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Facts at your fingertips

by: By James Mayne, director of compliance services at Competent Adviser
  • 03/11/2003
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The Financial Services Authority's website is one of the most obvious regulatory resources but, surprisingly, it is also one of the most underused

Mortgage intermediaries have been swamped with information concerning their choices under mortgage regulation and what they need to know to help them make their decision. Some individuals are better informed than others, but the large majority will freely admit that they ‘have not quite got their heads round it’. This is not completely surprising, the rules can be complex and there are usually better ways for people to spend their time.

What has been surprising though is the small number of mortgage advisers who have visited the Financial Services Authority (FSA) website for information. Why is this? Is it because no one believes the FSA is actually there to help? Is it because it is believed that any help will not be written in a way that can be easily understood?

Whatever the reason, anyone wishing to get factual, unbiased information on what choices they have, and what authorisation involves, should immediately make their way to www.fsa.gov.uk. This may not necessarily provide all the answers but at least it will give most intermediaries a good idea of what they need to know. It is only by taking information from a number of sources and attending presentations that your knowledge will grow to a good level of understanding.

Finding your way around

So where do you go and what is available?

When you visit the the FSA website’s homepage you will see in the centre of the page a box headed Mortgage and General Insurance Regulation above the text: ‘Are you involved in mortgage business and /or the sale or administration of general insurance products?’

By clicking on this option you go to a page where the information is broken down into five main sections:

1. ‘Keeping you informed’ tells you what is new on the site that you might be interested in. So if you become a regular user, it is worth going to this first to check if anything has been added since your last visit.

2. ‘Publications’ gives access to all the FSA publications on mortgage and general insurance regulation. This currently takes you to all the latest consultation papers and policy statements. It helpfully separates out what is relevant to mortgages, what is relevant to insurance and what is relevant to both. Reading consultation papers and draft rules is not everyone’s cup of tea but they are here if you need them.

3. ‘Getting help’ gives you a number of options as to where you can get more information. It includes a link to the factsheets, FAQs, ‘Can’t find the answer’, M&GI events and useful links.

The ‘FAQs’ includes a number of pertinent questions and answers covering the following areas:

• Applying for authorisation

• Approved persons

• Appointed representatives

• Fees and other costs

• Draft mortgage rules

• Draft general insurance sales and administration rules

• High level standards and financial requirements

• Complaints, the FOS and FSCS

• What happens after authorisation

The aptly named ‘Can’t find the answer’ option offers a link to a ‘Contact us’ page where brokers can submit their own question directly to the FSA.

By clicking on ‘M&GI events’, advisers will be able to view the latest workshops and seminars that the FSA is rolling out. In particular there is a workshop starting in November called ‘Preparing for Authorisation’ which is being held all around the country. At only £30 per delegate, I think this is a must for anyone considering direct authorisation with the FSA.

The ‘Useful Links’ option can take visitors to the HM Treasury, General Insurance Standards Council and the Mortgage Code Compliance Board websites.

4. ‘Authorisation’ gives two options: information for those firms that are already FSA authorised and information for those who are not. Taking the latter option it will direct you to the relevant FAQs on this subject and details of the authorisation workshop event details as mentioned above.

Useful downloads

5. Finally, on every page, users can download a number of factsheets:

• Introducing the FSA

• Mortgage and general insurance regulation – what is changing

• What are your options

• Becoming an authorised firm

• Becoming an appointed representative

• The regulatory jigsaw – how it all fits together

• Becoming an approved person

• FSA regulation of insurance selling and administration – will I need to be authorised

• FSA regulation of mortgage arranging and advising – will I need to be authorised

• Countdown to regulation

• Mortgage and general insurance: what it means for authorised firms

The factsheets vary in length and range from two to eight pages. The FSA has clearly worked hard to try and present the information in an attractive way and they are certainly worth looking at.

Keeping up to date with the regulatory merry go round is not easy, especially when you are already running a demanding business. My advice is to gather as much information as you can, but wherever you go to get it make sure you do not overlook the FSA itself.

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