A to Z of financial terms

See our definitions to help you understand financial and legal terms.

First published: 20/03/2023 Last updated: 20/03/2023

This is a new service and we are still building our library of terms - please let us know any comments or suggestions for new definitions in the page feedback section below.


A book issued by a bank or building society to an account holder, recording sums deposited and withdrawn.

Passporting regime

Until 31 December 2020, financial services firms authorised in the EEA could use the passporting regime to provide services in the UK. This meant they didn’t need to be authorised in the UK. But now that the UK has left the EU, EEA firms can’t 'passport' into the UK. Instead, they need to be authorised and regulated by us. Find out more about dealing with firms in the EEA.

Payment initiation service provider (PISP)

A payment initiation service provider (PISP) lets you pay companies directly from your bank account rather than using your debit or credit card through a third-party such as Visa or MasterCard. Read more about account information and payment initiation services.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI)

Payment protection insurance was sold as a cover if you couldn't make repayments on goods you had bought but was often mis-sold to coustomers. We introduced rules to help people get fair treatment if they complained - see more about our PPI campaign. You can still buy PPI, or other types of income or short-term protection insurance. Visit MoneyHelper for information on the different types of protection insurance available.

Penny shares

‘Penny shares’ usually refers to shares in small companies that are either listed on public markets in the UK or are unlisted. These shares are often very high risk, can be difficult to sell and may be quoted in pence. Find out how to protect yourself from scams.

Pension review or release scams

You should be very wary of any scheme offering to help you release cash from your pension before you’re 55, as it’s almost certainly a scam. Find out how to protect yourself from pension scams.

Pension unlocking

Pension unlocking or pension liberation is  a way of accessing money in your pension fund before you retire. Early access to a pension is rarely in your long-term financial interests and is often a scam. See more about the risks of pension unlocking on MoneyHelper, guidance that's backed by the Government.


Phishing is when attackers attempt to trick you into doing 'the wrong thing', such as clicking a bad link in a text or email that will download malware, or direct you to a dodgy website. Read more about how to protect yourself from malicious communications.

Ponzi scheme

A 'get-rich-quick' scheme that promises investors high returns or dividends not usually available through traditional investments.

Early investors may make money from the scheme as money from new investors is used to pay off the original investors. People who invest later usually lose their money as the company or investment never makes a real profit, it just redistributes money and claims it's profitable. Visit MoneyHelper to read more about Ponzi schemes.

Principal firm

Principal firms are responsible for appointed representatives (AR). ARs carry out regulated activities on behalf of the principal. The principal firm agrees what activities the AR can do and is responsible for making sure the AR is fit and proper and complies with our rules.

Prudential Regulation Authority

The Prudential Regulation Authority is part of the Bank of England. Its role is to make sure that firms act safely and reduce the chance of getting into financial difficulty.

Pyramid scheme

Pyramid schemes are similar to Ponzi schemes, but investors are encouraged to recruit more people and are paid commission when they do. These scams are also called ‘franchise fraud’, ‘multi-level marketing’ or a ‘chain referral scheme’. Read more about how to protect yourself from this type of scam.