The FCA has published a statement regarding post and paper documents, recognizing that during the pandemic it will be difficult for firms to process post in a timely way.
Firms are expected to comply with the requirements for incoming and outgoing post and paper-based processes. If this is not currently possible, firms should immediately notify the FCA at [email protected].
Firms should try to ensure that customers are not disadvantaged because of delays and contact customers who do not use online services. In particular, the FCA is concerned about the protection of vulnerable customers, who are less likely to use online services.
Firms should demonstrate steps taken to mitigate the impact of non-compliance and return to full compliance as soon as practical. Firms should collect post and process paper-based work as frequently as possible and return client funds if they are unable to proceed with a transaction.
The FCA expects firms to provide updates on how they treat post and cheques, through their website and other channels like social media. Communications should update customers on market conditions, inform them how to check their financial statements (which may arrive late) and invite customers to contact the firm.
The FCA recognizes that face-to-face meetings are not possible for Suitability Assessments. Firms are expected to use other methods including phone calls and relevant online due diligence checks. The assessments should promptly be sent online or by post.
Firms should urgently contact those who have sent instructions or cheques which have not been processed by telephone or electronic means. Firms should consider the harm caused by not being able to cash the cheque on a case-by-case basis and ensure clients receive the required services, such as retrospective cover. Where the uncashed cheque represents client money under the Client Assets Sourcebook (CASS) regime and the firm provides the service without cashing the cheque, firms must consider whether this might breach CASS and expose other clients to the risk of a client money shortfall. See here for further details.
Authorised fund managers should view FCA's dedicated web page for further information on paper-based and manual processes. Information regarding extensions to the deadlines for publishing certain fund reports and accounts can be found here, and on complaint handling here.
Firms should revert to compliance as soon as possible and the FCA clarifies that its statement does not affect any legal rights that customers may have.
The full article is available here.