For brokers dealing with both mortgage and general insurance business, the deadline to receive the discounted application fee is looming.

These firms must get their applications in by 31 March to take advantage of the reduced fee. For small firms with an annual income of less than £1m, the discount is quite significant - £500 compared to £1,100, if the application is made electronically.

In the case of firms whose business is solely general insurance broking, the early application deadline is a little further away: these firms must apply by 31 May.

Finally, for any firms considering the appointed representative option, the FSA has now confirmed the contingency arrangements that should be made in case the potential principal fails to become authorised.

The FSA has said that the only contingency plan is to apply for direct authorisation, paying the appropriate fee, and withdraw the application if the principal becomes authorised.

The problem for applicants is that they may not know until late in 2004 whether the FSA is 'minded to authorise' their principal. And if the direct application is withdrawn, the application fee is non-refundable.

Michael Faulkner