The Financial Conduct Authority has been forced to postpone its guidance on vulnerable clients as it sheds all "non-critical" work in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday the regulator told FTAdviser it was reviewing which regulatory work could be postponed in an attempt to allow firms in the financial services sector to focus on "supporting their customers during this difficult period".
Today (March 17) the watchdog confirmed this move would include placing the publication of its vulnerability guidance and research on the back-burner for the time being.
The FCA has previously promised to take action against firms which did not treat vulnerable customers fairly, warning it had found cases where firms had clearly failed to consider the needs of these consumers.
Last year the regulator put its long-awaited guidance on vulnerable consumers to the industry, closing its consultation in October.
In today’s regulatory update the FCA also confirmed it would delay its calls for input on open finance and accessing and using wholesale data.
The regulator is also reducing the number of meetings firms are required to attend with the FCA, as it continues to review contingency plans in place across the industry following three weeks of market chaos.
Markets have seen some of their biggest daily declines in 30 years as countries close borders and introduce lockdowns to curb the coronavirus crisis.
The FCA’s decision to delay regulatory work comes as the wider financial industry takes stock of the unprecedented landscape now facing the UK.
The Financial Ombudsman Service told FTAdviser its staff had been asked to work from home today and so it was currently unable to take phone calls. Although the service stressed it could still field customer enquiries via email and social media channels.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is following government advice, which it said could develop into social distancing and remote working for staff.
The life-boat scheme took to its website today to reassure consumers it was currently able to deliver its claims service in the “usual timeframes”.
In today’s update the FCA said any firm which believed it would have difficulty managing its liquidity and financial resilience in light of the current economic landscape should report to the regulator “immediately”.
The FCA itself has deployed teams across its organisation tasked with managing the fallout from the spread of coronavirus.
An FCA spokesperson said: "The FCA is contacting firms across sectors to understand their response to coronavirus, ensuring that they are taking steps to prioritise the welfare of their staff and customers, as well as the functioning of the markets.
"We are in contact with firms to understand their contingency plans and monitoring how these are working.
"From what we have seen, business continuity plans are generally working well, and we have welcomed steps that firms are taking to show flexibility in their treatment of customers."
Financial services firms have stepped up their contingency planning in the past week to deal with coronavirus, with advisers turning to Skype and working from home to protect themselves and their clients against the growing health crisis.