There's no point in burying your head in the sand - regulation is coming and now is the time to do something about it, says Chris Arter

Regulation is by far the biggest event ever to impact the broking industry and yet many firms continue to adopt an attitude of "a problem for another day" or "I'll wait for the final rules at the end of the year". The problem, if indeed it is a problem, is now. Anyone who has not taken active steps to relate their business to the FSA requirements should get on with it today.Insurance intermediaries are faced with three stark choices: become authorised; become an appointed representative; or exit the business. Just look how the timetable is inexorably overtaking us - and we have the little matter of Christmas and the New Year to contend with.

November Intermediaries may register to receive an application pack, available from December

January 2004FSA invites applications

31 May 2004Final date for applications to take advantage of discounted application fees (introduced to encourage early applications)

14th July 2004 Last chance to submit an application that will be guaranteed to be processed before N day, 14 January 2005. The FSA has a rule requirement to process applications within six months. If an application is returned for any reason the applicant has three months to process the resubmitted application

14th January 2005Regulation commences. Should you not have your appropriate permissions by this date you cannot trade new business, renewals or amendments. And remember that run-off is also an authorised activity.The intermediary sector will be by far the largest population the FSA has to regulate, although it has not been possible to clearly define the likely numbers. While the FSA has stated every effort will be made to deal expeditiously with applications, and outsourced facilities have been put in place, it can be seen that timescales could become very tight. The application form has been the subject of much work and debate and has evolved progressively. The final version is over 30 pages and some 70% of the questions are answered in tick box Yes/No format. There are supplementary pages to reflect variation in the type of business, such as size, and it will obviously be prudent to complete the form with care to avoid rejections - a case where the applicant omitted to enter their address has been quoted.So what now? If you have not yet conducted a map of your business and processes and compared it with FSA requirements, complete this as a matter of urgency - you may decide you need professional help to make this "health check", in which event choose your consultant carefully and insist on references, ideally with a business similar to yours, that you can contact to satisfy yourself they will meet your requirements. The analysis will produce some "gaps" that you need to address to become compliant and the next step will be to adopt project plans to ensure you will be compliant by 14 January 2005. The FSA does not want firms to delay submitting applications because they are not compliant in certain areas. But it will expect you to have a plan to be fully compliant by N day. It may ask you to identify non compliant areas and submit your plan.One of those irritating modules one tends to take away from training courses comes to mind. Picture a smoking bomb with the title "Action TNT - Action today not tomorrow" - a model never more appropriate than when related to preparing for regulation.Chris Arter is chair of the Biba regulatory working party