The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published a consultation paper on changes to its rules following the extension of the deadline by which solo-regulated firms need to have implemented the Senior Managers & Certification Regime (SM&CR).

In June, HM Treasury delayed the deadline by which firms must have first assessed the fitness and propriety of their certified staff until 31 March 2021.

This delay gives firms which have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic time to make the changes.

Society of Mortgage Professionals release good practice guide

To ensure other SM&CR deadlines remain consistent, the FCA will consult on extending the deadline for the following requirements from 9 December 2020 to 31 March 2021: the date the Conduct Rules come into force; the deadline for submission of information about directory persons to the FS Register; changing references in the rules to the deadline for assessing certified persons as fit and proper.

If firms are able to certify staff and submit information about directory persons to the FS Register earlier than March 2021, the FCA has advised that they should do so.

The FCA will still publish details of certified employees of solo firms starting from 9 December 2020 on the FS Register, as it expects that this published information will be of immediate benefit to consumers and firms.

The FCA is consulting alongside the parliamentary process to give regulated firms certainty and finalise policy as soon as possible.

As the Certification Regime and reporting of directory persons do not apply to benchmark administrators, the FCA does not intend to consult to move that deadline.

Benchmark administrators have until December 2021 to train non-senior manager staff in the Conduct Rules.

The FCA is asking for comments on the consultation by 14 August 2020.

Jonathan Davidson, executive director of supervision, retail and authorisations at the FCA, said: “These proposed changes recognise the exceptional stress placed on financial services firms by the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance for firms to fully and properly implement the Certification Regime and to train staff effectively in the Conduct Rules.

“We continue to place great importance on the Certification Regime and the Conduct Rules and see this as an opportunity to raise the bar permanently around conduct, competence and culture in the financial services industry.

“We expect firms to use this extra time, if they need it, to implement Certification and Conduct Rules training to the highest standards.”

Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society (PFS), said: “During the height of the lockdown measures we called for greater consideration by the regulator to ease the administrative burdens on firms.

“We therefore wholly support the delayed implementation deadlines for the Senior Managers and Certification Regime which will be welcomed across the sector.

“Firms have been impacted in different ways by COVID-19 both as a business and individual members of staff which was rightly recognised by HM Treasury last month.

“Advisers who still want to add their details to the register can do so, so this delay does not prevent consumers from benefiting from the register but it does ease the strain on advisers who have been affected by the pandemic.

“Regardless of any new date of implementation, we will continue to work with our members and support the introduction of the new SM&CR rules and regulations.”