By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's financial watchdog warned banks and investment firms on Monday it could swoop on staff who work from home to check they are not harming customers or markets.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said firms that want to introduce 'hybrid', or a mix of home and office, working on a permanent basis must have their plans vetted by regulators first.
Many financial staff worked from home after Britain locked down the economy in March 2020 to fight COVID-19, but since then employees have begun returning part or full time to the office after restrictions were ended this summer.
Some firms have told staff that hybrid working is here to stay, but the FCA on Monday made it clear this could only be the case if they could show it won't harm customers, damage the market, increase the risk of financial crime, or cut competition.
Firms must show they have a plan which has been reviewed before making any temporary arrangements permanent, and is reviewed periodically to identify new risks.
There is a need to demonstrate that rules on recording calls, record keeping and mantaining protection from cyber attacks can be met from home, the FCA said.
There are also security risks from staff having to transport latops containing confidential material due to hybrid working, it added.
"Firms considering remote or hybrid working will be evaluated by us on a case-by-case basis," the FCA said in a statement.
"It’s important that firms are prepared and take responsibility to ensure employees understand that the FCA has powers to visit any location where work is performed, business is carried out and employees are based, including residential addresses, for any regulatory purposes," the FCA added.
"This includes supervisory and enforcement visits."
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)