If your business is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), you’re probably already aware of changes to the FCA online portal, Gabriel. But, until now, details around the nature of these changes to the FCA portal have been vague, to say the least.
Following on from recent industry consultations with business users, the FCA has released a more comprehensive overview of how Gabriel is likely to be updated, and the key areas of concern that any changes will tackle.
Chris Evans, financial services specialist, runs through the proposed changes to the FCA system and how they may impact your company.
Using Gabriel (and why’s it’s no angel)
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) currently has an online system called Gabriel, the portal that all FCA-registered businesses must use to submit their reporting information. The issue is that Gabriel has what might be best described as an ‘attitude problem’. As a system it’s notoriously obtuse, clunky and difficult to navigate – and that can turn the whole process of submitting your FCA returns into a somewhat stressful endeavour.
And the system is not the only worry for FCA-regulated companies …
If you’re regulated in one EU country (EEA only), at present, you can apply to be passported into another EU countryt. With London being a big financial centre, there are questions over what will happen after we leave the EU. It’s a big concern for businesses in the financial services sector who operate in the EEA either directly or via passporting.
Changes to the FCA online portal
A new online portal has been mooted by the FCA for several years. In 2019, the FCA informed businesses that Gabriel was to be replaced and updated, but there were no concrete details about the specifics of these changes. If you’re doing your own returns, you need to know what’s going to change, and (vitally) when.
Since the original announcement, the FCA has been holding industry workshops to consult with regulated companies on what the new portal should address. The suggestion so far is that technology improvements will come first, bringing the FCA system into the digital age.
There will be no ‘hard turn-off’ but a phased transition over time. The information reported from Gabriel won’t change – what changes is the way that the whole process is carried out.
If you have logged into Gabriel recently, you will have had to complete the mandatory one-time registration for the new platform – the log in details are shared with Connect (the FCA portal for applications and notifcations).
This upgrade ties in with the general move to digital that we’re seeing across all government platforms, with Companies House going digital and HMRC’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ (MTD) initiative already in full swing for VAT-registered businesses.
In short, a digital approach should make it easier to share the relevant business information, and will (in theory) lessen the compliance burden for many.
Key issues with the current system
Although many FCA-regulated businesses will be used to the idiosyncrasies of the Gabriel system, there are plenty of ways in which Gabriel could be improved and enhanced.
One major drawback is that Gabriel isn’t open at night or over the weekend – something that can impact on deadlines if you can’t report on the right dates. It can also make things difficult for overseas companies trying to fill out returns in different time zones. You’d assume that an online tool is available 24/7, and the hope is that this limited access will change with the new upgrade.
Based on recent guidance following the consultation period, the FCA has outlined three lines of attack that people want to see improved:
- Accessing Gabriel – these changes focus on improving the speed and support, and making it accessible 24/7 in order to stop delays to returns. Businesses also want better guidance on how you fill in the online forms, so this can be completed easily and consistent data can be achieved.
- Viewing your Gabriel reporting details – the reporting side of Gabriel is clunky and doesn’t make it obvious what you should be doing and when. What businesses want is a better layout of schedules and an easier way to view previous data and returns. That’s going to need better centralised organisation of data and improved search facilities.
- Submitting data – Businesses are keen to have better guidance when making a data submission. Currently, there are lots of forms and not much guidance. You can click through the FCA handbook, but that’s a giant tome and hard to navigate. The hope is that pop-up help menus can be included, with clear, plain English descriptions of how to complete your submission.
At the moment, much of the guidance is too technical and the limitations of the system are holding back the smooth running of submissions. These improvements all aim to tackle these issues and make the system far more user-friendly.
Removing the hurdles to seamless FCA compliance
Most FCA-regulated businesses will be aware that change to the FCA online portal is coming, but very few will currently be aware of the details. And with so many layers of complexity to ensuring your company is compliant, a new system is sorely needed.
Brexit is still an unknown quantity, even more so since the coronavirus outbreak began, so knowing how the financial and regulatory framework will function once the UK is outside the European Union (EU) is a big worry for many companies.
FCA-regulated companies must also have a minimum level of cash reserves. You need to satisfy these conditions and demonstrate that you have the capital required to preserve people’s investments.
With the change in EU legislation and the need for tough compliance, people have enough to deal with at the moment, without having to worry about Gabriel. Companies are keen to have an FCA online portal that’s easy to use and easy to access the right information.
How we can lighten the compliance load
Larger businesses will often have their own internal team, who can take care of the FCA-related compliance. But many smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are likely to need a financial services consultant – someone to navigate the murky FCA waters.
With legislation and compliance still up in the air, having a seasoned and experienced financial services adviser on the team makes a huge difference.
At Haines Watts London, we can assist by:
- Completing the FCA returns for you – we’ll key in the data, help you navigate the systems and take away that compliance pain from your ongoing list of worries.
- Guide you through the legislation – once the amended EU legislation is published, we can give you an early heads up on what’s changing and walk you through the process.
- Help you access additional capital – if the numbers change RE the cash reserves and capital requirements post-Brexit, we can liaise with our Corporate Finance team to help you access additional funding and meet those requirements.
If you’re an FCA-regulated business, then come and talk to us. By getting to know and understand your business, we can give you tailored advice on dealing with changes to legislation and the new FCA system.
The changes to Gabriel are only the tip of the FCA iceberg. We’ll be bringing you more helpful content and advice as the financial services landscape evolves.
Next time, we’ll be taking a closer look at the capital requirements for FCA-regulated companies, and once the Brexit negotiations are complete, we’ll have a full update on the new legislation and how it will impact on UK financial services businesses.
Talk to one of our specialists about the changes to the FCA online portal.
Want to know more? Call us on 0207 025 4650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org