Our update gives an overview of developments from 2019 to 2020, including our response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and a breakdown of societies on the register.
The Mutual Societies Order 2013 (exercising powers in the Financial Services Act 2012) requires us to have ongoing arrangements to determine whether mutual societies are complying with the relevant legislation.
In this update, we provide an overview of the function and details of developments for the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. We also give some statistical information on our work and the number of societies on the register.
The FCA has responsibility for registering mutual societies that are registered under:
- Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 (previously the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965)
- Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969
- Credit Unions Act 1979
- The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
- Friendly Societies Act 1974
- Friendly Societies Act 1992
- Building Societies Act 1986
The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) only gives us power to register mutual societies and act where they don’t comply with mutuals legislation.
But although our statutory objectives of consumer protection, maintaining market integrity and supporting competition do not apply to our mutuals registration function, we deliver it to maintain public confidence in the different forms that mutual societies can take.
Mutuals Public Register
The Mutuals Public Register provides important information for societies, their members and the public. As well as listing the societies registered, it also holds documents for each society, such as annual returns, accounts and rule amendments.
In April 2019, we launched an improved version of the Mutuals Public Register, which:
- made the registration status of a society clearer
- improved accessibility and usability
- allowed users to download an extract of the register
We maintain the register as a public good. Following consultation, we stopped charging fees for accessing documents on the register. These changes help improve transparency, and make it easier for people to get information about mutual societies.
Our paper records date back to the 1800s, and we made significant progress in converting them into digital records. By the end of the period, we have converted and uploaded over 180,000 documents to the register. We have now digitised the records of most societies still registered with us.
Mutuals Society Portal
We launched the Mutuals Society Portal in early 2019. The Portal provides a straightforward and efficient way for mutuals to send us their annual returns and other information. We have contacted societies to encourage them to register on the Portal and are pleased that, in the reporting period, 4,982 users did so.
This is the first year that we didn't charge annual fees to mutual societies that do not carry out any regulated activity under FSMA. We announced this change following consultation.
In response to feedback from regular users, we launched revised versions of many of our application and annual return forms to make them shorter and clearer. The revised versions pull together the previously separate information notes where relevant.
We reviewed our processes in light of the coronavirus outbreak. For our application forms, we announced:
- Applications submitted via either the Mutuals Society Portal or by email to [email protected] (or to [email protected] for annual returns) will allow us to process your application significantly quicker than applications sent by post. We strongly advise against submitting by post at this time.
- We accept electronic signatures on all applications – including on accounts.
- For the time being, we no longer require statutory declaration forms (where requested) to be fully completed. We do not require the form to be signed by a solicitor/commissioner for oaths/notary public or justice of the peace, but we still ask that an officer/secretary of the society completes the first half of the form. We will accept an electronic signature.
We also announced measures on general meetings.
For annual return and account submissions, we said:
Requirements to submit annual returns and accounts are contained in mutuals legislation. Our acceptance of electronic signatures on accounts may help in some circumstances. However, we recognise that some societies will still experience difficulties in submitting any required returns to us on time.
While we ask societies to take steps to submit their returns to us as soon as reasonably practicable, we have decided that we will not take any action where returns due up until 30 June 2020 are delayed by up to 3 months. We will review this position again in June 2020.
Societies registered as at 31 March 2020
|Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014||8,058|
|Friendly Societies Act 1974||966|
|Credit Unions Act 1979||328|
|Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969||233|
|The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985||66|
|Building Societies Act 1986||44|
|Friendly Societies Act 1992||27|
The 8,058 societies registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 break down by registration type as follows:
|Community benefit society||970|
*This refers to societies registered before the commencement of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 on 1 August 2014, referred to in legislation as a 'pre-commencement society'.
The 233 societies registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 break down by registration type as follows:
|Community benefit society||1|
*This refers to societies registered before the commencement of section 8 of the Credit Unions and Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 on 6 April 2018, referred to in legislation as a 'pre-2016 Act society'.
The 966 societies registered under the Friendly Societies Act 1974 break down by registration type as follows:
|Specially authorised society||55|
|Working men's club||769|
Changes during the year
Throughout the year, 304 new societies were registered and 251 deregistered.
The new registrations were:
- 1 new credit union
- 229 community benefit societies (of which, 1 was in Northern Ireland)
- 73 co-operative societies (of which, 1 was in Northern Ireland)
- 39 of the new registrations followed a company converting to a society
Of the 251 societies deregistered:
- 12 following the society’s conversion from a working men’s club under the Friendly Societies Act 1974 to a society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
- 5 followed the conversion of a society to a company
- 98 following either a transfer of engagements, dissolution, or liquidation
- 68 societies were cancelled at their own request
- 68 societies were cancelled at our instigation following non-compliance with mutual society legislation.
Summary of registration and deregistration over previous years:
We received 3,465 applications during the year. Our stated service standard is to determine at least 90% of complete applications within 15 working days. During this period, we determined 94.6% of complete applications within 15 working days.
We have routinely achieved our stated service standards:
Our website gives more details on the mutual societies registration function.