Personal data and Financial Lives survey

This privacy notice explains what personal data we collect during the Financial Lives survey (which includes the main survey and the follow-on research) and how and why we use it as part of our regulatory work.

Our flagship Financial Lives survey is a nationally representative survey of the UK consumers. Its purpose is to gather information that underpins our consumer protection work by helping us understand consumers to inform our policy decisions. More specifically, it provides information on consumers' attitudes towards managing their money, the financial products they have and their experience of engaging with financial services firms.


As part of Financial Lives survey (the ‘main survey’), we also conduct follow-up research and surveys through the following additional means:

  • Longer ‘in-depth’ interviews, which provide us with a richer understanding of respondents’ circumstances, views, and experiences
  • Recontact surveys, such as the ‘Cost of Living survey’ which provided further insights on rising costs and its impact

The personal data we collect from respondents

We currently collect and use a wide range of data from respondents, which can include:

  • attitudes towards managing your money and towards different financial services firms and sectors
  • types of financial products you have and use, such as bank accounts, insurance policies and investments
  • your experiences when buying and using financial products and services
  • spending behaviours and financial resilience
  • levels and types of savings, investments and debts
  • background information, such as:
    • age
    • gender/Sex
    • marital status
    • working status
    • tenure
    • qualifications
    • household income
  • personal information:
    • name
    • telephone number
    • email address
    • date of birth
  • 'special category' information:
    • sexual orientation
    • ethnicity
    • health conditions
    • religion
  • audio and video recordings in a few cases, i.e., when the survey or follow-up research is conducted by telephone or video call

We receive some personal information indirectly, from the following public sources which we match with data respondents have provided during the survey:

  • address and postcode from Royal Mail’s Postal Address File
  • location/regional categorisations from UK Geographics, such as constituency, council area

We may also match data that respondents provide during the survey with other data that the FCA holds, such as the FCA’s Product Sales Data.

How we collect respondents’ personal data

Most of the personal information we process is provided to us directly by the respondents of the Financial Lives survey and its follow-up activities in the following ways:

  • for the main survey, we send a letter to a random selection of households, inviting up to 3 adults from that household to take part in the survey
  • taking part in the survey is optional
  • individuals who choose to take part do so online or by telephone
    • surveys conducted by telephone are audio recorded for quality assurance purposes
  • the main survey asks a range of questions to gather the information set out above
  • questions that gather more sensitive personal information, such as income or health conditions, are optional: respondents can select ‘Prefer not to say’ during the survey
  • respondents, who provide their contact details during the main survey, may be invited to take part in follow-up research to provide additional data relating to the categories listed above. For follow-up research, such as longer ‘in-depth’ interviews or recontact surveys participation is optional. We may video/ audio record longer ‘in-depth’ interviews for analysis purposes.

We use third-party research agencies, data analytics tools and other third-party suppliers to support us with the survey activities. The key activities conducted by our third-party suppliers are:

  • The National Centre for Social Research:
    • sends the invitation letter
    • hosts and collects the responses to the online survey
    • conducts and collects the responses to the telephone survey
    • issues vouchers to those who have completed the survey
    • processes the data to prepare it for analysis
  • Critical Research:
    • recontacts respondents (by email, phone or post) for follow-up recontact surveys
    • collects responses to follow-up surveys (online or by telephone) and issues vouchers or prizes for those who take part
    • aggregates the data so that it can be used for analysis
    • anonymises the data, i.e. removes identifying personal data
    • performs data analysis
  • Ignition House
    • conducts longer ‘in-depth’ interviews by telephone or video call
    • performs data analysis

How we use respondents’ personal data

We combine respondents’ survey answers so that we can analyse and report it in aggregate form (for example, x% have y financial services product). Personal data, such as household income, helps us to analyse the findings by different demographic groups.

We also use personal data to match respondent answers with internal FCA data sources (and in some cases external data from third parties which the FCA may have acquired, for example, credit reference agency data). We do this as to enable us to gain more insights into consumers’ use of financial services products and the outcomes and experiences they have and to help us better understand the types of consumers using particular products.

We use anonymised quotes from the surveys and longer ‘in-depth’ interviews to illustrate the findings and understand individuals’ experiences in more detail.

The findings are used within the FCA to support our regulatory work, see below for more information.

Why we use this personal data

As part of the regulatory process, it is necessary for the FCA to find out the consumer perspective and ensure that it is reflected in the decisions made by the FCA. Financial Lives is a major source of data that helps the FCA understand the consumer perspective.

We use the personal data you have provided us to ensure that we are able to fulfil our statutory functions and, in particular, to help us:

  • understand how well the markets are functioning, including monitoring of market developments posing potential risks to our objectives
  • identify areas of concern, inform our strategic thinking as a regulator and help us decide if we need to make new rules, change existing rules or publish guidance
  • manage and prioritise decision making relating to regulatory interventions to enable the FCA to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers
  • build strong relationships with consumer groups, the industry, media and stakeholders to reflect our accountability to Parliament, enrich our insight, enhance our credibility and maximise the public value we add

When we share personal data gathered via the Financial Lives survey

We publish key findings and anonymised data tables on the FCA’s website to draw attention to our work and provide valuable insights for stakeholders who focus on consumers and finance. Publishing the findings and data tables also helps us to be transparent about the evidence used to underpin our regulatory work. Published data is always anonymous and aggregated (where your answers are combined with others and all personal information is removed).

On occasion, we may share individuals’ experiences and stories with the media to help publicise the FCA’s work. In these instances, your data will either be anonymised, or we will ask for your permission to use your personal data. Any use of respondents’ personal data in the media is completely optional.

We also make anonymised survey data, where all personal data identifying the survey participants is removed, available to the Consumer Data Research Centre for their own analysis. This anonymised survey data is also available to the public for analysis upon application.

The lawful basis for us using this personal data

Our research work is essential to enable us to understand the firms and markets that we regulate and to carry out effectively our statutory functions as a regulator of financial conduct and related activities, firms and markets and, in particular, to secure an appropriate level of protection for consumers.

For the use of personal data for FLS survey and its follow-up survey activities we rely on,

  • Article 6(1)(e) of the UK GDPR (it is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest) and Section 8(c) of the DPA 2018.
  • To the extent that we use any special categories of data in our research work, we do so under Article 9(2)(g) of the UK GDPR (it is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest), and Section 10(3) of the DPA 2018, in that it meets a condition in Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the DPA 2018 and we have an appropriate policy document covering this processing activity.

How we store your personal information

Your information is securely stored by the FCA on our servers. We keep the information for the following time periods:


Type of data

Retention period


Individual response data with personally identifying information, such as contact details

24 months


Individual response data that has been anonymised, e.g. contact details have been removed

25 years


Aggregated (anonymised) data tables

25 years

We will then dispose your information as per our secure disposal procedures.

In addition to this your data is stored by our key suppliers who conduct the survey on behalf the FCA. Our suppliers have the following retention periods:


Retention period


24 months after the survey is complete


24 months after the survey is complete

Ignition House

24 months after the survey is complete

The FCA has appropriate contracts with the supplier which requires them to dispose of your information securely.

Learn about your rights

Under the UK GDPR, individuals have a number of rights relating to their personal data. Read more about your rights and how to exercise them.

For further information to exercise your rights please refer to our main Privacy notice | FCA.