Category Archives: FCA

The FCA Has Published Its Future Approach to Consumers

The FCA Has Published Its Future Approach to Consumers

Back in April 2017, the FCA launched its mission and committed to publishing documents explaining its approach to regulation in-depth. The ”FCA Mission: Our Future Approach to Consumers” is the first of a series of documents explaining the FCA’s approach in more detail.

The FCA mission explained how/why the FCA prioritises, protects and intervenes in financial markets. Its publication was a milestone in the FCA’s efforts to be more transparent about its role and accountability while discharging its mandate. The regulators ”Approach to Customers” is the first of a series of documents. This particular publication explains the FCA’s approach to regulating for customers.

Background FCA Mission:

it’s important to note that the FCA exists to serve the public’s interest as far as financial services are concerned. The regulator does this through regulation. The UK parliament has given the FCA one strategic objective which is; ensuring financial markets function well. The FCA also has three operational objectives. The first one is to secure the relevant protection to consumers of financial services. The FCA is also charged with the responsibility of protecting as well as enhancing integrity in the UK financial system. Lastly, the FCA must ensure fair competition (consumer interests must be protected).

The FCA’s wish list in regards to consumers:

The FCA focuses on seeing financial markets where;

1. There are adequate high-quality financial products and services which meet the needs of consumers.

2. Consumers can buy financial products and services which are sold in a manner that is clear and fair (not misleading).

3. The needs of vulnerable consumers are considered. How was the approach was developed?

Before looking at the core ideas that informed the FCA’s approach to consumers, it’s important to understand how the approach was developed. The FCA’s approach to consumers considered the diverse characteristics of consumers and the external environment where firms and consumers operate. The approach explored vast research as well as the real experiences of 12,865 persons in the regulator’s Financial Lives Survey published on 18th October 2017. Core ideasThe FCA’s approach to consumers is based on the following core ideas;

1. Firm/consumer responsibility – According to the FCA, firms must treat their customers fairly. Financial services firms must provide products and services that customers need. Those products and services must also be marketed and sold in a manner that allows customers to make informed decisions. The FCA acknowledges the fact that some customers may not be able to make the best decisions when choosing products/services. Firms must exercise extreme caution where customers stand to be vulnerable. They should not exploit vulnerable customers in any way. However, the FCA also expects customers to assume reasonable responsibility for decisions made when buying financial products/services.

2. Regulation for vulnerable consumers – The FCA sees a need to have special regulation for vulnerable consumers i.e., consumers who are seriously ill or in financial distress. The FCA expects firms to pay special attention to the signs/indicators of customer vulnerability and have policies to deal with such customers. Firms must ensure vulnerable consumers are protected and helped.

3. Keeping up with changing environments – The FCA acknowledges that changes like new technologies have an impact on how firms and consumers make decisions. As a result, the FCA makes regulation while factoring in consumer needs based on changing circumstances while also ensuring adequate certainty to firms. The regulator uses Data Sciences and behavioural economics to ensure regulation approaches are great today and in the future.

4. Access and Inclusion – The FCA acknowledges the fact that some consumers are unintentionally excluded from enjoying some financial products/services because of their circumstances or specific characteristics. As a result, the regulator seeks to develop strategies for tackling access and inclusion problems. The FCA is working with financial services firms among other industry stakeholders to ensure there is fair access and inclusion. The regulator is also looking at its own rules currently and making efforts to ensure industry players interpret its rules correctly.

5. Delivering better outcomes for consumers – The FCA has a variety of tools it deploys to diagnose as well as remedy all types of ”harm” to guarantee better outcomes for all kinds of consumers. The regulator uses all types of interventions from harder to more prescriptive interventions such as issuing formal communication to imposing new rules. The FCA also uses its convening powers to bring all stakeholders together if need be when there is need to solve issues without formal regulatory intervention. According to Andrew Bailey, the C.E.O. of the FCA, the regulator’s mission is to act in situations where the greatest public value is added.

The FCA’s approach to consumers focuses on how the regulator can offer better consumer outcomes via interventions. The approach also highlights the regulator’s stance in tackling consumer problems. According to Bailey, the regulator will work with the Government and industry stakeholders among other players to address complex consumer issues such as financial exclusion and vulnerability. This is precisely why the regulator has opened consultation on its approach document. The consultation closes on 5th February 2018 after which a final approach will be published.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

FCA UPDATE on Fintech

FCA UPDATE on Fintech

The FCA regulates over 56,000 firms which employ over 2 million people in the UK. The financial services industry is obviously an important industry in UK’s economy given this statistic. This highlights the need for Fintech initiatives going forward (technology initiatives supporting or enabling the financial industry). One such initiative is Project Innovate. The initiative was developed back in 2014 to promote competition and growth in UK’s financial services industry. The initiative has been supporting small and large businesses which make new products and services that benefit customers genuinely. In the first year of operation, Project Innovate helped over 175 businesses. Currently, the project has helped over 358 businesses.

The latest FCA update on Fintech as of April 2017 focuses on a few main points. First and foremost, the FCA continues to tackle regulatory barriers to allow firms to continue innovating for the benefit of their clients. The FCA is doing so given the fact that the demand for its support is increasing. Project Innovate is also entering a new phase. As a forward-looking regulator, the FCA sees the need to continue evolving its approach. The FCA has seen an emergence of Fintech hubs in the UK and has reaffirmed its commitment to support these hubs by offering more/better local assistance.

The FCA’s approach to innovation

In an effort to highlight the importance of innovation in the financial services industry, the FCA continues to educate the public on why innovation is important. According to Christopher Woolard, the FCA’s Executive Director of Strategy and Competition, the FCA has an obligation to make UK’s financial services work well. To do this, the FCA continues to assess the integrity of financial markets and consumer protection issues. The FCA also has the duty to continue promoting the interest of consumers.

According to Woolard, the FCA is increasingly focused on using innovation to promote competition going forward. The FCA has completed its second round of testing innovative products/services, business models and well as delivery mechanisms in practice through its Regulatory Sandbox program. The FCA is also continuing to support technologies that will facilitate the delivery of regulatory requirements better than existing capabilities. The regulator has already held successful initiatives aimed at bringing market participants together to solve crucial problems in the financial services industry.

Priority areas going forward

The FCA is increasingly focused on expanding the scope of its Advice Unit which has been making automated advice models in the investment, pension and protection space. The FCA’s Advice Unit has a broader scope now. The unit is currently engaging the general insurance, mortgage, and debt sectors as well as many other firms that are keen on providing guidance, instead of advice. According to Woolard, the FCA will do more to spearhead the conversation about emerging innovations and trends. The regulator has already started a conversation about the risks and advantages of Distributed Ledger Technology.

The FCA also intends to take an international approach to innovation i.e. restarting its commitment to supporting innovation globally by signing cooperation agreements. The FCA has already signed such agreements with China, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada and is also working with other global regulators to foster a common understanding on good innovation. The regulator is working towards this via international bodies such as the IOSCO and the G20.

In early April 2017, the FCA hosted the first ever International Innovate Seminar featuring over 90 regulators from 56 countries globally.
According to Woolard, this will foster stronger international cooperation as well as help to secure the future of the industry in the long-term. Woolard, however, insists that the FCA is still focused more on supporting emerging Fintech hubs in the UK.

In his latest remarks, London has experienced the most Fintech emergence regionally. This emergence is however expected to spread beyond London. The FCA sees numerous exciting Fintech developments across the UK from Liverpool to Bristol which is why the regulator has promised to work with numerous organisations across the UK. The FCA is focusing on areas with a technological presence as well as strong financial centers. The FCA is also looking at areas where it has established strong relationships with local learning institutions like universities.

The regulator has mapped out the Leeds-Manchester and Edinburgh-Glasgow areas as promising emerging Fintech hubs and is focused on offering such areas the same access to regulatory support as key areas like London. The FCA is committed to ensuring good Fintech ideas in the financial services industry come to fruition regardless of where they are conceived.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

An Overview of FCA Payday Loan Regulations Today

An Overview of FCA Payday Loan Regulations Today 

Background

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the body charged with regulating the payday loan industry in the UK. The FCA began regulating payday loans among other forms of high-cost short-term credit on 1st April 2014. Initially, the regulator focused on tackling poor conduct present in the industry.

The FCA began by introducing new rules on affordability, rollovers, advertising as well as the use of recurring payments (continuous payment authorities). The regulator then took a supervisory role focusing on payday loan lenders breaching the new regulations/requirements.
The UK parliament gave the FCA the duty to cap prices of short-term loans/credit products like payday loans to protect borrowers from unfair lending practices in December 2013. The rules, however, came into effect two years later (on 2nd January 2015). The regulator was involved in the entire process. The main aim of the regulatory changes was to see the price of high-cost short term loans/credit like payday loans come down and make sure borrowers never pay back more than double the amount borrowed.

According to the then FCA chief executive officer, Martin Wheatley, the new rules were meant to put an end to increasing payday debts and offer borrowers effective protections without affecting the viability of the market.

FCA stance on payday loans today: Price structure/levels

The FCA published new payday loan price caps in July 2014. The price cap structure/levels remain unchanged to date after taking effect on 2nd January 2015. They include;

• Lower costs for most borrowers. The FCA set the initial cost cap to 0.8% per day. All high cost short term loans, fees and interest should not exceed 0.8% (per day) of the amount borrowed. The initial cost cap remains unchanged to date and applies to the outstanding principal, all interest, and fees charged per day during the loan term as well as when refinancing. Payday loan lenders are however free to structure charges as they wish provided they don’t exceed the 0.8% cap.

• New protection from borrowers struggling to pay: The FCA also set default fees at £15. If a borrower has a hard time repaying their payday loan, default fees (default charges as well as interest on unpaid balances) can’t exceed £15. Interest can increase but can’t exceed the initial cost cap.

• Cost cap on escalating debts: The FCA also set a 100% cost cap ensuring that borrowers never pay back more in interest and fees than the initial amount borrowed. The cap covers debt administration, debt collection, and other ancillary charges as well as credit broking charges.
From 2nd January 2015, no UK payday loan borrower has been charged twice what they borrowed, more than £15 in default fees or more than 0.8% in interest and fees per day of the amount borrowed. The price cap structure/levels will be reviewed in 2017.
FCA payday loan regulation today on: Repeat borrowing, data sharing, supervision, and E-commerce directive

Repeat borrowing

FCA regulations remain the same for repeat borrowing. All price cap structure/levels remain the same as for the 1st loan. The FCA is however in the process of assessing the impact of repeat borrowing.

Data sharing

The FCA requires all lenders in the UK payday loan industry to participate in real-time data sharing to ensure majority of the payday loans are reported real-time. Although this regulation hasn’t been fully implemented, the current progress is in line with the regulator’s expectations.

Supervision

The FCA is currently following its standard model supervisory approach
E-Commerce Directive (ECD)
The FCA currently prohibits UK-based debt collectors from collecting debts that arise under high-cost short term credit agreements entered into by incoming e-commerce directive lenders who charge more than the set price caps. Also, UK-based debt administrators are prohibited from enforcing or exercising rights on behalf of lenders under such high-cost short term credit agreements.

The FCA is in the process of gaining powers to take action against incoming lenders who avoid rules by abusing freedom of movement rules.

Other FCA regulation stances today

Insider dealing: The FCA has powers to investigate as well as prosecute insider dealing in the UK payday loan industry as stipulated in the 1993 Criminal Justice Act.
Supervision: The FCA also has the right to supervise all regulated payday loan lenders as well as all other regulated financial firms.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.