Styperson POPE

Strategy & Compliance for Investment Firms


Things to Consider When Launching a Fund

The following headings cover some of the key considerations in setting up a fund which will be structured or promoted as an unregulated collective investment scheme:
Location (Tax)
Tax structuring is likely to be the driver behind the decision on where the scheme should be based.  This will be determined in part by who the investors are and where they and the assets of the scheme are located.  If the investors are based in the UK, especially if they are CGT exempt (eg through a SIPP or SSAS), a UK partnership is likely to be tax efficient without needing to look offshore.

Location (Regulation)
Some funds may consider offshore management to save on regulation however if the aim is to save on the ‘cost of regulation’, then the ‘cost of offshoring’ must be set against this.  Offshore lawyers, accountants, managers and administrators are often more expensive than their fully regulated UK equivalents.  It is also worth considering how investors will see the decision to operate off shore if it is perceived as an attempt to avoid regulation (and therefore avoid some of their protection).  Do also bear in mind that UK regulations still apply to the promotion of funds based offshore if that promotion is undertaken in, or from, the UK.

Structure
Tax will again be important in determining the structure of the fund but assuming that the investors are principally based in the UK and include some CGT exempt investors and some tax payers, a typical structure would involve a Limited or Limited Liability Partnership (which is tax transparent) with a UK Unit Trust feeder (for the SIPP and SSAS investors).  Various other vehicles might be used to achieve specific tax planning objectives such as allowing overseas investors to avoid withholding tax or allowing income to be rolled up into capital gains.

Operator
Establishing, operating and winding up an unregulated collective investment scheme is a regulated activity.  This means, where the fund is operated (run) from within the UK, the person doing so must be authorised by the FSA.  Some would-be fund managers become authorised directly, others employ a professional operator to run the fund on their behalf.
The decision on which route to take will depend on the experience available in-house, the size of the fund envisaged and whether it is likely to be one of many future funds.  If the fund is small, a one-off, or the fund manager lacks experience, the costs of becoming authorised and therefore having to buy in expertise, pay fees to the FSA, and maintain regulatory capital are likely to outweigh the costs of buying in a professional operator.

Administration
This activity covers a broad range of services from receiving and processing subscriptions (which can be regulated) to producing call notices, effecting transfers, paying distributions, maintaining statutory books and registers, and issuing updates to investors (which are generally not regulated).  Professional administrators have the expertise necessary to deal with administratively complex funds like hedge funds but others which trade only occasionally or which do not permit transfers or redemptions of their units may be easier to administer in-house.  Once the fund is up and running, certain communications are laid down by regulations and advice may be required on how these should be put together.

Accounting
Again, the need for an external accountant will depend on the complexity of the funds’ activities and the commitments made to investors about when financial information will be circulated.  Simple funds can be accounted for in house, while complex funds may need experienced personnel, specialist systems and a good understanding of models of returns and carried interests.

Promotion (Documents)
Within (and from) the UK, the promotion of unregulated collective investment schemes is very tightly restricted.  This is an area which many funds overlook in their planning but it is, of course, vital to achieving a successful launch.  Every fund needs a clear route to market and a strong offering to both investors and intermediaries.
Most funds will prepare an IM; great care (and good advice) should be taken in ensuring that the IM appropriately addresses the workings of the fund, the financial model, the parties involved, and (perhaps most importantly) the risks it carries.  Even if the IM is not going to be issued or approved by an authorised firm, having it verified by an experienced advisor might be very useful and save considerable cost in the long run.
In some cases, the IM may need to take the form of a prospectus which is a much more tightly prescribed document and, if this is the case, the cost of preparing it may be considerably higher.  Whether this is necessary will depend on the strategy for promoting the fund, its overall size, its minimum investment, and the legal status of the fund vehicles involved.
Unauthorised promoters of funds may be able to use documents approved by an authorised firm but whoever carries out the promotion, the categories of permitted recipient are few and tightly defined.  Great care must be taken to remain within these.

Promotion (Activity)
As well as the documents being used, attention must also be paid to whether the activity of promoting the fund is a regulated activity and therefore requires FSA authorisation in its own right.  It is likely that promotions which do not involve authorised intermediaries will be extremely difficult to undertake.

Next Steps
Knowing the following information will be helpful in addressing the considerations above:
  • What are the fund’s investments in? Asset class, location, &c.;
  • Who are the investors? Individuals, institutions, pension schemes, location, &c.;
  • How may investments will you receive?  Minimum, maximum, total number, &c.;
  • How may investments will you make?  Frequency, size, &c.;
  • Will you distribute income?  Size and frequency of distributions, &c.; and
  • What is your route to market?  Are intermediaries authorised, where are they based, &c..
To discuss any issues related to launching a fund as an unregulated collective investment scheme, please contact Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE’s MD, on 07710 260 717 or 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.)


FSA Principles for Businesses & Approved Persons

This isn’t a particularly original or insightful page because it’s basically just a cut and paste from the FSA’s handbook but the principles are very imoprtant to the FSA and they should be to all authorised firms as well.  They bear repeating:

FOR BUSINESSES…

1 Integrity – A firm must conduct its business with integrity.

2 Skill, care and diligence – A firm must conduct its business with due skill, care and diligence.

3 Management and control – A firm must take reasonable care to organise and control its affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems.

4 Financial prudence – A firm must maintain adequate financial resources.

5 Market conduct – A firm must observe proper standards of market conduct.

6 Customers’ interests – A firm must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly.

7 Communications with clients – A firm must pay due regard to the information needs of its clients, and communicate information to them in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading.

8 Conflicts of interest – A firm must manage conflicts of interest fairly, both between itself and its customers and between a customer and another client.

9 Customers: relationships of trust – A firm must take reasonable care to ensure the suitability of its advice and discretionary decisions for any customer who is entitled to rely upon its judgment.

10 Clients’ assets – A firm must arrange adequate protection for clients’ assets when it is responsible for them.

11 Relations with regulators – A firm must deal with its regulators in an open and cooperative way, and must disclose to the FSA appropriately anything relating to the firm of which the FSA would reasonably expect notice.

FOR APPROVED PERSONS…

  1. An approved person must act with integrity in carrying out his controlled function.
  2. An approved person must act with due skill, care and diligence in carrying out his controlled function.
  3. An approved person must observe proper standards of market conduct in carrying out his controlled function.
  4. An approved person must deal with the FSA and with other regulators in an open and cooperative way and must disclose appropriately any information of which the FSA would reasonably expect notice.
  5. An approved person performing a significant influence function must take reasonable steps to ensure that the business of the firm for which he is responsible in his controlled function is organised so that it can be controlled effectively. 
  6. An approved person performing a significant influence function must exercise due skill, care and diligence in managing the business of the firm for which he is responsible in his controlled function.
  7. An approved person performing a significant influence function must take reasonable steps to ensure that the business of the firm for which he is responsible in his controlled function complies with the relevant requirements and standards of the regulatory system. 

(For 5-7 above, a “significant influence function”, includes Directors, Compliance Officers, and Money Laundering Reporting Officers, but not people in only a customer function.)

If you would like help in determining how these principles can be applied in practice, within your business, please do call or e-mail Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE’s MD.


Who needs to be FSA Authorised?

As is so often the case with regulation, it’s almost impossible to get an answer to a simple question like this without ending up being barraged by unhelpful and unfamiliar technical terms.  With respect to investment firms like our clients, the answer is easy:

“If, in the course of business, you carry out designated investment business with respect to specified investments and the activity isn’t excluded, or you’re not exempt, you need to be authorised.” 

But really, what use is that?!

The rules genuinely are detailed and complicated, and the terminology is technical so this can’t be a full guide but we can unpack the ‘easy answer’ above, separate out the different concepts and give a quick introduction to them so that you know what questions to ask next…

1) in the course of business
This part of the answer is not clearly defined by law but most people know whether they are doing something in the course of business or not.  If it could make you money (whether or not it actually does) and if it’s a regular activity rather than a one-off happening, it’s likely to fall within “the course of business”.

2) designated investment business
This is just a part of the much wider “regulated activities” which range from insurance business to banking but these are the ones undertaken by most investment firms.  These include (among others):

Again, common sense applies; if it feels like it should be regulated, it probably is.

3) specified investments
These are the investment instruments that are regulated.  This category includes shares, options, warrants, debentures, units in a collective investment scheme (fund), government securities, &c..

There are several popular alternative asset classes that aren’t specified investments, most notably property (real estate) but also art, wine, stamps, antiques, and the like.  You do not, therefore, need to be regulated in order to advise someone on their portfolio of wines. 

Even within these asset classes, some caution is required; because units and shares are specified investments, advising somebody to buy into an art fund, or to buy a special purpose vehicle which owns a building, is likely to be regulated.

4) excluded activity
These are activites which, were it not for the specific exemption, would require you to be authorised.  They include publishing media reports on financial matters, setting up employee share schemes, and buying or selling investments on your own behalf (as long as you don’t hold yourself out to the market as willing to do so).

5) exempt persons
Finally, these are people who have specific exemptions from requiring FSA authorisation because of who they are.  These include regulated professional firms (mainly lawyers and accountants, where the activity is incidental to the professional services they offer), appointed representatives, central banks, and certain large investment exchanges.  If you were going to fall into this category, you’d probably know already.

If you’re not sure whether you need to be authorised, it’s likely to be because you’re not sure if the activity you’re undertaking counts as ‘regulated activity’ or if you’re involved with ‘specified investments’ (2 & 3 above).  These are the key areas where you may want to seek more advice.

Of course, if you’d like to discuss with us, whether or not you need regulation, please contact Simon Webber, StypersonPOPE’s MD, either by telephone or on sw@strategic-compliance.co.uk.


What is an EIS fund and how is it regulated?

What is an EIS fund?
The short answer is that it’s an arrangement through which less experienced and time-poor investors can put money into Enterprise Investment Scheme qualifying unquoted companies. This offers investors diversification in their portfolios and the higher level of 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 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.

When it comes to the structure of the fund it gets more complicated. Firstly it isn’t really a ‘fund’ 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 or sw@strategic-compliance.co.uk.

 

 


FSA Sophisticated Investor and High Net Worth Individual Certificates

Some communications about financial services are restricted to ‘certified’ investors. 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 Sopisticated*
  • 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 include:

  • Certified Sopisticated*

  • Self-certified Sophisticated**

  • Self-certified High Net Worth** 

* Only if the listed investments include ‘units in a collective investment scheme’
** Only in respect of schemes investing in debentures or shares in unlisted securities.

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 fund. If it proves to be unworkable, there are alternative routes available but they will likely require more involvement by an authorised firm.

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.