The long summer has now come to an end with people returning to work after a well-earned break – and, much like a return to school, our new ‘term’ has started with handing in our homework.
Over the last week or so we’ve been working with our accountants to get our FCA Gabriel return completed, covering our business for the last year.
Gabriel is the FCA’s online reporting system for collecting and storing regulatory data from firms and our annual return had to be submitted by 12 September due to our year end date. The FCA’s deadlines for submission are just a month and 12 days after each company’s yearend, compared to the luxurious 9-10 months we all had before regulation was introduced in 2014.
While the timescales may seem tight compared to the previous regime, as a broker it’s right that we should have the proper accounting systems in place in order to report promptly, and really the regulators don’t want to be waiting for months to find out whether any of their charges to firms are overleveraged or don’t have enough fat in the balance sheet to sustain and protect the business.
They need to protect our customers and understand the broker firms risk profile by ensuring our finances are sound and that we’re not under pressure to take or push for higher commissions, and by checking on the types of fees we charge lenders and clients. That’s why the reporting requirements have been widened to include the type of business being done and the number of complaints, and we now have to demonstrate that we have a wide enough panel of lenders to offer the best deals (rather than being tied to a limited few).
All of which begs the question about whether those brokers whose work falls outside of the legislation should be scrutinised in the same way to ensure they are keeping up professional standards. Customers need to be aware that these regulations and the transparent and open reporting required by them are here to protect the customer, assure the quality and reliability of the broker they choose to work with.
The returns can be complicated with lots of questions to answer, and not all brokerage work is covered by the regulators. My best advice for any brokers out there unsure about their return is to access the NACFB Compliance support portal. The information stored by Gabriel is used for all kinds of purposes so it pays to ensure all the information up there is correct and up to date.
While I recognise that this new way of reporting can be a lot of work, I also believe it adds another valuable layer of good business practice, helping us ensure our services are fit for purpose and we always have our eye on the ball.