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Are you prepared for a dawn raid?

By Hollie Mortlock | May 13, 2024

With regulators promising swifter action and more dawn raids, are you prepared for when the regulator comes knocking on your door?
Financial, Executive and Professional Risks (FINEX)

Dawn raids by regulatory authorities are becoming increasingly common as part of enforcement actions across the financial and professional sectors. In the UK, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has recently been vocal about increasing dawn raids. Being prepared for such an eventuality is essential for minimising disruption and protecting your organisation's interests. This guide aims to provide practical advice on how to prepare for and respond to a dawn raid, drawing on WTW's experience in risk management and compliance.

Are your employees or your buildings’ reception staff sufficiently prepared in the event of a surprise onsite inspection by a regulator? Dawn raids can be stressful for everyone involved. How your employees react during a dawn raid may have an impact on the outcome of any regulatory investigation.

It is therefore important that your staff know what to expect and how to respond should a dawn raid occur. It is important to co-operate with the regulators. We recommend that you consult with your legal advisers in preparation for a dawn raid. It is essential that you instruct your in-house legal team or external legal advisers if you are required to respond to any inspection by a regulator.

Here are a few things you may want to consider as part of your own company procedures when it comes to managing a dawn raid.

Pre-raid preparation

  • Clarify entry and purpose

    Clarify entry and purpose

    If your business shares a building with other companies, first ascertain which company the regulatory officials are visiting. Misunderstandings at this stage can lead to unnecessary complications.

  • Establish a crisis cascade

    Establish a crisis cascade

    A well-defined protocol for who to contact when a raid occurs is crucial. Include legal advisors in this cascade for immediate support.

  • Inform and instruct staff

    Inform and instruct staff

    Notify your employees about the inspection and instruct them not to disclose any information outside the company. This includes avoiding discussions with the media.

During the raid

  • Verify official documentation

    Verify official documentation

    Ensure the business name is correct on all search documentation. Understanding the scope of the investigation is critical.

  • Legal support coordination

    Legal support coordination

    If officials are inspecting other sites or employee residences, arrange legal support accordingly. Your legal team should negotiate the inspection's scope and procedures with the officials.

  • Documentation and identification

    Documentation and identification

    Make copies of any official documents related to the inspection. List each official's name and secure a copy of their identification. Assigning name badges to officials can help staff identify them during their stay.

Manage the inspection process

  • Assign an appropriate member of staff (or security) to assist each official whilst they conduct their inspection.
  • Have the IT team readily available to deal with access issues.
  • Make a note of what electronic documents, files and emails are accessed, examined and/or printed.
  • Keep a record of the physical documents which are inspected or searched or examined. It may be advisable to take a copy of any documents removed by the officials, if agreed by the officials.

Your legal team may want to discuss with the officials the nature of the inspection and discuss and agree how the inspection is going to be carried out. It may be good practice to obtain certain information such as:

  • Whose records will be reviewed and in what order?
  • Will any interviews of personnel be taking place during the visit?
  • Will any records or documents be photocopied or confiscated?
  • How will it be involved with regards to electronic records and information?

Discuss with your legal team regarding any concerns about legal privilege or relevance regarding certain documents, or whether you are required to sign any documentation.

After the inspection

Your legal team must confirm with the officials when an inspection is complete and that all officials are accounted for and have left the building.

Here are a few steps you may want to consider once the inspection has finished:

  • Inform all employees that the inspection has ended;
  • Collect notes and reports from employees who accompanied the officials or notes of any interviews between employees and officials;
  • Hold a debrief session as soon as possible with your legal team to discuss next steps;
  • Work with your internal and external communications teams to decide how to deal with any reputational and publicity concerns from an internal and external perspective.

Additional risk management considerations

  • Regular training

    Regular training

    Conduct training sessions for staff on how to respond to a dawn raid, emphasising the importance of compliance and protocol adherence.

  • Review and update policies

    Review and update policies

    Regularly review your company's policies and procedures to ensure they are up-to-date with current regulatory requirements and best practices.

  • Data management

    Data management

    Implement robust data management practices to ensure that all information, especially sensitive and privileged documents, is correctly managed during a raid.

  • Insurance implications

    WTW is equipped to review and advise on the effectiveness of your insurance coverage in the context of dawn raid risks. Our comprehensive approach includes evaluating your current risk management strategies and ensuring your insurance solutions are aligned with your specific needs.

    With a likely increase in dawn raids, you may want to consider discussing the following with your broker:


A dawn raid can be a challenging experience for any business. However, with thorough preparation, a clear understanding of the process, and the right support, you can navigate this situation effectively. WTW is here to support you every step of the way, ensuring you have the knowledge and resources to manage such scenarios confidently.


Claims Advocate, Financial Institutions


GB Head of FINEX Financial Institutions

Global Head of FINEX Financial Institutions
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