This annual publication explores some of the core focus areas for UK-regulated financial services firms in the year ahead. 2023 saw significant progress on the regulatory reform agenda, and many measures consulted on or reviewed as part of the Edinburgh Reforms will be finalised and/or implemented in the course of 2024.

We also saw the passing of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, many provisions of which have already come into effect and have made important changes to the

Critical Third Parties serving the UK financial sector must ready themselves for compliance with the newly proposed operational resilience requirements.

By Rob Moulton, Fiona Maclean, and Charlotte Collins

On 7 December 2023, the PRA, FCA, and BoE jointly published a Consultation Paper (PRA CP26/23 and FCA CP23/30) which proposes a set of regulatory requirements and expectations for critical third parties (CTPs) that provide services to authorised persons, relevant service providers, and financial market infrastructure entities (FMIs). The key aim of the proposals is to manage potential risks to the stability of, or confidence in, the UK financial system that may arise due to a failure in, or disruption to, the services that a CTP provides to such entities.

As regulatory thinking evolves, firms must ensure that any current or planned use of AI complies with regulatory expectations.

By Fiona M. Maclean, Becky Critchley, Gabriel Lakeman, Gary Whitehead, and Charlotte Collins

As financial services firms digest FS2/23, the joint Feedback Statement on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning issued by the FCA, Bank of England, and PRA (the regulators), and the UK government hosts the AI Safety Summit, we take stock of the government and the regulators’ thinking on AI to date, discuss what compliance considerations firms should be taking into account now, and look at what is coming next.

The FCA recently highlighted that we are reaching a tipping point whereby the UK government and sectoral regulators need to decide how to regulate and oversee the use of AI. Financial services firms will need to track developments closely to understand the impact they may have. However, the regulators have already set out how numerous areas of existing regulation are relevant to firms’ use of AI, so firms also need to ensure that any current use of AI is compliant with the existing regulatory framework.

The FCA and the PRA have published their long-awaited consultations which aim to formalise how firms approach diversity and inclusion.

By Sarah E. Fortt, Sarah Gadd, Nicola Higgs, Andrea Monks, Rob Moulton, Nell Perks, Becky Critchley, Charlie Bowden, Ella McGinn, and Charlotte Collins

On 25 September 2023, the FCA and the PRA published separate but related consultation papers on D&I in financial services (FCA CP23/20 and PRA CP18/23). The regulators published a joint Discussion Paper in July 2021 on how they might accelerate the pace of meaningful change in relation to D&I and misconduct in financial services, by establishing minimum standards and providing firms with a better understanding of regulatory expectations (see Latham’s related blog post).

While some of the regulators’ proposed measures overlap, others are separate, and so dual-regulated firms will need to read both papers carefully. Equally, some of the measures would apply to all firms, but the more granular requirements would apply only to larger firms. Firms will therefore need to ensure they understand which requirements would be relevant to them.

Government plans to add more flexibility to the regime, but its long-term future remains undecided.

By Rob Moulton and Charlotte Collins

On 28 September 2023, HM Treasury published further papers in relation to the planned reform of the UK bank ring-fencing regime, which was announced as part of the Edinburgh Reforms (see this Latham article). The ring-fencing regime requires banks over a certain size threshold to separate out their retail deposit-taking operations into a ring-fenced entity.

HM Treasury has published a consultation on short-term reforms to the regime, aiming to implement (and, in some cases, go beyond) recommendations made in 2022 by the independent review of ring-fencing. The proposed reforms include raising the ring-fencing threshold from £25 billion to £35 billion of core deposits, and expanding the activities that a ring-fenced bank may carry on. HM Treasury has also published a response to its Call for Evidence on aligning the ring-fencing and resolution regimes in the longer term.

FSMA 2023 includes a court procedure for failing insurers to temporarily write-down liabilities, with implications for counterparties.

By Victoria Sander and Tim Scott

The recently passed Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 (FSMA 2023) provides for a new write-down procedure under which failing insurers can apply to court to have their insurance liabilities written down. Write-downs are intended to be temporary (though no period is specified), followed by a subsequent write-up, which is a transfer of the business or application

As the pace of reform increases, we take a look at key developments and the timeline ahead.

Significant progress has been made on the Edinburgh Reforms since they were announced in December 2022, with developments gathering pace before the summer break. Given the breadth and speed of the reforms, now is a good time to take stock of where things stand and what we can expect in the months ahead. In this publication, we highlight some of the key developments and set out expected dates for future progress.

UK regulator continues to raise concerns that current market practices could lead to systemic risk.

By Victoria Sander

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has issued another communication, the latest of a series related to reinsurance arrangements for the UK life insurance sector. Charlotte Gerken, Bank of England Executive Director, Insurance Supervision and chair of the PRA’s main executive committee, issued a letter on 15 June to Chief Risk Officers (CROs) communicating the PRA’s insights from its recent schematic review of funded reinsurance.

The PRA has identified reinsurance arrangements, which UK annuity providers use extensively, as an area of potential risk, including potential systemic risk due to increasing exposures to a limited number of longevity reinsurance providers to the sector. The latest missive focuses specifically on reinsurance under which the insurer transfers both asset and investment risk as well as the longevity risk to a particular reinsurer — a form of reinsurance increasingly popular for annuity providers writing large amounts of bulk pension annuity business.

The tone of the papers suggests that a fundamental reform of the Regime will be unlikely.

By Rob Moulton, David Berman, Jonathan Ritson-Candler, and Charlotte Collins

On 30 March 2023, the PRA and the FCA published a joint Discussion Paper (FCA DP23/3 and PRA DP1/23) seeking feedback on the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR). In parallel, HM Treasury published a Call for Evidence on the Regime. The Discussion Paper focuses on the operational aspects of the SMCR, whereas the Call for Evidence looks at the legislative aspects. Together, the papers seek comments on the SMCR’s performance, effectiveness, scope, and proportionality. The closing date for responses is 1 June 2023.