The formal procedures for applying for Part IV permission are described in AUTH 3. The application process is, however, interactive and includes discussions and, in some circumstances, an initial meeting with a potential applicant before it submits a completed application form. This section, therefore, outlines how the application process is likely to proceed in practice.
Although the FSA does not require all applicants to appoint professional advisers to help with the application process, reports from professionals will be required in respect of some applications for Part IV permission (see AUTH 3.9.16 G and AUTH 3.9.17 G).
In addition, a potential applicant should consider at an early stage whether, given the nature of the proposed business it is seeking to carry on and its own experience, it is appropriate to seek professional advice in connection with its application. For example, an applicant may need to seek professional advice from lawyers, auditors or reporting accountants, consultants, actuaries or its professional body, before making a formal application to the FSA.
SUP 9 (Individual guidance) describes how a person may apply to the FSA for individual guidance which relates to its own particular circumstances or plans. Applicants should note, in particular, SUP 9.2.5 G, which states that the FSA will expect a person to have taken reasonable steps to research and analyse a topic before approaching the FSA for individual guidance. SUP 9.2.5 G also cautions that the FSA should not be viewed as a first port of call, except where only the FSA can give guidance.
An applicant should also have determined and established the appropriate legal entity through which the proposed activities are to be conducted - that is, whether it wishes to trade on its own account, or establish:
A limited liability partnership (regardless of the jurisdiction of incorporation) is a body corporate and does not fall within the definition of partnership, except in relation to SUP 10 (Approved persons). Most limited liability partners will be either directors or senior managers, but this will depend on the constitution of the limited liability partnership.
The first stage in the application process is to establish whether the proposed business will carry on regulated activities requiring permission under Part IV of the Act (Permission to carry on regulated activities). AUTH 2 gives a high-level guide to the activities that are regulated under the Act and those that are excluded (but this is not a substitute for consulting the legislation itself); further queries may be referred to the FSA's Authorisation Enquiries team (see AUTH 1.9.2 G).
Once an applicant has determined that it needs to apply for Part IV permission, it should begin to gather the information needed for the formal application. At this stage, applicants are encouraged to begin discussion with the FSA's Enquiries and Applications Department (Applications team) about their plans and the application (see AUTH 1.9).1
Among other things, the applicant will need to:
determine the precise scope of the permission it wishes to apply for; this should include the regulated activities (the specified activities and the specified investments in respect of which the activities are carried on: see AUTH 2 Annex 2 G) and any limitations and requirements the applicant wishes to apply for to refine the scope of the regulated activities; an example includes a limitation on the types of client it wishes to carry on business with or a requirement not to hold or control client money;
determine whether it needs to apply to the Society of Lloyd's for admission to the register of underwriting agents or to any other bodies; the timing of these applications should be included in the applicant's plans;
determine which prudential category (and, if relevant, sub-category) will apply, and therefore its minimum regulatory financial requirements;
determine the rules in the Handbook which will apply to the activities it proposes to carry on, and take all reasonable steps to ensure that it is ready, willing and organised to comply with those rules;
determine the systems and controls necessary both to support its activities and to comply with the relevant rules, and have plans to implement and test these systems before the FSA determines its application;
prepare a business plan setting out the planned activities (and related risks), budget and resources (human, systems and capital);
obtain any auditors' or reporting accountants' reports that are required to support its application or have been requested by the FSA; the auditors or other professionals should be involved early in the process to ensure that the planned work on the application will be sufficient to enable them to provide any opinions required.
It is in the interests of the applicant and the FSA that the application pack, when submitted, should be fully completed and address any areas of potential regulatory concern.
If an applicant's plans are complex (for example, if they include insurance business, accepting deposits or certain types of designated investment business), high risk or innovative (for example, if they raise new or unusual issues), then the FSA would expect to be in discussion with the applicant while the applicant is developing the material needed for the formal application.
Where appropriate - for example in an application for Part IV permission including insurance business or accepting deposits - FSA staff may, by agreement with the applicant, arrange a pre-application meeting or discuss aspects of the applicant's draft business plan or other relevant documents while the application is being prepared. This will help the FSA develop its knowledge of the applicant and the proposed business.
In addition, all applicants are encouraged to take the opportunity to discuss particular issues with the FSA as they arise, with a view to tackling them before submitting the completed application pack. Applicants are also advised to review the application pack before submission and check that they have provided adequate responses to all questions (that is, responses appropriate to the scope and scale of their activities and the risks they may pose to consumers).
After receiving the application pack, the FSA will begin its formal process of consideration. The FSA Applications and Individual Approvals teams will review the application pack and approved persons regime forms respectively. During this process, the FSA may ask for additional information and is likely to meet the applicant's management and visit its premises before determining the application. 1