On 20 November 2012, the FSA published a speech given by Richard Sutcliffe, Head of the Client Assets Unit at the FSA on the background and purpose of the unit he leads and its future policy initiatives.
The speech underlined the priority given by the FSA to improving the client assets regime. Mr Sutcliffe noted that there are over £9.7 trillion of custody assets within the UK, the protection of which is crucial if the FSA is to meet its objectives of protecting consumers and enhancing the integrity of UK markets. In his words, CASS compliance is “not a regulatory fad, it is a fundamental duty” owed to customers.
The Client Assets Unit was created in the wake of the Lehman collapse and since that time has initiated a number of policy reforms, including:
- the stratification of firms into “small”, “medium” or “large” based on the value of their holdings;
- the requirement for all medium and large firms to submit a monthly Client Money & Assets Return; and
- the introduction of the CF10a role – the dedicated control function with responsibility for client money compliance in all medium and large firms.
Mr Sutcliffe made clear that the FSA actively uses all of the material generated by firms and takes the issues of quality and accuracy of data very seriously. Whilst acknowledging that progress has been made, he noted that concerns regarding CASS compliance remain – particularly the continuing failure of firms to properly document trust arrangements. In light of these concerns the FSA will intensify its supervisory approach in the future, visiting more firms and returning to other firms to cover different issues or check on progress.
On the subject of CASS Resolution Packs, the FSA is aware of the costs involved in creating and maintaining a CASS Resolution Pack and the tight compliance deadlines. However, it is not particularly sympathetic to the concerns of firms in this area on account of the fact that it is only asking for documentation which, in the main, should have been available to firms before the introduction of the CASS Resolution Pack requirements.
A CASS Resolution Pack provides a convenient snap shot of the state of a firm’s CASS compliance, which can be requested by the FSA at any time. Given this, the particular concerns that that the FSA has regarding trust notifications and acknowledgments (which are required to be an immediately available component of every CASS Resolution Pack) and the stated intention to increase the intensity of future supervision, firms would be well advised to ensure that their approach to CASS Resolution Pack compliance is on a firm footing before the FSA next come knocking.