The FCA set out its expectations of firms when dealing with the need for 'wet-ink' signatures. In regard to signing agreements, the FCA has confirmed that as its rules do not explicitly require wet-ink signatures in agreements, nor do they prevent firms from using electronic signatures, firms should consult legal advice before determining if it is appropriate to provide an electronic signature.
Firms should also consider any related requirements set out in the FCA’s Principles for Businesses and general rules. For example:
- Firms should consider Principles 2, 3 and 6 and review the risks and harms of using electronic signatures, ensuring to take appropriate steps to minimize those.
- Firms should consider the client’s best interests’ rule (COBS 2.1.1R) and the fair, clear and not misleading rule (COBS 4.2.1R) to ensure that a client understands what is being agreed to when signing a document electronically.
The FCA has recently confirmed that it would accept electronic signatures for fund-related applications, as well as for all other interactions from firms.