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Designated Professional Body (Investment Business) licence

Find out how you can enhance the services you already offer your clients with a Designated Professional Body (Investment Business) licence. This section explains what regulated investment business is, who is regulated, and how your firm can apply for a DPB (Investment Business) licence.

What is regulated investment business?

Three pieces of legislation:

  • the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000;
  • the Regulated Activities Order (Statutory Instrument 2001, No. 544) as amended; and
  • the Non-Exempt Activities Order (Statutory Instrument 2001, No. 1227) as amended

determine whether - for the purpose of each investment activity undertaken - a firm needs to be authorised by:

  • the Financial Conduct Authority (previously the Financial Services Authority);
  • a designated professional body (DPB);
  • or whether no authorisation or licence is necessary.

In order to conduct 'mainstream' investment business - for example, if your firm recommends the purchase of specific investments (eg, pensions, listed company shares) or approves financial promotions, - the firm needs to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (previously the Financial Services Authority).

In order to conduct 'non-mainstream' investment business - for example, if your firm advises on private company shares, interprets advice given to a client by an authorised person or takes part in discussions with a client and an authorised person - the firm needs to be licensed by ICAEW.

If a firm has no authorisation or licence, the firm may not undertake any regulated investment business.

Investment business also includes advice on mortgages and general insurance. For further information on the types of investment and types of activity that are regulated, see Is it investment business?.

ICAEW submits an annual report to the Financial Conduct Authority on its activities as a designated professional body. View the latest report.

How to apply for a DPB (Investment Business) licence

If your firm wishes to conduct DPB (Investment Business) activities, it must have a licence from ICAEW.

You must:

  • fill in an application form
  • satisfy ICAEW's Investment Business Committee that the firm meets the criteria to carry out investment business work
  • pay an annual DPB (Investment Business) licence fee
  • comply with the DPB (Investment Business) Handbook
  • comply with the Professional Indemnity Insurance Regulations and possibly have the enhanced levels of PII for general insurance business and
  • be monitored by ICAEW.

If any principals are not members of ICAEW (or certain other bodies, see the application form), they will have to become DPB (Investment Business) affiliates. Please fill in and return (with your DPB (Investment Business) licence application form), a DPB (Investment Business) affiliate application form for each such partner who needs to become a DPB (Investment Business) affiliate.

Regulatory applications and fees

Access more information about the application process, including the 8-12 week’s lead time, the assessment process and fees.

Application forms

DPB (Investment Business) licence for firms

DPB (Investment Business) affiliate

Individuals or corporate bodies that are principals in an ICAEW firm licensed by ICAEW under the designated professional body DPB (Investment Business) arrangement, but who are not members of ICAEW are required to apply for DPB (Investment Business) affiliate status. Members of ICAS, CAI, ACCA, the Law Society of England & Wales, the Law Society of Scotland, the Law Society of Northern Ireland or the Institute of Actuaries do not need to become DPB (Investment Business) affiliates.

Who is regulated - the firm or the individual?

It is the firm that is either authorised by the FCA (previously the FSA) or licensed by ICAEW - depending on the activities undertaken. In addition, the FCA only allows certain activities to be undertaken by specifically qualified individuals. In DPB (Investment Business) licensed firms, the work must be undertaken by someone who is competent in this area.

How to become an appointed representative of an FCA authorised firm

Firms may wish to consider becoming an appointed representative of an FCA authorised firm for all or certain types of investment business. This route is open to all firms, including those that hold a licence from ICAEW under the Designated Professional Body arrangements.

Under the terms of ICAEW's Code of Ethics, however, a member should consider ‘whether the status of the third party investment business provider is compatible with the requirement to give objective advice’ (section 331, Agencies and referrals).

This means that a professional firm can only become an appointed representative of an independent financial adviser or a ‘whole of market’ firm and this applies for all financial services business, including general insurance and advice on mortgages.

For information on FCA authorisation, visit www.fca.org.uk.

DPB (Investment Business) Handbook

The DPB (Investment Business) Handbook provides full details of our licensing arrangements.

Chartered Accountants Compensation Scheme (CACS) Regulations

Current regulations

The CACS Regulations have been updated, with changes coming into effect on 15 July 2021. The main change is in relation to Reg 2.01(c). The Scheme only applies now in respect of eligible claims brought in connection with investment business carried on by firms authorised under the Irish Investment Intermediaries Act 1995 on or before 31 July 2017.

Review all of the changes that have been made in the schedule of amendments.

CACS Regulations Archive

DPB (Investment Business) firms and consumer credit

ICAEW has arrangements in place which enable firms to provide consumer credit services without the need for authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

There’s no application to complete and no fee to pay. If firms meet the eligibility criteria, then such activities can be undertaken, provided that they are undertaken as set out in the DPB (Consumer Credit) Handbook.

As these arrangements are made under Part XX of Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), the service may only be provided in a manner incidental to the activity of the firm generally, and which arises out of, or is complementary to, another professional service, which is not itself a regulated activity, provided to a specific consumer client (as with investment business).

There is more information available at icaew.com/ccl

Practice management

If you're managing a practice, please access our practice resources. You will also need to comply with regulations covering areas such as PII, clients' money and anti-money laundering. Find out more.

DPB (Investment Business) resources and helpsheets

Access the full range of DPB (Investment Business) resources for your firm.

Changes in firm structure – please tell us within 10 business days

It’s important to maintain your firm record accurately. An inaccurate or out of date firm record may constitute a misdescription of your firm. It could also lead to regulatory or disciplinary action.

Application for voluntary withdrawal

If you wish to withdraw from this regulated service currently held with ICAEW, complete the online form.

DPB (Investment Business) annual return and monitoring

All firms licensed by ICAEW to undertake exempt-regulated investment business activities are required to complete an annual return online.

ICAEW carries out DPB (Investment Business) monitoring visits to firms licensed by ICAEW to undertake exempt-regulated activities under the DPB (Investment Business) arrangements.

Access the Guide to monitoring reviews for DPB (Investment Business) licensed firms. This new guide is full of practical information on the areas we often find firms need clarity about during our quality assurance monitoring reviews. 

Firms licensed for DPB (Investment Business) activities usually receive a combined Practice Assurance and DPB (Investment Business) visit including a review of compliance with the DPB (Investment Business) Handbook and a review of how the firm meets the principles-based Practice Assurance standards. The results of monitoring visits are reported to the Investment Business Committee.

ICAEW regulation and the ICAEW Regulatory Board