Britain’s financial regulator has urged firms in the financial sector to carry on working as normally as possible, but has had to postpone its own non-urgent work to help others to deal with the crisis.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) postponed all its consultations and papers until October so it can divert resources to managing the coronavirus crisis.
It is calling on financial firms to do everything they can to support their customers and is setting up dedicated teams internally to provide their own support.
A spokesman said: “We are in regular contact with firms to assess their current position, and expect firms to be taking reasonable steps to ensure they are prepared to meet the challenges coronavirus could pose to customers and staff, particularly through their business continuity plans.
Clear and transparent
“We expect firms to provide strong support and service to customers during this period.
They should be clear and transparent and provide support as consumers and small businesses face challenges at this time.
“We also expect firms to manage their financial resilience and actively manage their liquidity. Firms should report to us immediately if they believe they will be in difficulty.”
On managing its own workload, the regulator said: “We are reviewing our work plans so that we can delay or postpone activity which is not critical to protecting consumers and market integrity in the short-term.
This will allow firms to focus on supporting their customers during this difficult period.
“One of the immediate actions we are taking is to extend the closing date for responses to our open consultation papers and calls for input until 1 October 2020 and rescheduling most other planned work.
“We have also scaled back our programme of routine business interactions, especially through meetings, so that we only contact firms on business-critical requests and responses to the current situation.
“We will continue with a small number of regulatory changes which support consumers, particularly the most vulnerable, or where major long-term programmes would be disrupted.”
UK Finance is banking’s trade body and chief executive Stephen Jones said: “This latest update provides welcome guidance for firms in addition to the swift and continuous actions already taken by the UK public authorities and the industry during these unprecedented times.
“Banks, building societies and other lenders in the UK are actively preparing for the negative impacts of Covid-19 and focused on supporting their customers over what will be a challenging period for all.”
He added that minimising demand on the industry’s capacity in such challenging times will enable his members to contrate their efforts on customer care strategies and the changes needed to make it work.
“The banking and finance industry will continue to work with the government and regulators over the coming weeks and months to ensure the industry is fully able to prioritise first and foremost on supporting customers to manage their financial needs flexibly and effectively,” he said.