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Dear CEO | Release Date: 9th August 2022

To read a shorter summary of this Dear CEO letter, click here.

To access the original FCA document, click here.

Long Summary

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a supervisory strategy update for firms categorised within the ‘Alternatives’ portfolio. This portfolio mainly includes entities active in the alternative investment sector. The letter provides a detailed overview of the FCA’s supervisory focus, identifies key risks, and outlines expected regulatory compliance measures for these firms. The purpose of this communication is to ensure that firms align with regulatory standards and maintain the integrity of the financial markets.

Overview of the Alternatives Portfolio

The Alternatives portfolio is characterised by a diverse array of business models, including large global hedge funds, private equity firms, and smaller boutique firms. These entities primarily engage with professional investors, though some interact with retail or elective professional investors. The FCA’s supervisory approach is designed to reflect this diversity, focusing on ensuring that firms act in the best interests of their clients and adhere to the regulatory framework designed to protect investors and ensure market stability.

Supervisory Focus and Regulatory Expectations

The FCA’s supervisory strategy for alternative investment firms is adaptive, addressing the specific risks associated with the sophisticated and often high-risk business models of these firms.

Key areas of focus include:

Consumer Protection: Ensuring that firms dealing with less sophisticated investors provide the necessary protections and do not misclassify these investors to bypass stricter regulatory requirements.

Market Integrity: Maintaining the integrity of financial markets is crucial. The FCA stresses the importance of managing conflicts of interest and upholding fair and transparent market practices.

Key Risks and Regulatory Focus Areas

The FCA has pinpointed several critical risks that could potentially harm consumers or affect the stability and integrity of the financial markets:

Investment Strategy Risks

Firms must ensure that their investment strategies are appropriate for their target client base, particularly for those with limited investment knowledge or a lower risk tolerance. This includes conducting rigorous due diligence and ensuring transparent communication about the risks associated with different investment products. The FCA has observed issues where the lack of formal governance processes and poor due diligence have led to clients being exposed to inappropriate levels of risk.

Conflicts of Interest

Managing conflicts of interest effectively is vital for preventing market manipulation and ensuring fair outcomes for consumers. The FCA highlights the need for robust management of conflicts and warns that poor management can lead to significant consumer detriment and loss of market integrity. The regulator has taken actions against firms where conflicts of interest were poorly managed, emphasising the importance of robust internal controls and governance structures.

Market Integrity and Conduct

Alternative investment firms are expected to have effective systems and controls in place to prevent market abuse and ensure compliance with market conduct rules. This includes managing the risk of insider trading, market manipulation, and other forms of market abuse. The FCA expects firms to maintain a strong prevention culture and effective compliance frameworks tailored to their specific business models.

ESG and Sustainable Investments

The rise of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors has led to an increase in funds that focus on sustainable investment goals. The FCA expects firms to ensure that their ESG-focused products are accurately represented and comply with relevant regulations, including those pertaining to financial disclosures and marketing materials. This ensures that investors can trust the products they are investing in and that the claims made by firms are substantiated.

Compliance and Enforcement

The FCA underscores the necessity for firms within the Alternatives portfolio to adhere strictly to the regulatory framework. Non-compliance can lead to a range of enforcement actions, including fines, business restrictions, or other penalties. Firms are expected to actively engage with regulatory requirements and adapt their practices to meet evolving standards.

Next Steps and Actions for Firms

Firms are encouraged to undertake several actions in response to the FCA’s letter:

Review Business Practices: Firms should review their current business practices, investment strategies, and governance frameworks to ensure they align with FCA expectations.

Engage with New Regulations: Keeping abreast of upcoming regulatory changes is crucial. Firms need to adjust their business practices in accordance with new rules, particularly those relating to financial promotions, ESG disclosures, and market conduct.

Strengthen Governance and Oversight: Firms should regularly review and enhance their governance structures to ensure effective risk management and compliance with regulatory requirements.


Firms operating within the ‘Alternatives’ portfolio play a significant role in the financial system but must manage substantial scrutiny due to the intricate and risky nature of their activities. Adhering to FCA regulations, maintaining robust risk management practices, and upholding high standards of integrity and transparency are vital for these firms to contribute positively to the stability and efficiency of the financial markets. The FCA remains committed to supervising these entities rigorously to protect consumer interests and maintain the integrity of the UK financial system.

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