Styperson POPE

Strategy & Compliance for Investment Firms


Compliance Audits & Monitoring Visits

This post is just a quick anatomy of a compliance monitoring visit we’re in the middle of for an FSA authorised Investment Firm.  We tailor all our compliance audits and monitoring programmes to our clients’ particular businesses and we make sure that they add value by focussing not only on the bare FSA requirements but also commenting on best practice and efficiencies.  We have developed tried and tested monitoring formats for:

Like most of our clients, the one who’s ‘enjoyed’ today’s compliance visit, is on a quarterly programme with a slightly more expanded report at mid-year and a full review at each year end.  Today (Friday) is day one of the full review, continuing Monday, and ending in the delivery of a report to the Board by the close of next week.  It’s not the best time to be taking several days out to run a full compliance audit… but then it never is!

Two of us are splitting the work, with me reviewing all of their regulated activities, policies, procedures, management systems, governance provisions, and Gabriel reports (which should be OK because we’re involved in all their FSA reporting).  Their in-house Compliance Manager is reviewing their files and records including KYC and AML, financial promotions, client categorisation, periodic statements, and suitability assessments (each based on a sample I chose at random).

Despite being only one day in, the visit has already proved invaluable with a big gap identified in their conduct of business (COBS) procedures (actually, they’d done everything right but didn’t understand why so had gone to expensive lawyers for advice each time), and a few gaps in management systems which can very easily be plugged (once you know they’re there!).

We’ll have plenty of recommendations to make and we categorise them all based on the urgency of the change and the cost or effort of completing it.  Generally we like to see through the changes we suggest but we also understand the costs involved in ‘gold plating’ and accept that perfection may be a longer-term objective!

One inevitable consequence of a compliance monitoring visit is some additional training and it’s a great way to identify areas of need.  This may be informal training for the Board in the form of talking through the report, or it might be identifying the key topics for a firm-wide workshop.

It’s easy to forget how valuable a compliance audit or monitoring visit can be and often it’s the most cost effective way of discovering problems (it’s certainly a lot cheaper than letting them revel themselves!).  If you’d like to discuss what kind of visit would be most suited to your business, do please give Simon Webber, STYPERSON POPE‘s Managing Director, a call on 07710 260 717, or e-mail sw@strategic-compliance.co.uk.


How are Funeral Plan Providers Regulated?

One relatively unknown corner of legislation is how providers of funeral plans are regulated under the financial services and markets act (FSMA)…

From a regulatory point of view, there are three types of provider:

1. FSA Authorised Providers
Because of the ready availability of exemptions to the Regulated Activities Order (RAO) which defines the requirement for FSA authorisation, no funeral plan providers have opted for full regulation.  Nonetheless, the starting point for the exemptions is the regulated activity of…

”Entering as provider into a funeral plan contract… under which a person (“the customer”) makes one or more payments to another person (“the provider”); and the provider undertakes to provide, or secure that another person provides, a funeral in the United Kingdom for the customer (or some other person who is living at the date when the contract is entered into) on his death”

2. Plans Secured Against a Contract of Insurance
If the money paid by the customer is used to purchase insurance cover which provides for funeral expenses, the provider of this product is exempt from requiring authorisation as a funeral provider (however, they may well require authorisation as an insurance intermediary).

3. Plans Which Hold Money in Trust
These are by far the most common type of funeral plan but they are also have the most complicated exemption for their providers to avoid having to be FSA authorised.  There are five separate tests which must each be met for the use of this exemption.  They cover:

i) the form of the trust;
ii) the eligibility of the trustees;
iii) the management of the trust’s funds;
iv) the accounting for the trust; and
v) the valuation of the trust.

Providers will also need to consider the Money Laundering Regulations as they apply to trusts and trust and company service providers.

If you’re a provider of funeral plans and would like to ensure you manage your activities to fit within one of these exemptions, do please contact Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE’s MD, on 07710 260 717 or sw@strategic-compliance.co.uk.

If you’re interested in purchasing a funeral plan, this post probably hasn’t been very helpful, but you might want to read this advice from the FSA.


Interim Compliance Officer & Part Time Director

Simon Webber is a portfolio Head of Compliance, Board Director and Consultant to FSA-regulated investment firms.  He is approved by the Financial Services Authority as a Compliance Officer, Money Laundering Reporting Officer and Director.

Simon specialises in assisting corporate finance houses, business angel networks, and companies structuring, launching and managing alternative asset funds, unregulated collective investment schemes and EIS funds.

Often he focusses on turning around the compliance function or integrating it more effectively with the rest of the business, making it more strategic and less obstructive.  This often requires an involvement with strategy and culture as well as business processes, FSA relationship management, and staff development.

As well as running StypersonPOPE, Simon is currently a Director of businesses in both London and Manchester including a market-leading alternative investment fund manager, a start up funds market, a corporate finance and early-stage investment house, and a Non-Executive Director placement service.

He holds two undergraduate degrees with honours and a masters degree.  He is a founder member of a regional committee for the Institute of Directors and is proud to be a Director of a charity giving over £6m per year to community projects.

If you would like to speak to Simon, please contact him on +44 (0) 7710 260 717 or sw@strategic-compliance.co.uk.

(Or take a look at linkedin.com/in/simonwebber and
twitter.com/stcwebber if you prefer.)


Marketing Funds: Promoting Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes

This is a long one but it’s a very complicated and misunderstood area… print it off, have a coffee, and take a deep breath…

The Financial Services and Markets Act (FSMA) imposes a restriction on unregulated collective investment schemes being marketed to the public but it also creates three sets of exemptions, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages.  (These all define to whom the fund can be promoted and by who, there are separate rules about the documents which must be used – click here for more information on when a prospectus is required.)

1. The Financial Promotions Order defines how an unauthorised firm can promote a scheme using unapproved documents.  Essentially, it allows promotion to some institutional investors and to Certified Sophisticated Investors (and, depending on the scheme’s investments, occasionally to self-certified high net worth or sophisticated investors).

Advantages to this approach are that:

  • Fees tend to be lower because,
    • the document used does not need to meet the FSA’s requirements for financial promotions, and
    • no FSA authorised firm has to take responsibility for the document.

Disadvantages are that:

  • an unauthorised (and therefore probably less expert firm) takes all of the responsibility,
  • the documents do still need to meet certain FSMA and common law requirements,
  • schemes can only be promoted to institutional and certified sophisticated investors,
  • the person making the communication has to establish that the investor is certified before making any promotion, and
  • authorised firms (eg IFAs) may not be able to pass on the promotion.

2. The Promotion of Collective Investment Scheme (Exemptions) Order contains one of the sets of exemptions to Section 238 of FSMA which restricts how an authorised firm can promote a Collective Investment Scheme. The exemptions here are very similar (but not identical) to those under the Financial Promotions Order (above).

Advantages are that:

  • an authorised firm is involved, giving comfort to partners in the fund by taking on some of the responsibility;
  • investors will feel more comforted knowing that a UK-based, FSA-authorised body is involved in the communication; and
  • the document does not have to meet the full requirements of the FSA’s financial promotion rules;
  • an authorised firm can approve the promotion to be made by unauthorised persons (but there’s little point because the promotion would be limited to the same people the unauthorised person cold promote it to anyway under the Financial Promotions Order).

Disadvantages are that:

  • fees will be higher because the firm will have to ‘verify’ the contents of the promotional material – they have a responsibility to investors to ensure that it is fair clear and not misleading;
  • schemes can still only be promoted to institutions and certified sophisticated investors;
  • the person making the communication still has to establish that the investor is certified before making any promotion; and
  • even some authorised firms (eg IFAs) can not pass on the promotion – eg if it would constitute MiFID business for them.

3. The FSA’s rules provide the final route for promotion. These define eight categories of investor to whom a scheme can be promoted without breaching the restriction in FSMA. Some of these are very specific exemptions for unusual types of schemes (like Church Funds and Lloyds underwriters) but two in particular are of more use.

Advantages of utilising these rules are that:

  • the scheme can be promoted to other groups of investors, including
    • persons assessed as suitable by an authorised firm (probably their IFA),
    • persons who have undergone an adequate assessment of their knowledge, experience and expertise by an authorised firm;
  • the scheme can be promoted in such a way as to reduce as far as possible the risk of someone making an investment who does not fit an exemption (this will mean controlling the promotion, dissuading ineligible persons from applying, and checking that applicants are eligible but unlike the other routes above, this does not need to be done ahead of making initial contact with an investor);
  • an authorised firm will take responsibility for the document; and
  • an authorised firm can approve the document for distribution by unauthorised persons.

Disadvantages of this approach are that:

  • the document will need to be more thorough, meeting all of the FSA’s requirements for financial promotions;
  • fees will be higher because the document will need to be verified by the authorised firm; and
  • an authorised firm will need to have processes and procedures in place to ensure that ineligible applicants are not permitted to participate in the scheme.

As you can see, each approach has its ‘pros and cons’ and each route is therefore suitable for certain types of schemes.

Routes 1 and 2 are most suitable for institutional schemes (ie funds where all of the investors are investment professionals, authorised firms, or high net worth companies and unincorporated associations).

If you are thinking of pursuing either of these routes and the fund is looking for investment from individuals then make sure that you or your distribution network already know a good number of Certified Sophisticated Investors (be careful to ask the right question and get the right answer because Self-Certified Sophisticated Investors, probably won’t count and certificates that do not cover unregulated collective investment schemes are useless to you).

If in any doubt, we recommend that you pick a sample of your target audience, say 20 investors, and (without telling them anything about the fund), ask them if they have a certificate and if they do, to fax it over to you.We can take a quick look at these and make sure that they are the right kind.Once you know what percentage of your target audience has these certificates then you’ll know how restricted you’ll be in promoting your fund.

Route 3 is likely to be more expensive because the authorised firm (probably the operator of the scheme) is going to be more involved – they will verify the document (as indeed they will for route 2 and you will for route 1), they will ensure it meets the FSA’s higher standards, they will approve it for distribution by you, and they will have in place process and procedures designed to stop ineligible investors from participating.

On the other hand, this route will allow more effective promotion of the scheme on the basis that investors will be protected by the assessments carried out by authorised firms (be they the operator or an IFA). If you want to promote the scheme to individuals who don’t already hold a Certificate of Sophistication covering unregulated collective investment schemes, these protections will need to be in place.

Above, I said the fact that “the document will need to be more thorough, meeting all of the FSA’s requirements for financial promotions” was a disadvantage. It might equally be seen as an advantage, both for the investor, who is better informed and therefore better protected, and for the promoter who can draw the attention of their distribution network to the involvement of an authorised firm.

StypersonPOPE can help you to determine the most effective route to employ in promoting a scheme. If you would like to discuss scheme promotion, please do contact Simon Webber,StypersonPOPE’s Managing Director, either by telephone or e-mail.


Investor Certificates: Sophisticated Investors & High Net Worth Individuals

Some communications about financial services (particularly those by unathorised firms or those related to funds) are restricted to ‘certified’ investors.  It’s important not to mix these up with an investor’s categorisation as Retail or Professional or whether they are a Qualified Investor – these are three quite separate regimes of classification.

The differences between the certificates are subtle but vital to understand. For instance, just taking sophisticated investors, there are three different types of certificate depending on what the promotion is about and who is making it – it’s possible that a single investor might hold all three and yet still not count as a ‘Certified Sophisticated Investor’ in respect of any particular investment.

Financial Promotions Order Certificates include:

  • Certified Sophisticated (signed by an authorised firm)*
  • Self-certified Sophisticated**
  • Self-certified High Net Worth**

* Only in respect of the investments the certificate lists
** Only in respect of debentures and shares in unlisted securities

Promotion of Collective Investment Scheme (Exemptions) Order Certificates cover the same categories but have slightly different content.

When relying on certificates, the promoter must ensure that the investor holds the relevant certificate before making any promotion. We recommend that they see a copy of the certificate either by post, fax or scan. This can be difficult in practice but it is the only route available to firms under these regimes.

To establish whether your target audience is likely to have the required certificates, we recommend that you pick a sample, say 20 investors, and (without telling them anything about the investment), ask them if they have a certificate and if they do, to fax it over to you.

StypersonPOPE can take a quick look at the certificates you receive and determine which ones you can rely on.

Once you know what percentage of your target audience has these certificates then you’ll know how restricted you’ll be in promoting your investment opportunity. If it proves to be unworkable, there are alternative routes available which circumvent the need for certificates entirely.

In any case, StypersonPOPE can help you to determine which certificates are appropriate and what percentage of your target audience holds them. If you would like to discuss scheme promotion, please do contact Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE’s Managing Director, either by telephone or e-mail.


EIS Funds: How They Can Be Structured & Promoted

What is an EIS fund?
The short answer is that it’s an arrangement through which investors can put money into Enterprise Investment Scheme qualifying unquoted companies under the management of experienced investors or corporate financiers. This offers investors diversification in their portfolios and the risk is mitigated (to an extent) by the income and capital gains tax reliefs. (See the HMRC site for more detail on Enterprise Investment Scheme tax advantages and qualifying investments.)

When looking at the tax reliefs, there are two types of EIS fund; approved and unapproved.  These are not regulatory terms (and shouldn’t but refer to whether the fund has been approved by HMRC.  If it has, the investors qualify for relief when they invest in the fund, if it is not, they only qualify for relief when the fund makes an eligible investment.  The predictability of the former makes it attractive to some investors but they are less flexible than unapproved funds and have a limited time in which to make their investments.

How is it structured?
This is where it gets a little more complicated. Firstly it isn’t like most ‘funds’ at all. Unlike companies and other kinds of funds (which are usually partnerships) it doesn’t have a legal personality. It can be a number of parallel investment management agreements between individual investors and the manager of the ‘fund’ or a series of separate portfolios which together are referred to as the ‘fund’.

Typically, the initial investment is kept in cash as ‘client money’ either with the scheme manager, in a client account, or on trust with a bank. The investment manager will then commit a portion of each investor’s cash into each investment in a qualifying company (in line with the investment management agreement). Often the resulting shares will be registered in the name of a nominee and shareholder duties (like voting) will be delegated to the investment manager during the life of the fund.

If that sounds rather like a collective investment scheme, we can understand why.  However, the Treasury have the power under FSMA to create exemptions to the definition of a collective investment scheme and they have created one specific to EIS funds.

A Compliance Perspective
From this point of view as well, EIS funds are strange animals. The fact that an EIS fund is not a collective investment scheme (CIS) has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, they do not require an operator in the same way as a CIS, the scheme documents are not as prescribed, and the promotion is not as restricted (at least for an authorised firm). On the other hand, unlike a CIS, it is ‘MiFID business’ which means that firms managing an EIS fund will need to follow rules from which CIS operators are exempt. It also means that unlike a CIS, it is virtually impossible to run an EIS fund without the permission to deal with retail clients.

Retail client permissions are necessary because it is the underlying investor, not the fund which is the client of the firm. Within the MiFID rules under which EIS funds are regulated, it is much harder to categorise an investor as professional. You may find that if retail investors are excluded, it seriously limits the market for the fund.

The regulated activities involved in managing an EIS fund include holding client money, investment management, and safeguarding and administering investments. Firms should also consider whether any particular investment management agrement is likely to involve them in arranging, advising, or dealing in investments.  It is possible for firms to outsource some of these activities if they do not have the required permissions to carry them out themselves.

Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE’s Managing Director has experience of both investment management and unquoted corporate finance compliance. If you would like to discuss any aspect of establishing or managing an Enterprise Investment Scheme fund, please contact him directly on 07710 260 717 orsw@strategic-compliance.co.uk.


Prospectus Exemptions… myths & misunderstandings

We see a lot of clients who really want to avoid having to prepare a prospectus.  Sometimes, I’m not sure all the effort is worthwhile and it may be better to take another look at the costs and time involved in putting a prospectus together if it makes the marketing easier – generally, it’s not as bad as you’d think.  Nonetheless, this article is about the exemptions, or rather about some of the imaginary exemptions we’ve heard of recently.  Our basic guide to the real exemptions can be found by clicking here.

“If working within the limit of 99 people, can’t Sophisticated Investors be excluded from the total?”

No.  It’s true that certain investors can be excluded but the only kind of private individuals who can be excluded are ‘Qualified Investors’.  These must be registered with the FSA and meeting the criteria  for sophistication is not helpful in meeting the requirements to be qualified investors (which are much closer to the criteria for an elective professional investor under MiFID).

“If relying on the minimum investment of €50k, is it OK to quote this in the literature but actually accept less than this?”

Again, no.  Generally speaking, saying one thing and doing another is a recipe for upsetting investors and getting sued.  Apart from this, the relevant rule states that “a person does not contravene section 85(1) if… the minimum consideration which may be paid by any person for transferable securities acquired by him pursuant to the offer is at least 50,000 euros”.  I suppose if you have a really good lawyer, you could get into a debate about the meanings of “may” and “pursuant” but I think we all know what the rule intends and I wouldn’t want one of my clients to be in the dock while the case law is being made. 

“Is it true that the prospectus rules don’t apply to funds which are unregulated collective investment schemes?”

Sorry, yet again, no.  The rules apply to most ‘transferable securities’ including shares in companies and units in partnerships (how most funds are structured).  It is true that there is a list of exempt investment types and that this list includes open ended funds but most smaller, unlisted or unregulated funds won’t qualify as open ended (even if they think they do).  They can, however, use one of the other exemptions.  It is worth noting that any fund listed on the LSE’s Specialist Fund Market must prepare a prospectus even if it otherwise falls into one of the exemptions.

With experience of the prospectus directive within both corporate finance and fund establishment, StypersonPOPE can help you plan which exemptions to use. For an initial discussion, please call or e-mail Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE‘s Managing Director.