Answer ... Fintechs are treated like other financial services firms. If they carry out activities that fall within the scope of one of the regulated activities under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), they will need to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) (part of the Bank of England). Regulated activities are defined in the FSMA (Regulated Activities) Order 2001. This primary and secondary legislation is supplemented by the principles, rules and guidance in the PRA Rulebook and the FCA Handbook. Other key legislation includes the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. Depending on a fintech’s areas of focus, some key EU measures include the second EU Payment Services Directive (2015/2366/EU), the EU Electronic Money Directive 2 (2009/110/EC), the recast EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (2014/65/EU), the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (600/2014) and the E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC).
Answer ... There is no special regime for fintech in the United Kingdom; fintech firms’ activities are treated in the same way as those of other financial services firms.
Answer ... The PRA is the prudential regulator and the FCA is the conduct regulator for banks, insurers and the largest investment firms. The FCA is the sole regulator for other firms.
The PRA and FCA have a number of supervisory and enforcement powers. Both the PRA and the FCA have the power to make periodic inspection visits of firms. They also have various powers under FSMA, including to require a firm to provide specified information or documents or commission a report by a skilled person, to publish warning notices and to impose financial penalties. They can both impose specific requirements on firms – for example, to seek the regulator’s consent before undertaking certain acts. There are also a number of offences under the FSMA, such as carrying on a regulated activity in the United Kingdom, or purporting to do so, without the relevant authorisation or exemption is a criminal offence.
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) has responsibility for the oversight of retail payment systems and is a subsidiary of the FCA. It is competition focused, with wide powers, including the power to amend agreements relating to access to payment systems and to require banks to enter into agreements with smaller institutions. It can investigate and impose fines or other sanctions.
Answer ... The FCA is supportive of the fintech sector, recognising that innovation is key to achieving effective competition in the interest of consumers, which is one of the FCA’s statutory objectives. For example, the FCA’s Regulatory Sandbox, part of its Project Innovate, provides a safe space for fintech companies to test new products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a ‘live’ environment with real consumers for a limited period, without the time and cost of the full authorisation process or the risk of regulatory penalties. Eligibility criteria for the Regulatory Sandbox include a requirement that the product or service involve genuine innovation and direct or indirect consumer benefit. The tailored authorisation process is restricted to allow companies to test only the ideas agreed with the FCA.
On the payments front, one of the PSR’s statutory objectives is the promotion of innovation in payment systems.
The PRA acknowledges that it must be ready to adapt its prudential regulatory approach to the risks, opportunities and changes in the structure of the financial system resulting from technological developments. More widely, the Bank of England looks to explore how fintech might support its mission to maintain monetary and financial stability. This includes understanding what fintech means for the safety and soundness of financial firms, and performance of its own operational and regulatory roles (eg, infrastructure requirements). The Bank of England’s Fintech Accelerator includes a programme through which it works with businesses on fintech proofs of concept.
Answer ... Innovate Finance is the UK industry body for fintech, representing the UK’s global fintech community. It provides a single point of access to promote enabling policy and regulation, talent development and business opportunity and investment capital. Members range from seed-stage start-ups to global financial institutions and professional services firms.
FinTech North focuses on the fintech community in the north of England. It provides a platform for sharing ideas, challenges and best practice, for showcasing innovative start-ups and scale-ups, and for facilitating connections and collaborations.
FinTech Scotland brings together entrepreneurs, the established financial sector, the public sector, accelerators, investors, consumer groups, technology and service firms, universities and skills agencies.
The FinTech National Network brings together FinTech North, Innovate Finance and FinTech Scotland to offer collaboration opportunities throughout the United Kingdom. The network encourages collaboration between UK fintech hubs to raise their collective profile on the global stage and address shared challenges across topics such as skills and talent, capital and investment and diversity.