Before a firm or individual can conduct certain financial activities in the United Kingdom, they must first be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This is detailed under Section 19 of the Financial Services & Market Acts 2000 (FSMA), which states that any firm or individual who carries out regulated activities are required to have FCA authorisation unless they are exempt from getting authorised (to be discussed later). Failure to comply with this necessary step is considered a criminal offence and the owner may be charged with fines or be indicted with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.
FCA authorisation is an important step as it helps the UK government in monitoring regulated financial activities (e.g. issuing e-money, advising on investments, accepting deposits, etc.) as well as help in tracking and cracking down businesses doing illegal and shady financial activities such as money laundering. Compliance with the FCA will allow you to conduct your business in the UK without worries.
Certain firms and individuals can be exempt from getting FCA compliance. Examples of firms that are exempted are financial firms (i.e. comprised of accountants, solicitors, etc.) and insurance and/or mortgage firms. Consumer credit firms, however, are not exempt but they have a different method of acquiring FCA compliance, which is detailed in the FCA’s official website and the Perimeter Guidance Manual (PERG). There are other exclusions as well, which does not require FCA authorisation, which include introducer exclusion and overseas persons exclusion.