“Acceptance” does not mean “Approval” of an SFC application

When a licensing application is submitted to the SFC, the first hurdle is getting the application “accepted” by the SFC (that is, getting the SFC to start the review process). Once the SFC has no further questions, the application has reached the finishing line and the SFC will “approve” the application. The SFC’s “acceptance of application” is therefore just the first step along the course to the SFC’s “approval”. It is only when the SFC’s formal written approval has been obtained (or it is shown in SFC’s public register) that the applicant can commence the activity, or give effect to the change, for which approval has been sought.

Not just box-ticking

Responsible officer applicants must check a box on the application form to declare that the board of directors has already passed a resolution appointing him/her as a responsible officer to supervise the business of regulated activities. This means responsible officer application forms cannot be signed until after the board resolution has been passed. As mentioned above, the appointment of the responsible officer can only take effect once the SFC’s approval has been obtained.

When a responsible officer/director signs an SFC application/notification form on behalf of their firm, they need to declare formally that “all the information provided …. is complete, true and correct ... [and that they understand] that providing false or misleading information ….is an offence ... and that the SFC may take criminal and / or disciplinary action against a person who has made a false or misleading representation”. Care therefore needs to be taken by responsible officers/directors in signing these forms to ensure that they have enough information to confirm that all the details in the form are accurate: if there is any uncertainty, they should ask questions to confirm the situation before proceeding to sign.