According to the speech by Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, delivered at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance annual conference, Judge Business School:
The FCA when faced with novelty, try to gain a crisper view. The FCA asks:
- What is this thing, why is there a new term and what problem is it trying to address?
- Who is it for – wholesale banks or retail consumers? Is it within our regulatory scope or outside?
- Is this really an innovation or just something old in a new, flashy wrapper?
- Is this potentially to the benefit of consumers and competitive markets or is it likely causing harm by increasing complexity and other risks?
In short, the FCA seeks to consider any cryptoasset, including those labelled ’stablecoin‘, on a case-by-case basis and the FCA encourages both consumers and firms to do likewise.
As the FCA seeks answers to those questions, it expects any would-be cryptoasset issuer to be asking a few of their own before launching a product:
- Is my product a beneficial innovation for consumers and markets? Or does it include hidden bugs and unmitigated risks?
- Am I prepared to be open and cooperative with domestic and international regulatory agencies? How do I approach issues like anti-money laundering?
- Will the target market I have in mind for this cryptoasset be able to make an informed and balanced judgement of the risks and benefits of investing in or using such an asset?
- Finally, and most importantly, have I completed the regulatory, legal and technical due diligence in advance of launching a new product or service?
In financial services it is vital that innovators get it right the first time round.
When it comes to other people’s money, or safeguarding against terrorist financing, corner cutting is simply not an option.
For those who think the model is to try it in beta for a few million people and see what happens, there may be activities here that are illegal without authorisation in many countries, not just the UK.
The UK has led the rest of the world with developments like the regulatory Sandbox.
One thing that unites those who have been through the Sandbox is the professionalism and preparation shown by the firms involved, who all recognise there is a finite amount of learning through failing fast that can be tolerated when consumers are at risk of harm.
People, it is a good advice, please consider using the FCA sandbox service, you can avoid big legal issues.