The FCA and mutual societies

Find out about our role in registering mutual societies.

We are the registering authority for more than 9000 mutual societies in the UK. This work is separate from our role for financial services firms under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). Mutual societies are: 

  • Building societies 
  • Community benefit societies 
  • Co-operative societies 
  • Credit unions  
  • Friendly societies 

Other types of mutuals operate under different legislation, such as the Companies Act 2006. Companies House are the registering authority for those mutuals.  

Use the Mutuals Public Register to see if an organisation is a mutual society registered by us. 

Mutuals legislation

As the registering authority, we focus on compliance with mutuals legislation: 

Most societies are registered under Co-operative and Community Benefit Society legislation. We became the registering authority for societies registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969, and The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 on 6 April 2018, following the transfer of that function from the Department for the Economy.

The Financial Services Act 2012 (Mutual Societies) Order 2013, and The Financial Services Act 2012 (Mutual Societies) Order 2018 set out further requirements on role.

What we do

As the registering authority we: 

  • publish public documents for societies through the Mutuals Public Register 
  • respond to enquiries  
  • receive and publish annual returns and accounts  
  • register new societies  
  • review changes to their constitutional documents (rules), name, and registered office address 
  • record charges  
  • administer the dissolution of societies  
  • publish guidance and other information to help societies. 

We also act where societies do not follow mutuals legislation. This includes prosecuting or cancelling a society for not sending annual returns and accounts. We occasionally use other discretionary powers available to us under the mutuals legislation. We record these in the annual updates we publish each year. 

Our aim 

We aim to maintain public confidence in the different legal structures mutual societies can use by:   

  • operating a system of oversight to assess and drive compliance    
  • supporting the mutual society legal structures, and acting to tackle harm   
  • helping the public, societies, and their members understand the nature of our role 

We do this by focusing on data, digital platforms, compliance, and our engagement with stakeholders. 


Societies can apply to us either through the Mutuals Society Portal or through a downloadable form.  

We have a voluntary target to process a complete registration application from a mutual society within 15 working days of receipt. If an application is incomplete, we may send it back or take longer to decide.  

Reporting concerns

You can report a concern about a mutual society to us. We focus on breaches of mutuals legislation.  

Societies and Financial Services

Most of the societies registered by us under mutuals legislation do not carry out activity regulated under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). Those societies do not need to be authorised under FSMA.  

Our statutory objectives, such as protecting consumers from bad conduct, apply only to our FSMA related activity.  

Some mutual societies do carry out regulated activity and are authorised under FSMA. For example, credit unions are registered by us as a credit union and authorised under FSMA for deposit-taking. Where societies are registered by us and authorised under FSMA, we act in two different roles. 

To check if a society is authorised under FSMA, search the Financial Services Register.  

If you are a mutual society and think you may need authorisation, read the list of financial activities we regulate, and details of the authorisation process.  

Page updates

: Information changed Coronavirus (Covid-19) update: General meetings - date changed from 30 December 2020 to 30 March 2021.
: Information added update on general meetings during coronavirus.