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UK regulator revamps strategy to tackle scams and enforce sanctions

LONDON — The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has overhauled its approach to policing British markets amid growing threats of scams, consumer harm and Russia-sanctions avoidance.

The regulator outlined 13 priorities for the next three years in a document published today, alongside a commitment to benchmark its performance in more detail.

A second document outlines its agenda for the new fiscal year ending in April 2023, reinforced by a higher budget of £640 million, up from £613 million. For the first time since leaving the EU, costs associated with withdrawal from the bloc are expected to fall to zero from £10 million.

Under a long-standing vow to make the FCA “more assertive,” chief executive Nikhil Rathi promised to hire 80 new staff to hunt down rogue firms in the British financial sector, as well as employ more data-analysis and IT capability to detect money laundering and sanctions evasion.

“We will improve our ability to detect market abuse, through a significant upgrade in our market surveillance systems,” the report said. “Financial crime – including fraud, money laundering, sanction evasion and terrorist financing – does enormous damage to society.”

Other priorities include driving up standards, minimizing online banking blackouts, promoting increased competition and “strengthening the U.K.’s position in wholesale markets.”

In an accompanying message, Rathi pledged that the agency is “changing our operating model to focus more on the problem in front of us rather than simply addressing types of firms or sectors.”

“This has … been vital in our ongoing work with international partners in response to the war in Ukraine,” he added.

Nodding to an ongoing internal conflict over administrative and pay structure changes — which led to a unionization drive, high turnover and difficulties attracting talent — Rathi said 200 people had joined the organization “since the start of the year” and “dozens” continue to join each month.

The FCA didn’t release a detailed headcount today, but as of last summer, it had 4,194 staff.

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