Britain's FCA to keep stock markets open in face of volatility

Reuters LONDON | Updated on March 17, 2020 Published on March 17, 2020

FCA steps taken to ensure everyone has access to cash

Britain's markets watchdog said on Tuesday it wants to keep stock markets open despite the extreme sell-offs in recent sessions, which have prompted some Eurpoean countries to introduce trading curbs. “Our aim is to continue to maintain open and orderly markets notwithstanding current volatility,” the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said in a statement.

The FCA's US counterpart, the Securities and Exchange Commission, said on Monday it would keep Wall Street open for trading despite a plunge in US shares and speculation the government would shut down markets. The watchdog also signalled more flexibility for traders who are executing stock transactions from back-up sites or from home.

The FCA said it was ready to “take any steps necessary” to ensure that customers are protected and that markets continue to function well. Banks have already begun trading shares and other securities from split sites to minimise the potential for the coronavirus to spread among their staff.

This, and the prospect of traders having to execute transactions from home, has raised questions about meeting compliance requirements such as having equipment to record and track trades for regulators to spot any market abuses.

“Firms should continue to record calls, but we accept that some scenarios may emerge where this is not possible,” the FCA said. “Firms should make us aware if they are unable to meet these requirements. We expect firms to consider what steps they could take to mitigate outstanding risks if they are unable to comply with their obligations to record voice communications.”

Traders could introduce “enhanced monitoring, or retrospective review”, once normal trading resumes, the FCA said.

Access to cash

Some firms have taken steps to enable customers' access to cash, such as waiving fees for savings accounts and allowing them to end their term deposits early, the FCA said.

“UK firms have taken steps to help ensure consumers have access to cash, including the raising of cash machine withdrawal limits,” the FCA said. “We are confident electronic payment providers have capacity to cope with the potential changes in transaction numbers.”

The FCA will also hold talks with banks in coming days regarding how to further help mortgage customers. “In the current climate, we want firms to show greater flexibility to customers in persistent credit card debt,” it added.

The watchdog said firms that it regulates should report to the FCA immediately if they believe they will be in difficulty. To allow firms to focus on supporting customers, the FCA said it was extending the closing date for responses to public consultations until October and rescheduling most other work.

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Published on March 17, 2020
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