Authorisation: what's involved

Financial services providers, investment firms and consumer credit firms have to be authorised by us. Here’s a summary of what you need to know.

According to provisions made under the Financial Services and Markets Act (FSMA) 2000, financial activities have to be regulated by the FCA. Any firm (whether a business, a not-for-profit or a sole trader) carrying out a regulated activity must be authorised or registered by us, unless they are exempt.

Banks, credit unions and insurance companies are regulated by us and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

Consumer Duty 

The Consumer Duty’s implementation period ends on 31 July 2023 for new and existing products or services that are open to sale or renewal and 31 July 2024 for closed products or services. However, Authorisations’ assessments of firms and individuals is forward looking (ie firms and individuals must demonstrate they can comply with our rules and guidance on an ongoing basis). So, any firm or individual applying for authorisation (and those applying to vary their permissions will have to demonstrate that they can meet the requirements of the Consumer Duty, as they relate to them, from now on. You can find out more about this on our How to apply for authorisations page.

Applications for authorisation

You’ll have to apply to us (or, if you’re dual-regulated, to the PRA) for authorisation. This takes up to 6 months if your application is complete but could take up to 12 months if your application is not complete. You will also have to pay an application fee.

When we receive your application and throughout our assessment of it, we will consider whether you are ready, willing and organised to comply, on a continuing basis, with the requirements and standards under the regulatory system. This is important: authorised firms must be ready, willing and organised to comply with our rules and requirements at all times.

We currently use six-digit Firm reference Numbers (FRNs) to uniquely identify firms, and six-digit Product Reference Numbers (PRNs) to uniquely identify funds. We’re likely to reach the six-digit limit (999999) during 2023, given the volume of applications and notifications we receive.

We’re planning a move to seven-digit FRNs and PRNs for all newly registered firms and funds. Firms that have previously been allocated a six-digit FRN or PRN will keep that number. They won’t change. Seven-digit numbers will start to be allocated for new applications and notifications once our six-digit range is exhausted.

We haven’t fixed a date for when this will happen but we’re on track to make the necessary changes to our internal systems in good time.

What being ready, willing and organised means

We expect firms to take regulation seriously and plan how they will meet the standards of the regulatory system before they apply. When we consider the extent to which a firm has planned ahead we ask ourselves whether the applicant is:


Authorisations will consider what the applicant has done when preparing to submit their application. Positive indicators can include:

  • reading information on our website
  • making enquiries of the contact centre
  • seeking legal/compliance advice
  • being able to clearly articulate their regulatory obligations


Authorisations will consider the attitude of the applicant during the authorisations process. Positive indicators include:

  • being open and honest in all their dealings with us
  • being proactive about getting information to us
  • demonstrating initiative to understand their regulatory duties
  • timeliness and availability of staff to deal with queries about the application

Authorisations are aware that whilst an applicant may be willing to correct mistakes or gaps in their application, they must also have satisfied the readiness question.

Authorisations do not believe it is sufficient for an applicant to submit a poor application but show they are willing, with help from Authorisations, to address any deficiencies.


You should ensure that you have all the supporting documentation prepared and have the necessary arrangements in place to comply with regulations from the day you are authorised. Authorisations will consider the following:

  • why the applicant applied now
  • what is left outstanding that would prevent them from carrying on the activity they have applied for
  • if the applicant were authorised today, would they be able to carry out the activity they have applied for

That said we appreciate some investments, purchases or recruitment can only take place once you know you will be authorised. If you think this might affect your application do not hesitate to call our Contact Centre, we are more than happy to help. 

After your application is submitted

Your application should provide sufficient information to enable us to determine whether you meet the requirements for authorisation namely that you are ready, willing and organised to comply with the standards of the regulatory system. We expect you to provide such further information as we reasonably consider necessary to enable us to determine the application or, to decide whether to give consent to the PRA (where you have applied to the PRA). If substantive changes are made to an application after it has been submitted which indicate that you are not ready, willing and organised, Authorisations may ask you to consider withdrawing the application and re-applying to provide you with an opportunity to address the issues raised.

Appointed Representatives (ARs)

An authorised firm may appoint another firm or person to carry on regulated activities on its behalf. When this happens, the authorised firm or ‘principal’ takes full responsibility for making sure its agent or ‘appointed representative’ complies with our rules.

Responsibilities of an authorised firm

Once you’ve been authorised by us, there’s a fee to pay each year. You’ll also have to meet our minimum standards (threshold conditions) at all times, comply with the rules and principles relevant to your business and send us regular reports.

Request support for innovative firms

Innovation Pathways provides a dedicated contact for innovative businesses. You may need support applying for authorisation or a variation of permission, or you may not need to be authorised but instead need our support in another area of regulation. 

Find out more about the support we offer and who can apply

Already authorised?

Trade in Europe