The time taken by the FCA to process authorisation applications for retail firms has fallen from 17 weeks to 13 weeks in the past year.
Quarterly key performance indicators data published by the regulator for the first time shows the average processing time fell from 17 weeks in Q2 2012, when the FCA was created, to 13 weeks in Q1 this year.
The maximum time taken to process an application fell from 59 weeks in Q2 2013 to 43 weeks in Q1 2014.
The FCA says average times have fallen because it has improved its processes.
The average processing time for wholesale firms was 26 weeks in the first quarter of this year, unchanged on Q2 2013.
The regulator says the greater risk, complexity and incompleteness of wholesale applications means they typically take longer than retail applications.
The average time taken by the FCA to process applications by retail firms to vary their permissions increased slightly over the period, from 7.5 weeks in Q2 2013 to eight weeks in Q1 2014.
The FCA says this is down to an increase in the complexity of requests.
Data on applications for rule waivers has also been published. The FCA has the power to waive or modify handbook rules, and says it will do so if a firm can demonstrate that complying with the rule would be unduly burdensome or not achieve its purpose, and if granting the waiver will not adversely affect any of its operational objectives.
The average time taken by the FCA to process an application for a waiver increased from 13 working days in Q2 2013 to 20 working days in Q1 2014.
The FCA has also seen a rise in applications for waivers, from 37 to 54.
It says the rise in processing times is due to a comparably high number of precedent cases, where firms are applying to waiver or modify a rule that has not previously been applied for.
The regulator says these applications were mainly based around the new projection rates for pension and life products, and changes relating to the mortgage market review, which came into force on 26 April.
In the first three months of the year, the FCA granted 70 per cent of waiver applications, and refused 6 per cent.The remaining 24 per cent of applications were withdrawn.
The regulator says it has published the data as part of its commitment to transparency.