We recognise that during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic there will be some important functions, such as processing post, that will be more difficult for firms to do in a timely way.
While we continue to expect firms to comply with the requirements for post and paper-based processes (both incoming and outgoing), we also understand that in the current circumstances some firms may not be able to comply fully with them. Where this is the case, we expect firms to notify us as soon as possible at [email protected].
Firms should try to ensure that all customers are not disadvantaged because of delays and make particular efforts to contact customers who do not use online services. While we understand that obligations for paper documents may be difficult to meet on usual timescales and will show flexibility in how we approach such issues, we expect firms to send communications in a timely manner. In particular, we are concerned that vulnerable customers, who are often more likely not to use online services, are still protected.
Firms should demonstrate to us any steps they have taken to mitigate the impact of non-compliance with postal and paper processes and then return to full compliance as soon as practical. Firms could, for example, collect post and process paper-based work as frequently as they can, if this is not possible daily; and ensure they return client funds promptly, where they are unable to proceed with a transaction due to a delay and/or change in situation.
We expect firms to provide general updates on how it will treat incoming and outgoing post, and cheques, through its website and other public channels (such as social media). These communications should update customers on market conditions, explain how customers can check their financial statements (which may arrive late) and invite customers to contact the firm if they wish.
For suitability assessments, we recognise that face-to-face meetings are not possible. In such circumstances, we expect firms to use other methods to conduct a suitability assessment, such as phone calls and relevant due diligence checks online. We would then expect a firm to send out the assessment without delay, whether online (for those customers that use online or email services) or by post.
Firms should ask those who have sent instructions or cheques which have not been processed to contact the firm urgently by telephone or electronic means. Where a customer has made a payment by cheque which has not been processed, we expect firms to consider the potential harm caused by not being able to cash the cheque on a case-by-case basis and ensure, where possible, they receive the services/cover they require (for example, retrospective cover). Where the uncashed cheque represents client money under the Client Assets Sourcebook (CASS) regime and the firm provides the service/cover without cashing the cheque, firms must consider whether proceeding in this way might breach CASS and expose other clients to the risk of a client money shortfall. See https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/client-assets-coronavirus for more details.
For specific information for authorised fund managers on paper-based and manual processes, see our dedicated web page. Information for fund managers on extensions to the deadlines for publishing certain fund reports and accounts can be found on this web page.
For specific information on how we expect firms to handle complaints, see our dedicated web page.
The arrangements above will be reviewed as the coronavirus pandemic develops. But firms should revert to complying with the requirements as soon as reasonably practicable, and not wait on a further statement from us.
This statement does not affect any legal rights that customers may have.