The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on Tuesday announced plans for establishing a “regulatory sandbox” that would allow financial firms the freedom to test new products and services in the marketplace without going through the full regulatory approval process.
A regulatory sandbox could reduce the time it takes for innovative ideas to come to market and expand the range of products and services that are available to consumers, the FCA says in its annoucement.
The sandbox will also enable the FCA to work with innovative firms to ensure that appropriate consumer protection safeguards are built in to their new products and services before they reach a mass market, the regulator notes.
“To promote competition it is vital that we support firms — both regulated and unregulated, whether large incumbent or small start-ups – that want to bring new ideas that can benefit consumers to market,” says Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA, in a statement.
Under the plans, firms that are not yet authorized by the FCA would be able to follow a streamlined process that would only allow them to enter the market to test products and services. For firms that are already authorized by the regulator, the FCA propose to introduce tools that would give the firms assurance that they would not face future enforcement action due to testing new products or services.
The FCA will establish safeguards for testing on a case-by-case basis in order to protect customers and market integrity, the regulator says. It also proposes a number of other options, such as establishing a virtual testing environment and setting up an authorized umbrella company that would allow innovative businesses to act as its “appointed representatives: for the duration of the trial.
The regulator intends to open the sandbox unit to proposals from firms for testing in the spring of 2016, the FCA says. Over the next few months it will finalize the design for how the new unit will operate.