4 May 2020 update
We have updated the below statement following the BBLS launch.
On 27 April 2020, the Treasury announced amendments to the UK’s CBILS to support small businesses and the launch of BBLS. On 4 May 2020, BBLS formally launched. This statement sets out the FCA’s approach to its regulation of firms in relation to the Government’s CBILS and BBLS (the Schemes). The statement applies to any loan made under the Schemes by an ‘accredited lender’ from 4 May 2020.
The unprecedented nature of the current coronavirus pandemic and the impact on the economy has created a climate of deep uncertainty and anxiety for the economy, business and consumers. The FCA recognises the Government’s Schemes need to be able to enable fast and efficient lending decisions. To ensure this, the Government has made changes to the criteria lenders must apply when considering firms for a loan under these Schemes.
Relationship between our Rules and the Schemes
We have been working closely with the Government and the British Business Bank on the changes to CBILS and the launch of BBLS and will continue to do so.
On 27 April 2020, we announced that, as an interim measure pending the roll-out of the BBLS scheme, if firms comply with the relevant requirements of CBILS as announced on the same date, we do not expect them to comply with CONC 5.2A.4-34 where the lending is regulated. Following the launch of BBLS, we confirm this position will remain applicable to regulated lending that continues to take place under CBILS. CONC 5.2A contains rules and guidance on carrying out a reasonable assessment of a customer’s creditworthiness before taking the process forward. Other than for loans made under the Schemes, firms must continue to carry out creditworthiness assessments in line with the whole of CONC 5.2A on all other regulated lending.
It is also important we give clarity to relevant individuals under the Senior Managers and Certification Regime in authorised firms involved in the Schemes. These are individuals who are covered by the FCA’s individual conduct rules in COCON. For assessments of creditworthiness and affordability, we will regard individuals’ compliance with relevant requirements of the Schemes as compliance with their obligations under COCON 2.1 and 2.2 (with the exception of 2.1.1, 2.1.3 and 2.2.4).
Managing financial crime
Ensuring that firms manage the risks of fraud and money laundering is essential to a well-functioning financial services system. We recognise that, currently, the need to manage these risks should be balanced against the need for the fast and efficient release of funds to businesses under the Government’s Schemes. So, for existing customers, we consider, in the specific circumstances of the current environment, where an authorised firm has carried out appropriate Customer Due Diligence (CDD) before it received an application under the Schemes, it does not need to make further checks. However, if an authorised firm has information - including any relevant flags or alerts - suggesting a customer poses a higher risk, for example, of fraud, money laundering, or terrorist financing, it should carry out additional checks.
The financial crime risks may be significantly higher for new customers and authorised firms should carry out the normal CDD process in accordance with the Money Laundering Regulations. However, if the money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with the new business relationship are low, an authorised firm may decide simplified due diligence is appropriate. Authorised firms can also consider alternative verification methods as outlined in our recent Dear CEO letter to firms providing services to retail investors.