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31 out of 77 applications for second cohort of regulatory sandbox to progress towards testing: FCA’s Christopher Woolard

Regulation has an important part to play in ensuring that right conditions exist for encouraging competition among new startups, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said recently.

Speaking at the Innovate Finance Global Summit, Woolard underscored the importance of a regulatory framework and various efforts by the FCA to boost startups.

“Through the FCA's Project Innovate, we help firms tackle regulatory barriers to innovation, be it through clarifying regulatory expectations, examining our own rules or enacting policy changes, to give them space to innovate in the interest of consumers”, he said. “Like the firms we support we haven’t shied away from breaking new ground in how we regulate this dynamic industry. For example, our Regulatory Sandbox was the first of its kind.”

He further revealed that 77 applications were received for the second cohort of the sandbox, out of which 31 will be accepted towards testing – nearly double the number of firms currently testing in the first cohort.

“Through engaging larger firms in innovation through the Sandbox and our Advice Unit, the potential numbers of consumers who could benefit from the services offered by those firms has moved in the space of one year from being counted in the tens of thousands to being counted in millions”, Woolard added.

He further noted that the concept of innovation has caught the eye of regulators across the globe, adding that in a world where many governments and regulators begin showing interest in innovation there are challenges.

“As different jurisdictions begin to set up their own sandboxes, with different models and standards, some believe a ‘Wild West’ version could emerge”, Woolard added. “This runs entirely counter to our ambitions, which we know many share, for responsible innovation, which, rather than risk diminishing outcomes for consumers, should enhance them. We also believe that a sandbox that fails to prepare firms to join the regulated market will not foster firms that succeed long-term.”

He further noted that there are many different markets globally where innovation is taking place for different reasons, adding “there is unlikely to be one standard that fits all, just as we see many different types of financial regulation.”

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