customers, and it is vital that they understand how to identify when a customer may be vulnerable. We offer a dedicated online training course on the Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers.
Priced at just £20 per user, the course is accessible at the delegate’s convenience and provides a certificate upon successful completion, allowing firms to track and record each user’s progress.
For large groups, we can offer a simplified enrolment service and pricing, simply email Robert.email@example.com.