Sensitive business names

You need to get a view from the FCA and consent from a Secretary of State (via Companies House) to use a business name containing certain sensitive words relating to financial services. Find out about these words and how to request an FCA view regarding your application.

List of sensitive terms

If you plan on using one of the following words (including their plural and possessive forms) in your business name, you must seek our view first:

  • assurance
  • assurer
  • banc
  • bank
  • banking
  • friendly society
  • fund
  • insurance
  • insurer
  • mutual
  • reassurance
  • reassurer
  • reinsurance
  • reinsurer
  • underwrite
  • underwriting

The FCA can provide a ‘view’ only. The decision as to whether or not a sensitive business name may be used is taken by a Secretary of State as the ultimate decision-maker - they will take our view into consideration. This covers both registered names and trading names captured by the legislation (listed below). 

Using certain sensitive words related to financial services in a business name may give a misleading indication of what a business does. Businesses must seek a view from the FCA before trading under or registering a business name containing these sensitive words. This applies to any business name, even if you are not a financial services firm. The FCA can object to the use of a sensitive name. 

The legislation concerning sensitive business names is: 

Businesses that were lawfully trading under a sensitive name before 1 October 2009 are generally allowed to continue to use that name. 

Requesting an FCA view to use a sensitive business name

Before registering a company name, changing an existing business name or beginning trading under a business name containing a sensitive word or expression, please:

The decision as to whether or not a sensitive business name may be used is taken by a Secretary of State. This requires a separate application to the Secretary of State via Companies House. 

If you are a regulated firm and have received confirmation of consent from the Secretary of State, then you must submit a ‘firm details notification’ via Connect for the updates to be reflected on the Financial Services Register

We suggest that you seek our view on the use of a sensitive business name before registering the name with us when seeking authorisation from either the FCA or Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) to carry out regulated activities. This may require you to register an alternate name with Companies House while awaiting our view. We aim to reply within 10 business days of receiving your request. The 10 business days Service Level Agreement (SLA) is voluntary and if we are experiencing an increase in requests or the request is of a complex nature the SLA may increase beyond this period.

How we assess your sensitive name request

We base our view on whether there is a risk that the public may be misled or harmed by the use of a sensitive word.

We consider the activities the business intends to carry out. Sensitive words relating to financial services are generally associated with specific regulated activities or financial institutions. Using them tends to indicate that the business is subject to FCA or PRA rules and/or that there may be other regulatory safeguards in place, such as coverage by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or access to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

This means that using a financial services-related sensitive word in a business name will normally be reserved for:

  • currently authorised firms 
  • those firms’ appointed representatives 
  • businesses that have no connection to financial services 

This is as long as the proposed name avoids the risk that the public may be misled.

The sensitive word used in a name should reflect the regulated activities that the business is authorised to carry out. For example, a business wishing to use the word ‘insurer’ in its name will usually be expected to hold permission for one or more relevant insurance-related regulated activities. 
Our view on any request for use of a sensitive word or expression is based on the information provided by the requester and provided on the understanding that the information is accurate and will remain accurate.

Appointed Representatives

We will provide an FCA view for the use of a sensitive word where the unauthorised business in question can demonstrate that it has a valid agreement to act as an Appointed Representative for an authorised firm for the activities to which the sensitive name relates. The principal firm should submit the appropriate Appointed Representative notification through Connect, confirming your appointment. This will be reviewed concurrently.

An FCA view for Appointed Representative firms will be based on the continued existence of the Appointed Representative relationship with a principal firm that is authorised to carry out the regulated activities that relate to the sensitive word. 

Using the FCA’s name in a business name

A business cannot register or trade under a name that may give the impression of a connection with the FCA unless this use has been approved. This generally means that business names incorporating the FCA’s name (either in full or the acronym) require a view from us and approval from a Secretary of State, as with other sensitive words or expressions. Business names that do not incorporate the FCA’s name but which use other words that suggest a connection with the FCA may still breach the statutory prohibition.

Requesting a sensitive business name

To prepare your request for an FCA view on the use of a sensitive business name and avoid delays to the process, you need to: 

  • explain in full the background for using the word, setting out: 
    • the rationale for the request
    • what activities the firm carries on or will carry on
    • any other relevant information

We may request additional information when the FCA view is required for a name containing ‘Fund’ or ‘Underwriting’. 

Avoid delays to your request

These are the common reasons why requests are delayed.

Unauthorised and Authorised Firms 

  • Insufficient information provided in answer to the standard questions.

Authorised Firms

  • The firm is engaged in financial activities but does not hold the relevant permissions to support the sensitive term. 

Appointed Representatives

  • Has not provided details of the parent or principal firm that is engaged in the regulated activity to which the sensitive name relates.
  • A linked Appointed Representative application for authorisation has not been submitted.

Fund

  • Has not provided details of the firm managing the fund including the firm reference number (FRN) or the full details of the asset manager eg, if the firm is authorised and supervised by a foreign regulatory body.

Insurance

  • Has not provided a qualifying term when a firm with Insurance Distribution permissions has applied for the name ‘ABC Insurance’. The FCA may  request that the firm add a qualifying term such as ‘services’, ‘consultants’, or ‘brokers’ after the term ‘Insurance’. The firm name will become ‘ABC Insurance Brokers’ if the qualifier ‘brokers’ was requested by the firm. Firms are not obliged to include these qualifying terms before seeking consent from the Secretary of State but the FCA assesses the risk of harm as ‘high’ in relation to non-qualifying terms.

Underwriting Agencies / Lloyds Cover-holders

  • Has not provided the Name and FRN of the authorised insurer providing the delegated binding authority. 
  • Has not provided a copy of a current delegated binding authority agreement. 

The applicant did not submit responses within the requested deadlines. 

Requesting a reconsideration of an FCA view

You may request the FCA to reconsider its view. We can re-review the request by considering any additional supporting information provided and decide whether the initial view was correct or whether a different view should have been reached. If you would like to request a review, please either:

Please title your correspondence ‘Review – (proposed business name)’ and we aim to reply within 10 business days of receiving your request. The 10 business days Service Level Agreement (SLA) is voluntary and if we are experiencing an increase in requests or the request is of a complex nature the SLA may increase beyond this period.