Something we always seem to get questions on is stationery, and what makes it compliant.
The complexity comes as it’s not just FCA rules advice firms have to contend with, but additional rules depending on what type of company you're registered as, for example, whether you're a sole trader or limited company.
Over the years we've seen some common mistakes made, so thought we’d summarise the areas to watch out for and the things to avoid.
For letterheads, there are specific rules that need to be followed and certain information that needs to be included.
If your business is a limited company, the following should be included in your letterheads:
- The company name
- The company’s registered number
- The registered office address
- Where the company is registered (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland)
- The fact that it’s a limited company (usually by spelling out the company’s full name including ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’)
- Your contact information, including telephone number and website address
Sometimes firms will include the name of one or maybe two directors in their letterheads. If you want to include directors’ names, you must list all of them.
The correct regulatory statement
Abbreviating the Financial Conduct Authority to the FCA may seem harmless, but this is a big no-no.
Under GEN 4.3.1 and GEN Annex 1 statutory status disclosure, a domestic firm that is not authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority is required to disclose that the firm is ‘authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority’.
The abbreviation ‘FCA’ must not be used.
Often, we see business cards packed with information when this isn't necessary.
All you must include in your business card is:
- The name of the cardholder
- Their job title
- Their contact details
The job description given must be an accurate description of the role undertaken.
If the individual is employed in a non-advising capacity, then the business card must not imply through the job title that the person is authorised to carry out activities which he or she is not.
So acceptable terms used by non-advising staff would include job titles such as office manger, customer service adviser and administrator.
It's not acceptable to refer to non-advising staff as consultants or, clearly, advisers.
While it isn't necessary to include the regulatory disclosure (authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) on a business card, we would recommend this.
Disclosing the firm's status
This is most frequently an issue with appointed representative (AR) firms.
If you are an AR, you have to make it clear that you are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, your principal is.
Therefore, when it comes to the regulatory statement in your stationery, rather than:
"ABC Tax and Pensions Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority"
It should always be
"ABC Tax and Pensions Ltd is an Appointed Representative of XYZ Ltd. XYZ Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority."
Trading names and styles
Trading names/styles are another element that are often not disclosed correctly.
If you use a trading name, you're required to display this name on all the appropriate places, for example, business cards, letterheads, website(s), invoices.
If you don't do this already, you will have to amend most, if not all, your existing stationery.
For example, if your firm is called ABC Tax and Pensions Ltd and you just want to used ABC Ltd then you would need to display on your stationery that
"ABC Ltd is a trading name of ABC Tax and Pensions Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority."
Before doing so, it's worth checking Companies House to make sure your trading name isn't the same or similar to another business in any way.