The UK’s financial watchdog today set out plans to hire 100 new staff at its newly opening Leeds office as it looks to bolster its headcount this year and meet the demands of an expanding regulatory remit.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced it has signed a lease for premises on 6 Queen Street, at the heart of the Northern English city’s business district, and had plans to fill more than 100 new roles based out of the new offices.
The announcement comes after the FCA in July 2021 revealed plans to strengthen its footprint in the UK’s devolved regions, by establishing presences in both Cardiff and Belfast and doubling its headcount in Edinburgh.
As part of its plans to expand its presence across the UK, the financial sector watchdog also set out intentions to launch an office in Leeds, which is set to act as the FCA’s digital delivery centre.
Nikhil Rathi, Chief Executive of the FCA said: “As a national regulator, it is vital we have a truly national footprint. That means having colleagues in all parts of the UK.
“I’m delighted that we’re moving a step closer to opening our new Leeds office, in a city with a growing reputation as a digital and tech hub.”
As the UK’s second largest financial centre, Leeds currently generates almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of its total economic output from its financial and business services sector, according to local government figures.
The expansion comes after the watchdog has come under fire from some quarters in the past year over capacity strains, as its regulatory perimeter balloons to include areas like anti-money laundering oversight of digital assets and buy-now pay-later lending.
In the FCA’s annual report last month, Rathi said the organisation had hired nearly 500 people in 2022 and was aiming to boost the workforce by a further 500. Headcount figures published in the report showed that total staff numbers actually fell this year to 4,027 however, down from 4,194 earlier in the year.
Enforcement data published by the watchdog also showed that timelines had lengthened in recent months, leading some commentators to speculate over whether staff shortages had hampered processes at the regulator.
Law firm WilmerHale said the average length of regulatory and civil cases combined jumped from 24.7 last year to over 33 months this year, “while the number of cases concluded this year has fallen to a five-year low”.
“One may reasonably ask why the FCA is taking longer to investigate and conclude its cases, especially given that the effects of the pandemic were far less acute during the last twelve months,” said David Rundle, regulatory lawyer at WilmerHale.
“The answer may lie in staff departures, which have ostensibly been so significant as to require the recruitment of 500 people since January, with more to come.”
An FCA spokesperson told City A.M. last month “the pandemic and its impact on workplaces had a significant factor on timelines” but it aims to complete investigations within 12 months.
“As with other agencies across the world, we are also dealing with processing increasingly large volumes of digital evidence,” a spokesperson said.