FCA approves e-signatures during COVID-19

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced that fund management companies can now use electronic signatures to approve documents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regulator set out the measures after a number of fund management firms had made applications for approvals, but were struggling to obtain physically signed signatures on the documents due to social distancing and lockdown measures.

It has also allowed a delay in publishing annual reports by an extra two months and an extra month for half-year reports.

In a statement, the FCA said: “During the Coronavirus crisis, we are willing to accept electronic signatures on applications to authorise funds or approve changes to funds.

“Applicants may use such electronic signatures where appropriate and relevant forms should be construed accordingly - where it is possible for the applicant to validate accompanying documentation electronically they may do so. In all cases where an electronic signature is used, we need to be assured that the signatory has seen and agreed with all the information in the form.”

This clarification applies only to information sent by firms to the FCA, it noted.

Matt Tuson, managing director of EMEA at Conga, a specialist in digital document transformation, said the move could help to resolve delays and issues in the final hurdle of the document process.

“As companies increasingly navigate how to continue operating amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, fund managers will likely have been hit hard by the inability to wet sign documentation for regulatory applications to open or approved changes to a fund.

“While there may be some security concerns, electronic signatures today have robust security precautions in place," he continued. "Indeed, electronic signature technology must meet industry-recognised physical and technological security standards that guarantee secure transactions."

At the start of the month, the FCA also said it was prepared to relax rules on financial services firms accepting customer phone photo 'selfies' to check their identity, as one of several measures to ease the burden during Coronavirus lockdown.

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