Mutual societies in Northern Ireland

Find out about the transfer of responsibility for registering mutual societies in Northern Ireland.

Organisations affected by this transfer

This transfer of responsibility applies to:

  • industrial and provident societies in Northern Ireland
  • credit unions in Northern Ireland

The transfer of responsibilities

On 6 April 2018 the responsibility for registering mutual societies in Northern Ireland moves from the Department for the Economy (DfE) to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

DfE, previously the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), currently registers industrial and provident societies and credit unions in Northern Ireland. The two pieces of relevant legislation are:

  • the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 (‘1969 Act’)
  • The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (‘1985 Order’)

Legislative changes

As well as this change to the registration function, some other changes will come into effect, which we cover below.

What you need to do

You do not need to do anything immediately. Your society remains registered under the same legislation as before.

You do not need to re-apply to the FCA, or submit any application forms as a result of the transfer.

From 6 April you should send the applications, annual returns and accounts that you previously submitted to DfE to the FCA, using our application forms.

The information you must send us includes:

  • any changes to your registered office address, rules, transfers of engagement
  • any other application requiring registration under the 1969 Act or the 1985 Order

You will need to pay an annual fee

Unlike DfE, which is publicly funded, we are funded by the firms we register and regulate. By law, this means we are required to recover our costs.

We do this by charging all societies an annual fee, called the ‘periodic fee’. We usually send out invoices for this fee in September.

You are required to pay this fee. It is not optional.

How your registration fee is calculated

How much you pay depends on the size of your society’s assets.

We already regulate credit unions in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who therefore already pay us a fee.

However, industrial and provident societies will have to start paying us a fee for the first time. Smaller societies (with £50,000 assets and below) must currently pay £65 per year. Larger societies (with £1m assets and above) must currently pay £480. There is a sliding scale of fees.

We do not charge existing societies a fee to submit application forms to us. We do however charge fees to set up a new society.

How the FCA’s roles as registering authority and regulator differ

The FCA’s role as financial services regulator is different from its role as registering authority for societies. As registering authority, our work covers activities such as receiving annual returns, making decisions on rule amendments, and deciding whether to register new societies.

We do not make the same demands on mutual societies who do not carry out regulated activities as, for example, we do for banks or major insurance companies.

We will continue to regulate you if you perform ‘regulated activities’, such as taking deposits, providing consumer credit or insurance services. We will also be responsible for registration decisions, in our role as registering authority.

Further guidance for mutual societies

We have current guidance on the FCA’s registration function under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 for mutual societies in Great Britain.  

We plan to consult you to produce an amended version of this guidance to reflect the changes.

What you can include on your letterhead and website

For industrial and provident societies, you can say that ‘[Society name] is registered by the Financial Conduct Authority’. 

You must not say that you are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, unless you separately have permission for financial services business.

Credit unions can continue to say they are ‘Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority’.