Deloitte Insight: New FCA three-year strategy and business plan for 2022/23
- Date: 12th April 2022
- Written By: Deloitte EMEA Centre for Regulatory Strategy
- Category: Insights
Recently published insights from Deloitte's EMEA Centre for Regulatory Strategy Overview: The FCA recently published its new three-year strategy and Business Plan for 2022/23. While there is little new in terms of specific regulatory and supervisory initiatives, what is substantively new is the FCA's shift to an outcomes-based strategy and the adoption of a lengthy set of detailed metrics to measure its own performance against it. These metrics will create incentives that will influence how the FCA behaves. Consequently, Boards and senior management will want to engage with the strategy and the choice of metrics to understand the FCA's priorities and how it will measure progress against them. The FCA and industry will need to be alert to any unintended consequences.... For more insight from Deloitte's industry experts, click here . Read the 2022-2025 FCA Strategy document here .
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FCA Business Plan 2020/21: a focus on COVID-19 and five new priorities for the years ahead
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The FCA recently published its 2020/21 Business Plan . This article summarises the key messages for firms with an emphasis upon novel elements within the FCA’s plans and priorities over the next three years, including planned cross sector and sector specific work.
What’s new? Key messages for firms
In many respects, this year’s FCA Business Plan differs significantly from previous years . There is an immediate focus on the work the FCA is doing on the effect COVID-19 is having on financial markets, firms and consumers. More broadly, the FCA says that it wants to focus its resources more heavily on areas of greatest potential harm and on transforming its own ways of working. As such, there is a new and shorter list of five medium term priorities , compared to last year’s focus on eight cross-sector themes:
- that consumers can rely on safe and accessible payments
- that consumers can make effective investment decisions
- that credit markets work well for consumers
- that consumers are offered fair value in a digital age
- transforming how the FCA works and regulates
Significantly, the FCA also says that it may need to make further changes to its plans due to COVID-19 and that it will publish an update to its Business Plan should it need to do so.
More detail on each of the FCA’s five medium term priorities and a summary of the FCA’s cross-sector and sector specific work can be found below.
The joint CEO and Chairman’s introduction highlights the “ profound ” and lasting effects that COVID-19 will have on the UK and global financial markets and the ongoing importance of the FCA’s objectives in the light of this. It stresses that the FCA has taken rapid action to address the immediate shocks associated with the virus, and that while it will also need to make longer term adjustments, it will focus on ensuring that financial services firms give people the support they need, that consumers do not fall for scams, and that financial service businesses and markets know what is expected of them.
The FCA notes that COVID-19 “ has made planning ahead much harder ”. As such, where it can continue to take forward work without diluting its focus on responding to COVID-19 it will do so, but it may be many months before it can focus fully on the other priorities in its plan. Accordingly, firms should, in the immediate future, expect continued and intense focus on how they are responding to COVID-19, and on their ability to operate effectively and serve and support consumers and the market.
The FCA says it will “ do all we can to support firms who are doing the right thing for consumers and markets ” but that it remains vigilant to potential misconduct and those who see this as an “ an opportunity for poor behaviour- including market abuse, capitalising on investors’ concerns or reneging on commitments to customers. ”
Understandably, COVID-19 is now dominating the FCA’s agenda, in much the same way that Brexit did in last year’s Business Plan. Consequently, there is a comparatively reduced emphasis on Brexit within this year’s plan. The Chair and CEO note that the FCA still has an important role to play in managing the risks associated with the end of the transition period. However, whereas last year EU Withdrawal was positioned as “ the most significant change affecting financial services markets ” and the FCA’s “ immediate priority ”, this year it has not been identified as one of the FCA’s medium term priorities.
In their introduction, the Chair and CEO note that the current regulatory framework is “t oo focused on rules and processes and not enough on principles and outcomes ” and that the FCA sees “ far too many resources devoted to redress and remediation, and not enough to empowering consumers to take good decisions and regulatory action to prevent harm […]”.
The FCA says it wants firms to have a greater focus on the end outcomes for consumers and markets when designing and delivering their products and services. In line with this, it has articulated the key outcomes it wants to achieve across its medium-term priorities and sector specific work. For example, as part of its work to ensure that consumer credit markets work well, the FCA intends to deliver four outcomes, including that “ consumers do not become over-indebted by being given credit they cannot afford ”. Whilst the FCA does not state explicitly that it will supervise firms against these outcomes, it says it will monitor the extent to which firms take into account outcomes for end users when they design and deliver services. Firms should, accordingly, pay close attention to the outcomes articulated by the FCA throughout the Business Plan as we foresee that they may become the “yardstick” against which firms, and their actions, are measured .
Supervisory focus on small firms
Over the coming year, the FCA intends to shift its supervisory focus towards small firms, and, in particular, those firms that consistently fail to meet its required standards. The FCA is clear that it will “ move more swiftly ” to enforcement action against those firms that cause harm.
A continued focus on vulnerability and value for money
The importance of protecting vulnerable consumers and prioritising any actual or potential harm to them is a thread that runs throughout the Business Plan. Firms should expect to receive continued scrutiny on what they are doing to identify and deliver good outcomes for their vulnerable consumers, with the FCA’s draft guidance making clear the regulator’s expectations of firms.
While not a specific theme or priority, a focus on the vulnerable is a major part of the FCA’s response to COVID-19, as it is in its prioritising of the consumer credit market, which it notes a disproportionate number of vulnerable consumers rely on. It is also a part of their fair value in a digital age priority, with the FCA noting that vulnerable consumers are more likely to be amongst the “digitally disenfranchised.”
This last priority also reemphasises the FCA’s growing interest in the value for money firms provide. So far the FCA’s work has tended to focus on the value provided by a number of traditional retail financial products such as general insurance, cash savings and mortgages. However, the FCA makes clear that its attention is now shifting onto how digitisation and big data are affecting the value that consumers receive.
The FCA’s key priorities over the next 1-3 years
Transforming how the FCA works and regulates: The FCA says that it wants to make faster and more effective decisions. It will invest in growing its capabilities as the regulatory landscape becomes more complex and the number of firms it regulates increases. It will operate in a more integrated way, moving towards a “one FCA” approach.
The FCA will also seek to focus its regulation on prioritising the end outcomes for consumers, firms and markets. This will be reflected in the way it plans, prioritises, measures and reports on its work.
The FCA wants to take a more joined up approach to the data and intelligence it receives, improving the quality of the data it gets, whilst minimising the burden on firms. It will streamline its data and regulatory reporting requirements through Digital Regulatory Reporting and will work closely with other regulators to avoid duplication of data requests.
The FCA also says that it will focus on building stronger links with global partners and regulators to ensure it can respond effectively to the challenges it will face in a post-EU withdrawal, tech-enabled world.
Enabling effective consumer investment decisions: at present, the FCA sees a significant risk of harm to consumers in retail investments and pensions markets.
The FCA wants to ensure that consumers are not invested in inappropriate high risk products which may expose them to losses they are unable to absorb. It also thinks that the investment distribution process does not currently work well enough for consumers, and wants consumers to have access to high quality advice and support and to be aware of how to protect themselves against scams and fraud.
The FCA also wants to ensure firms have high standards of governance and strong grips over the networks of individuals in their distribution chains.
Ensuring consumer credit markets work well: The FCA notes that a well-functioning consumer credit market is of particular importance to vulnerable consumers, and that the economic impact of COVID-19 may well lead to an increased reliance on this market.
The FCA wants a credit market in which consumers can easily identify the products most suitable for their needs, where consumers do not become over indebted allowing firms to benefit from exploitative fees and charges, and where consumers can access fair and affordable credit to help smooth expenditure and afford essential products they might be otherwise unable to buy.
It wants firms to identify at an early stage those consumers most at risk of falling into financial difficulty and to exercise suitable forbearance, and for consumers to be made aware of and to engage with debt advice before their financial problems get too severe.
Making payments safe and accessible: The payments sector is growing and evolving rapidly, with an increasing number of firms, products and new third party providers entering the market.
The FCA wants payment firms to handle data correctly and safely and to minimise the impact of fraud and operational outages. Consequently, it will increase its focus on firms’ systems and controls.
The FCA expects open banking to boost competition and wants firms to deliver and compete on offering high quality, fair value products to consumers whilst also safeguarding their funds.
It also wants to ensure consumers can maintain access to cash, and that certain groups of consumers and SMEs are not excluded due to market developments and can make payments through their preferred method.
Delivering fair value in a digital age: The FCA’s recent work into the pricing practices of the general insurance, cash savings and mortgage markets has led it to the view that these markets often fail to deliver fair value for consumers, many of whom pay a “loyalty penalty”. The FCA wants to protect these consumers, especially those who are vulnerable.
The FCA wants consumers to be able to access, assess and act on available information to make informed buying decisions. They should be confident they are getting appropriate quality and service for the price they pay, and have the information to assess this.
The FCA wants digital innovation and competition to deliver better value for consumers and to ensure that its regulatory framework helps to deliver this. It will scrutinise firms’ use of data and algorithms to ensure they are pricing fairly and have adequate controls to prevent undue bias or discrimination.
It also commits to ensuring vulnerable consumers are not exploited or targeted with poor value products and says that firms should have “robust policies” on fair value for vulnerable consumers. Its proposed guidance for firms on vulnerable consumers makes clear its expectations for firms.
The FCA’s cross-sector and sector specific work
On EU withdrawal and wider international work, the FCA has said that it will:
- Continue to work with European and global stakeholders, in areas such as conduct, market integrity, and operational resilience.
- Provide the UK government technical support in negotiating its future relationship with the EU and other jurisdictions.
- Take steps to prepare for the end of the transition period, including preparing the temporary permissions regime for EEA-based firms and funds passporting into the UK.
The FCA will continue to help the financial sector adapt to manage the physical and transition risks from climate change. This will include:
- Assessing the feedback to its recent consultation on new climate-related disclosure rules for some issuers. The consultation period has been extended and is now open until 1 October 2020.
- Policy research to better understand how retail investment products are designed, the accuracy of disclosure, and whether this enables consumers to make effective decisions on “green products”.
- Co-hosting the Climate Financial Risk Forum with the PRA.
The FCA’s innovation and technology priority will include:
- Investing in new technologies and skills so that it can make better use of data to regulate efficiently and effectively.
- Deepen its engagement with industry and society on artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning, and focus on how to enable safe, appropriate and ethical use of new technologies.
- Strengthen its rules to prevent money laundering.
- Work with national and international stakeholders on a joined-up approach to cryptoassets.
- Replacing the Gabriel system with a new platform for collecting firms’ data, and more broadly continue work on Digital Regulatory Reporting.
- Explore if and how to expand the sandbox services, particularly for RegTech.
On the operational resilience framework, alongside publishing final rules after the consultation period ends on 1 October 2020, the FCA will be evaluating firms’ contingency plans. It expects these to be able to deal with major events, and to be tested.
On financial crime , the FCA plans to:
- Make greater use of data to identify firms or areas that are potentially vulnerable, and ensuring that firms meet requirements to have effective systems and controls to detect, disrupt and reduce the risk of financial crime.
- Consult on extending the Financial Crime Data Return to more firms.
- Test how well professional body supervisors in the legal and accountancy sectors have embedded AML strategies.
On culture in financial services, the FCA expects to see all solo-regulated firms comply with their SM&CR obligations as they fall due. It will also continue to focus on what it sees as the four key culture drivers in firms – purpose, leadership, approach to rewarding and managing people, and governance.
Wholesale financial markets work includes:
- Ensuring an orderly transition from LIBOR.
- Ensuring there are clean markets that make it difficult to commit market abuse and financial crime.
- Ensuring wholesale markets deliver a range of good value, high-quality products and services to market participants.
- Publishing a feedback statement following the call for input on how wholesale financial participants are accessing and using market data and advanced analytics.
- Ensuring markets remain orderly in a range of market conditions.
- Introducing a more risk-sensitive prudential regime for investment firms in 2021.
Investment management work includes :
- Ensuring investors get high-quality, fair value, products and services.
- Exploring further what effective disclosure looks like in supporting consumer investment decisions, as part of the follow-up to the 2017 asset management market study.
- Continuing to prioritise effective governance and expecting firms to implement the SM&CR properly.
- Evaluating how “host” Authorised Corporate Director (ACD) firms discharge their responsibilities.
- Continuing to assess asset managers’ exposure to LIBOR risk, including conduct risks.
Retail Banking work and priorities include:
- Ensuring SMEs and consumers can continue to access cash, by building on the government’s legislation and through further work in this area.
- Ensuring the sector is operationally resilient and supplies important products and services with minimal disruption to consumers and markets.
- Minimising financial crime, including fraud, through firms making sustainable improvement in their systems and controls so that they can spot, disrupt and stop these activities.
- Ensuring customers have the appropriate services during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Continuing to work on the cash savings remedies, and publishing a policy statement on the Single Easy Access Rate.
General Insurance and protection (GI&P) work and priorities include:
- Ensuring customers take out GI&P products and services that are suitable for their needs and deliver on their promises at the time of claim.
- Continuing to assess how firms are applying the FCA’s work on value measures, renewals and switching.
- Ensuring that customers are not unfairly excluded from GI&P products and services, particularly in light of increasing use of data algorithms, which can automatically discriminate against consumers with protected characteristics.
- Ensuring firms consider the needs of vulnerable consumers and signpost them to specialist providers in the travel insurance market where their needs are too complex for firms to meet.
- Publishing further work on the General Insurance Pricing Practices market study.
- Following its work on General Insurance Distribution Chains including its finalised guidance, the FCA wants to see efficient value chains that ensure the product gives consumers the intended value.
- Ensuring the sector is operationally resilient and supplies important products and services with minimal disruption to customers and markets.
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- Takeaways from the FCAs Business Plan
Key takeaways from the FCA's Business Plan for 2023/24
FCA activity shows no sign of slowing down as the regulator revealed its Business Plan for 2023/24.
Building upon the FCA's three-year strategy, the 2023/24 Business Plan represents the 'sophomore' business plan outlining how the overall strategy will be delivered. It sets out the regulator's response to a number of current challenges including the uncertainties arising out of high interest rates, inflation, unemployment, declines in incomes and market volatility.
The Business Plan for this year has been slightly re-structured to more closely align with the strategic themes and outlines a total of 13 regulatory commitments across three focus areas, which are:
- Reducing and preventing serious harm
- Setting and testing higher standards
- Promoting competition and positive change
The 13 commitments under the 2023/24 Business Plan are set out below, with the first four commitments being of the greatest priority:
- Preparing financial services for the future
- Putting consumers’ needs first
- Reducing and preventing financial crime
- Strengthening the UK’s position in global wholesale markets
- Dealing with problem firms
- Improving the redress framework
- Reducing harm from firm failure
- Improving oversight of Appointed Representatives
- Delivering assertive action on market abuse
- Enabling consumers to help themselves
- Minimising the impact of operational disruptions
- A strategy for positive change: our environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities
- Shaping digital markets to achieve good outcomes
This article provides a brief summary on some key takeaways from the regulator's Business Plan for the year to come.
Predictably, the FCA said it remains strongly focused on the Consumer Duty, which is due to come into force on 31 July 2023, specifically for those with live products and services. The regulator has stressed that increased consumer protection and the Consumer Duty will represent a significant shift for regulated firms. The Duty imposes more stringent standards for consumer protection and will become an integral part of the regulator's approach and mindset in years to come.
The FCA will invest £5.3 million to ensure the Consumer Duty is successfully embedded and intends to steadily increase its headcount to accompany the transition. Key information was provided about the metrics and KPIs that will be used from sources such as levels and root causes of Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) complaints, to form a view as to whether firms are meeting the requirements under the Consumer Duty in the two outcomes relating to Consumer Understanding and Consumer Support.
The FCA is also focused on improving the redress framework and is developing proposals to improve complaints reporting. The regulator will be consulting on guidance for firms regarding redress calculations and is currently consulting on access to the FOS for small and medium enterprises that may have insufficient resources to resolve disputes through the legal system.
Oversight of Appointed Representatives ("AR")
The FCA is set to continue with its action to tighten supervision in the principal/AR space. The Business Plan confirms that there will be further engagement and scrutiny in this area from a regulatory perspective. The FCA criticised Principals for not adequately overseeing their ARs' activities, thereby putting consumers at an increased risk of being misled. Principals will have to become familiar with the FCA's new rules and guidance to ensure compliance and minimise the risks associated with their ARs' possible mis-selling to consumers. Reporting for principal firms under the new rules becomes fully effective later this year.
Financial Crime & Market Abuse
Consistent with previous year, the FCA has stated its intention to further its work in the prevention of regulated firm's being used to facilitate financial crime and it is developing metrics in this area to test the effectiveness of its strategy.
Further, the FCA continues to actively target entities who become involved in Market Abuse practices to tackle the detrimental effect these have on market confidence and participation.
The regulator is pinning its strategy on better education for its regulated entities to foster prevention and compliance. In parallel, the regulator is working to improve its detection and prosecution capabilities to detect market manipulation and abuse through increased data capture, improved analytics and a dedicated "equity manipulation team".
Persons Discharging Management Responsibility (PDMR) will also be expected to provide additional transparency and engagement in respect of detecting potential insider dealing.
The FCA is building a regulatory framework to support its ambition to foster a UK net-zero financial centre. The regulator intends to tighten its grip on mis-leading marketing and disclosure around ESG related product and "greenwashing" to protect consumers and promote trust in the market for ESG investment products.
The FCA will further collaborate with key stakeholders in the ESG sphere through its ESG Advisory Committee to the Board, which it established in December 2022, to execute its ESG responsibilities. The regulator will also finalise and publish its rules on Sustainability Disclosure Requirements and investment labels.
Data and Technology
The FCA will increasingly rely on Data and Technology-led regulation programmes this year to improve their intelligence capabilities through automation of analytics tooling, detection of crime and faster responses to consumer harms. The regulator has also invested in cyber security and operational resilience to improve efficiency of its staff and regulated firms.
We can expect that the FCA will continue to promote innovation and that reporting expected by firms will become more sophisticated, to improve their existing detection capabilities and promote speed and efficiency of supervision and intervention.
Financial Regulatory Framework
Finally, the FCA expects to invest £12.7 million in 2023/24 to support its "Preparing financial services for the future" strategic commitment. This forms part of the post-Brexit Future Regulatory Framework (FRF), which will transfer even more responsibilities to the FCA and will reinforce accountability, scrutiny and transparency for regulated entities.
The Business Plan as pledged to further work that has been ongoing for a number of years in respect of the Financial Promotions Gateway, ensuring the ongoing resilience of firms from both a financial and operational perspective and how it will continued to share intelligence with other agencies to advance its operational objectives. Closer scrutiny of how firms meet the Threshold Conditions was also widely restated across the business plan, with the FCA planning to challenge firms at each stage of their lifecycle, starting from new firm authorisations.
The FCA's activity is showing no signs of slowdown. To the contrary, during 2022 the FCA issued over 1,800 warnings about potential scam firms, which is 400 more warnings than the previous year. The regulator's headcount has also grown from 3,800 in early 2022 to almost 4,500 at the end of March 2023. Numbers are expected to grow again for the years 2023/24. DWF have a depth of expert insight on regulatory natters across a range of regulatory topics and would be pleased to discuss with you what the business plan means of your firm and how it should be integrated into your business and compliance strategy this year.
Partner and Head of Regulatory Consulting
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Partner // Head of Financial Services Regulatory Investigations
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FCA’s Strategy and Business Plan 2022/23 FCA’s Strategy and Business Plan 2022/23 FCA’s Strategy and Business Plan 2022/23
A summary of the FCA’s new look three year strategy and associated business plan for 2022/23.
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- FCA’s Strategy and Business Plan 2022/23
The FCA has published its 2022/23 business plan and strategy . The new three-year strategy and annual plan are designed to help firms understand the areas of focus for the regulator, the risks and harms it is concerned about and its upcoming work plan.
Despite it being only nine months since the FCA published its three-year strategy in July 2021, the FCA has fundamentally revisited its approach and the associated business plan. It has taken a more holistic and outcomes-focused approach than has been seen previously — the strategy and plan feel very different to what has gone before.
However, close inspection of the details reveals that they are closer to a repackaging of existing commitments rather than a seismic shift or change of focus. The key step change is the degree of accountability and the granularity of the metrics that the FCA will use to measure its progress. The strategy will now be fixed for the next three years to enable the FCA to assess how well it is performing against its areas of strategic focus.
Within its new strategy, the FCA has set out:
- Three areas of focus (reducing and preventing serious harm, setting and testing higher standards and promoting competition and positive change).
- Four consistent topline or overarching outcomes, fair value, confidence, access, and suitability & treatment. The first three apply to both wholesale and retail, whilst the last only applies to retail.
- Thirteen commitments which will drive specific regulatory activity over the next three years. The specific activities that the FCA intends to perform this year to deliver these commitments are captured in the Business Plan.
Additionally, the FCA provides an update on its transition to a data-led regulator, its national locations strategy, and its ongoing commitment to improving its diversity and inclusion.
A re-focused and articulated strategy
A business plan focused on desired outcomes, increased fca accountability via formal metrics, fca assesses its own positive impact.
- FCA increases its funding requirement
To illustrate its movement away from being process-focused to results-focused, the FCA has re-articulated its strategy via the outcomes it expects all firms to deliver. The new three-year strategy is intended to drive focus on:
- Reducing and preventing serious harm
- Setting and testing higher standards
- Promoting competition and positive change
Underneath these areas of focus, the FCA has captured what it terms 'consistent topline outcomes'. This are overarching outcomes which cut across all sectors. This approach is designed to enable the FCA to combine its capabilities to address concerns and opportunities efficiently, effectively and consistently.
Finally, the FCA has set out thirteen underpinning commitments detailing activities that it will undertake and how it will measure its impact.
The FCA's associated business plan has a stronger alignment to the FCA's strategy than we have seen previously and it flows directly from it. Essentially, the business plan explores each of the commitments setting out (i) the outcomes it wants to achieve, (ii) how it will measure progress and (iii) how it intends to achieve the outcomes.
As previously announced, the FCA has committed to report against the strategic outcomes and metrics that it would set over a multi-year period. This business plan gives details of some of the proposed metrics to measure progress against the FCA commitments for 2022/23.
Focus 1 — Reducing and preventing serious harm
Focus 2 — Setting and testing higher standards
Focus 3 — Promoting competition and positive change
The FCA has set out detailed metrics to measure progress against the `topline outcomes' it is trying to achieve. Where metrics already exist, baseline values are provided. In cases where metrics are not yet available, the FCA has explained its plans for the future. The metrics will be further updated and developed through 2022/23.
The FCA has also reported on the seven strategic transformation-linked outcomes and metrics that formed part of last year's business plan.
Following on from the accountability theme, the FCA has published: for the first time, a paper designed to set out how it delivers public or societal value. This paper, designed to be a regular (presumably annual) publication, provides quantified estimates of the positive impact of a subset of its activities — specifically its policy interventions and enforcement work. The report includes value for money considerations which reflect the FCA's estimate that it has generated a benefit of at least £6 billion per year over the three-year period. This implies a benefit of at least £11 for every pound spent on running the FCA.
FCA increases in funding requirement
The FCA's annual budget reflects the cost of the resources it needs to carry out its proposed work in 2022/23. The key figure for firms is the Annual Funding Requirement which is the total amount that the FCA charges the financial services industry to fund its activities. The proposed funding requirement for 2022/23 is £640.1m — an increase of 4.3% on 2021/22.
Alongside the strategy and business plan, FCA has also published its annual consultation on regulatory fees and levies, which provides further information about its funding requirement and the impact on specific firm's activities. Alongside the funding requirement, the FCA is also proposing minor changes to its fees and levies policy including:
- Changes to FCA periodic fees — including the new structure of minimum fees for the `A' fee-blocks and consumer credit firms.
- Integrating its new structure of application fees to credit rating agencies and trade repositories (including third country firms seeking certification as either).
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