FCA pours £5m into laptops in bid to ramp up hybrid working

Move follows watchdog's warning on remote working

Pedro Gonçalves
clock • 3 min read
The FCA also purchased 307 Samsung phones and 39 iPhones
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The FCA also purchased 307 Samsung phones and 39 iPhones

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has spent more than £5m on new laptops and mobile phones to support remote work, including 307 Samsung phones and 39 iPhones.

Data obtained using the Freedom of Information (FOI) method and analysed by the Parliament Street think tank showed that between April 2021 and August 2021, a total of 5,850 new laptops were purchased by the financial watchdog.

The FCA's move to scale up its digital capability comes following its own recent warning about the danger of remote working for businesses, when the watchdog made recommendations for firms using a remote or hybrid employment model.

According to the guidelines, companies will be assessed by the FCA and must demonstrate that remote working does not hinder their capacity to fulfil the threshold for the regulated activity they have or will have approval for, Parliament Street highlighted.

"Companies should now ensure that remote working does not compromise the firm's ability to monitor its functions, harm consumers, compromise market integrity, increase financial crime, or restrict competition," the thinktank added.

Security specialist Edward Blake, Area Vice President EMEA for Absolute Softwareargued that organisations which opt for remote working must ensure that they are protecting the additional devices and users on a given network.

"Even the UK's regulators aren't safe from the onslaught of cyber crime aimed at newly remote workers, and it's essential that IT decision makers have full visibility over their network of distributed devices. What's more, adopting a Zero Trust approach to network data and application access is imperative to ensuring that malicious actors which will, or even already have, gained access are stopped in their tracks," he said.

Given commercial restrictions, the FCA's exact spending per laptop has not been revealed, but the watchdog stated that the spending range for laptops over the last 12 months has ranged from £5m to £10m. The watchdog also bought 307 Samsung phones and 39 iPhones, costing in the range of £0-100.

In addition, the FCA raised 5500 Microsoft licenses for Office 365 in 2019. It also raised 5,200 Microsoft licenses in 2020 and 5,300 Microsoft licenses in 2021. Purchasing these licenses cost between £1m to £5m each year.

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Sridhar Iyengar, MD for Zoho Europe, said: "Increased digitalisation is critical to any business operating today, but adapting to a flexible remote or hybrid work model requires more than just technology investment. 

"Companies must ensure that staff are provided with the provisions, care, guidance and infrastructure to effectively adapt to new operational changes, no matter the size of business or whether they are private or public companies."

Iyengar added: "The working model switch should not prove a hindrance to any aspect of performance. Organisations must also ensure they remain compliant with the regulations they are governed by, in the same way they would need to with any working model.

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"Leaders must take the time to assess whether the right digital strategy and culture is in place to serve them long-term. They must be prepared to be more adaptable, flexible and agile than ever before as this period has shown businesses need to be prepared for whatever the future may hold, and that can include completely unexpected factors."

It was revealed in July that the FCA had lost 323 electronic devices in the last three years, including 123 tablets and 68 laptops in the last year alone.

The devices lost over the last three years are estimated to be worth £310,600, according to official figures. The FCA, which operates independently from the UK government, is financed by charging fees to its members, and last November issued a warning to businessesto ‘be responsible when handling client data'.

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