Application Process for Debt Management Firms 

The purpose of this section is to provide information to firms considering applying for authorisation as a debt management firm. The Central Bank of Ireland (Central Bank) is the competent authority in Ireland for the authorisation and supervision of Debt  Management Firms under Part V of the Central Bank Act 1997 (as amended) (the Act).

Each applicant seeking authorisation must satisfy the Central Bank that it can meet the Authorisation Requirements and Standards for Debt Management Firms (AR&S). In fulfilling its statutory role in this regard, the Central Bank adopts a robust, structured and risk-based process that seeks to ensure that only those applicants that demonstrate compliance with the AR&S are authorised. 

The Central Bank seeks to process each application as expeditiously as possible while meeting its obligation to operate a rigorous and effective gatekeeper function.  It aims to ensure that the application process is facilitative and accessible from the perspective of applicants and, importantly, that applicants have clarity with regard to the process, its requirements and timelines.

Before Applying for Authorisation

 In advance of submitting an application for authorisation, the firm should satisfy itself that:

Firms are advised to seek legal advice if they are unsure as to whether their proposed activities require authorisation pursuant to the Act, or if they are unsure as to how they should comply with the AR&S. If, after having received and considered such advice, firms have any doubt about their status, they are advised to submit an application for authorisation.

Summary of the Key Stages in the Application Process

  • The applicant submits a completed Application Form with supporting documentation;
  • The Central Bank acknowledges receipt of the application submission;
  • The Central Bank assesses whether the application submission contains the key information and documentation required;
  • Where all key information and documentation has been provided, the applicant will be provided with log-on details for the Central Bank's Online Reporting System (ONR) to facilitate the submission of Individual Questionnaires (IQs) via the ONR and will be requested to submit a Garda Vetting Form (it should be noted that a Garda Vetting Form is required where the applicant is a Sole Trader or a company with a single director);
  • The Central Bank assesses whether the IQs and Garda Vetting Form contain the key information and documentation required;
  • Where all key information and documentation has been provided, the application submission progresses to the assessment phase;
  • The Central Bank completes an assessment of the application submission and may issue detailed comments and/or seek additional information;
  • The applicant is provided with the opportunity to address the comments and requests issued by the Central Bank in a revised application submission(s);
  • The Central Bank will assess these subsequent application submission(s) and notify the applicant of its assessment and next steps.  The applicant is provided with a further opportunity to address any concerns arising at this stage in the process (if any); and
  • The Central Bank will notify the applicant of its decision in respect of the application submission.

In the sections set out below, the applicant will be able to learn about the different stages of the application process in more detail.

The Documentation Required to Make an Application for Authorisation

Applicants should submit the following documentation which should be fully completed:

Once an application is submitted and the applicant has been provided with log-on details for the ONR, the applicant will need to ensure that all relevant individuals proposed to hold a Pre-Approval Controlled Function (PCF) role (typically board members, senior management, key function holders) and any qualifying shareholders complete Fitness and Probity Individual Questionnaires - more information and guidance material on completing the IQ can be found here.  Individual Questionnaires must be submitted electronically via the ONR by all relevant individuals, but qualifying shareholders (that are not proposed PCF holders) are required to submit a paper version . Please note that access to the online IQ only becomes available after an application has been deemed to contain all the key information and documentation required.  The applicant will also need to ensure that it submits a Garda Vetting Form - more information and guidance material on completing the Garda Vetting Form can be found here.

 

Important:

  • Where incomplete Application Forms, IQs or Garda Vetting Forms are submitted they will be returned to the applicant.
  • Where IQs and the Garda Vetting Form are not submitted within 20 working days of being requested to submit this documentation, the application will be returned to the applicant.
  • An application will only progress to the assessment phase of the authorisation process where all key information and documentation required in the Application Form, in each relevant IQ and in the Garda Vetting Form has been provided.
  • It is therefore important that the applicant has read the guidance material provided to assist applicants in completing this documentation, and has taken the information provided therein into consideration when completing the Application Form, the IQs and the Garda Vetting Form.

The completed Application Form, along with all relevant accompanying material, should be submitted in both paper and electronic format to the Central Bank.  The paper copy should be sent to Debt Management Authorisations Team, Consumer Protection: Policy and Authorisations, Central Bank of Ireland, PO Box 559, New Wapping Street, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1 and the electronic version can be included with the hard copy or sent by email to DMFAuthorisations@centralbank.ie. The completed paper IQ(s), where relevant, should also be submitted to the above address.

The completed Garda Vetting Form should be submitted in paper format to the Central Bank and should be sent to Fitness & Probity Team, Regulatory Transactions Division, Central Bank of Ireland, Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1.

The Key Stages in the Application Process

The key stages of the application process are as follows:

Stage 1 - Acknowledgement

The Central Bank will acknowledge receipt of an Application for Authorisation submitted by the applicant within 3 working days of receipt.

Stage 2 - Key Information Check

The Central Bank will then check that the application material submitted contains all the key information and documentation required to proceed to the submission of IQs and the Garda Vetting Form.  Within 10 working days of receipt of the application, the Central Bank will either:

I. Advise the applicant that the application contains sufficient material to proceed to the submission of IQs and the Garda Vetting Form; or 

II. Advise the applicant that the application does not contain sufficient material to proceed to the submission of IQs and the Garda Vetting Form and so is not being progressed to that phase.  A statement of the omitted information is also provided to assist the applicant should it wish to submit another application in the future.  Any subsequent application will be considered a new application and the application process commences again.

Stage 3 - Submission of IQs and the Garda Vetting Form

Where sufficient information has been received, as outlined in Stage 2(I) above, the application will proceed to the submission of IQs and the Garda Vetting Form.  Log-on details to the ONR will be issued to the applicant and the applicant will be required to complete and submit all required IQs and Garda Vetting Form.

Applicants will be advised that the application will progress to the assessment phase once all required IQs and the Garda Vetting Form have been submitted and are deemed to contain all the key information and documentation required.

The applicant will then have 20 working days to submit all IQs and the Garda Vetting Form.  If all required IQs and the Garda Vetting Form are not submitted within 20 working days the application will be deemed dormant and withdrawn and will be returned to the applicant.  Any subsequent application will be considered a new application and the application process commences again at Stage 1. 

Stage 4 - Assessment Phase

Where an application submission, all relevant IQs and the Garda Vetting Form (where relevant)  have been received and have been deemed to contain all the key information and documentation required, as outlined in Stage 2(I) and 3 above, the Central Bank will then proceed to the assessment phase of the application process.  In the assessment phase, the application material 

submitted will be reviewed against the relevant AR&S to determine whether sufficient information has been provided to enable the Central Bank to issue a 'Notification of Assessment' letter as referred to in Stage 5 below.  The Central Bank will issue initial comments to the applicant based on its review of the application material submitted and any subsequent comments based on its review of responses submitted by the applicant.  The Central Bank has published service standards (see below) in respect of the processing of applications for authorisation and in the context of meeting those standards the service standard timeframe to which the Central Bank has committed for the assessment phase of the application process is 90 working days.  However, it should be noted that in the event of further and/or subsequent information being sought, this 90 day 'clock' is paused until such information is received by the Central Bank from the applicant.

In the event of the applicant failing to respond to a request from the Central Bank for further and/or subsequent information, after 20 working days the application may not be considered further by the Central Bank (see Guidance Note).

Stage 5 - Notification of Assessment

The Central Bank will notify the applicant of the outcome of the Assessment Phase of the application process as follows:

    a)    Where the assessment is favourable, the Central Bank will notify the applicant by letter that it proposes to authorise the applicant on the basis of the information provided in its application submission, provided any specified final steps are taken and/or specified final items of information and evidence are received.  This letter will also specify any specific conditions the Central Bank proposes to impose on the authorisation itsself once granted.  This letter will explain the reasons for these proposed conditions and the applicant will be afforded the opportunity to make representations in respect of the proposed conditions before the Central Bank makes any decision on the application.

    b)     In the event that the Central Bank is not satisfied on foot of the Assessment Phase such that it can issue a Notification of Assessment letter under (a) above, the Central Bank will advise the applicant of this by letter.  The letter will set out the areas to be addressed and afford the applicant the opportunity to do so and to make any submissions it wishes to the Central Bank in respect of these matters.

Stage 6 - Notification of Decision in respect of the Application

Once the Central Bank has assessed any further information/evidence/representations submitted by the applicant following on from Stage 5 above, the Central Bank will notify the applicant, via letter, of its decision on the application as follows:

    a)     Authorisation - The Central Bank has decided to grant an authorisation.

    b)     Authorisation with Specific Conditions - The Central Bank has decided to grant an authorisation with specific conditions attached to the authorisation.  The specific conditions to be attached to the authorisation will be outlined in the letter.

    c)     Proposed Refusal of Authorisation - The Central Bank is minded to refuse the application for authorisation.  In accordance with the applicable legislation, the Central Bank will notify the applicant of the grounds for the proposed refusal of the authorisation.  The applicant will then have an opportunity to make submissions in response to the proposed refusal.  The submissions will then be considered by the Central Bank following which a decision will be taken by the Central Bank to grant or refuse the authorisation applied for, as appropriate.  Details of the Central Bank's process for the refusal of an application for authorisation are available here.

If the applicant has any queries in respect of the application process it can contact the Central Bank at DMFAuthorisations@centralbank.ie.

Service Standards Performance Report

Please find a link to the Service Standards Performance Reports page here.

The reports set out the Bank's performance against Service Standards that it has committed to in respect of (i) Authorisation of Funds, (ii) Authorisation of Financial Service Providers and (iii) Processing of Fitness and Probity applications, on a half-yearly basis.