By Rob Moulton and Anna Lewis-Martinez

On 30 April 2020, the FCA released a statement announcing a six-month extension to the deadline for firms’ implementation of strong customer authentication (SCA) for e-commerce under the Payment Services Regulations 2017 (PSRs 2017). The FCA states that the extension is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is set to minimise potential disruption to consumers and merchants.

The new deadline for implementation is 14 September 2021. This replaces the original 14 March 2021 deadline.

The FCA is considering whether alternative data could introduce new risks to market integrity.

By Rob Moulton, Fiona Maclean, Stuart Davis, and Charlotte Collins

The FCA’s recently published Insight article explores how alternative data might give rise to market abuse risks. The article reports a significant increase in spending on alternative data in recent years, leading to questions about whether access to such data might provide recipients of the data with an unfair informational advantage over other market participants.

While traditional sources of data, such as a company’s financial statements, may contain inside information and must be treated appropriately before they are made public, the nature of alternative data is less clear-cut. Alternative data does not come from the company itself, and may derive from (or be extrapolated from) a number of sources. Alternative data may allow those with access to know things about a company that others in the market do not know, or that the company itself does not know. This may be the case, even if, as is frequently the case, the pool of structured/unstructured data used by the analytics engine is in the public domain. Evidently, this could provide trading opportunities that put the holder of such information at an advantage, as compared with other market participants.

A key example of where alternative data has raised concerns recently is in relation to so-called “secret polling”. The government has had exchanges with the FCA concerning the potential use of private polling data to obtain a trading advantage in advance of election results. The regulator’s view is that, while the Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) might be engaged by such activities, MAR would only apply if the underlying information were to constitute inside information. This is unlikely to be the case, unless the information met the MAR recital 28 test of information “routinely expected by the market” to be published, such as weekly BBC opinion polls. Therefore, MAR does not restrict the sharing of polling information that is not inside information. However, this position clearly raises political questions of fairness, as those able to pay for and access the data may well gain an advantage in the market, and those providing the data may not understand the use to which it will be put.

Call for input: Industry needs to engage as the FCA moves forward on its transformative vision for open finance.

By Stuart Davis and Brett Carr

Imagine a world in which you could access your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage, pensions, savings accounts and ISAs, brokerage account, home and car insurance, life insurance, and other financial products on one user interface or app, even if each of those products is held with a different provider. Then, imagine that the app could provide innovative financial management services across all of those products, such as automated switching to the best products, holistic investment advice and budgeting, and sweeping of excess cash into products yielding a better return than today’s current accounts. This world may be closer than you think, and it will likely have profound impacts for incumbent and new financial services business.

New regulatory requirements, including registration and customer disclosure requirements, apply to regulated and unregulated persons carrying on relevant cryptoasset business.

By Stuart Davis and Sam Maxson

On 20 December 2019, the UK government published the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (the Amending Regulations). The Amending Regulations update the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (the MLRs) to meet the UK’s obligation to transpose Directive (EU) 2018/843 (5MLD) into UK law. A key element of the Amending Regulations is that they bring Cryptoasset Exchange Providers (CEP) and Custodian Wallet Providers (CWP) — including persons making an initial coin offering (ICO) — within the scope of UK money laundering regulations. Therefore, from 10 January 2020 CEPs and CWPs are required to comply with the requirements of the MLRs (subject to limited transitional provisions for existing cryptoasset businesses relating to registration with the FCA). Significantly, the Amending Regulations will impact any UK person conducting cryptoasset business of a kind that is captured by the new definitions of CEPs and CWPs (including, for example, existing UK authorised financial services firms that carry on cryptoasset business which will be subject to new requirements relating specifically to cryptoasset business).

HM Treasury consulted on its proposed changes in April 2019 in its paper Transposition of the Fifth Money Laundering Directive: Consultation (the Consultation Paper). As the UK has not yet formally withdrawn from the EU, its approach to implementing the changes introduced by 5MLD is not impacted by Brexit and it is anticipated that the UK will continue to apply EU financial regulatory standards (including anti-money laundering (AML) requirements) immediately post-Brexit through “onshored” legislation.

Insights from Latham’s flagship event: Managing the risk and promise of digitisation in financial services

Authors: Andrew Moyle, Nicola Higgs, Christian McDermott, and Kirsty Watkins.

The financial services industry is leading the way in outsourcing, with contract values in excess of US$10.7 billion in 2018, causing regulators to focus more than ever on the associated risks. Guidelines on outsourcing arrangements from the European Banking Authority (EBA), which came into effect on 30 September 2019, expand the requirements on institutions in this area, while both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) are also increasing their outsourcing supervision and enforcement activity.

We discussed the new requirements for financial institutions to maintain a register of outsourcing arrangements, and adhere to more stringent risk assessment and due diligence requirements at our recent event entitled Balancing the Scales: Managing the Risk and Promise of Digitisation in Financial Services.

FCA finalises guidance on cryptoassets and consults on product intervention measures.

By Stuart Davis and Charlotte Collins

FCA guidance on the regulation of cryptoassets

As previously reported in this blog, the FCA consulted on guidance on cryptoassets in January 2019. This guidance is designed to help market participants understand how to classify different types of cryptoassets, within the existing regulatory framework. Although the guidance is not able to give definitive answers, and every cryptoasset must be assessed against the guidance based on its own particular features, this publication helps to create a much greater degree of clarity as to how the assessment ought to be performed, and which features are determinative for these purposes.

The FCA published its final guidance in PS19/22 on 31 July 2019. The guidance is substantially the same as that consulted on, save that the FCA has sought to reframe its taxonomy of cryptoassets to help market participants better understand which types of token are regulated. The FCA has included a new category of regulated tokens that constitute e-money, “e-money tokens”, rather than including e-money tokens within the utility tokens category. This provides a clearer distinction between regulated security tokens and e-money tokens on the one hand, and unregulated tokens (utility tokens and exchange tokens that do not fall within the above categories) on the other. However, the final guidance as to whether a token will constitute an e-money token has not changed from the draft version. The FCA has also provided further guidance on so-called “stablecoins”, and on when particular types of token might constitute e-money or securities. The FCA confirms that this determination will depend on the design and rights associated with a specific stablecoin and, therefore, requires a case-by-case assessment.

Report highlights key strengths and regulatory innovations to inform stakeholders for trade and investment.

By Laura Holden and Nootan Vegad

The Department for International Trade, with the support of Innovate Finance, has published a report titled the “FinTech State of the Nation”. Providing an overview of the UK’s FinTech industry and highlighting the UK’s appeal as a FinTech destination for entrepreneurs and investors, the report seeks to demonstrate how the UK’s FinTech sector has emerged as a global leader and why this will continue in the future.

The report describes the actions that the government, regulators, and industry have taken to stimulate and sustain growth of the UK’s FinTech sector. The report includes an overview of technology demand, a regional analysis of FinTech, details of the investment environment, views from the FCA, a summary of the talent, skills, and diversity in the industry and the “Essential Eight” technology trends — which includes block chain, drones, and artificial intelligence to name a few.

UK regulators are addressing regulatory uncertainty through a number of regulatory initiatives due for implementation in 2019.

By Stuart Davis

Background

Following the FCA’s consultation paper that offers guidance on the regulatory status of cryptoassets published in January 2019, the regulator is now engaging with the industry and other stakeholders such as law firms to finalise its guidance.

As part of its ongoing work to investigate and understand the UK cryptoassets sector the FCA has published the findings of two pieces of complementary consumer research on cryptoassets.

By Sam Maxson and Stuart Davis

Following the publication of the UK Cryptoassets Taskforce final report in October 2018, the FCA has engaged in a series of focused pieces of work relating to the UK cryptoassets sector.

This work includes the headline public consultations that were announced in the Taskforce final report — such as the FCA Cryptoassets Perimeter Guidance Consultation (published in January 2019 and open for responses until 5 April 2019) and the proposed FCA consultation on a potential ban on the sale of certain cryptoasset derivatives to retail investors (expected later this year) — as well as more “behind the scenes” work that the FCA is conducting to improve its evidence base and understanding of the cryptoassets sector.

From August 2019, certain existing FCA rules and guidance will extend to payment service providers and e-money issuers in a signal that the FCA wants a consistent approach to consumer protection.

By Rob Moulton, Brett Carr, and Frida Montenius

The FCA has published a Policy Statement extending certain rules and guidance to the payment services and e-money sectors, following a Consultation Paper published in August 2018. The extensions concern the FCA’s Principles for Businesses (Principles) and the Banking Conduct of Business Sourcebook (BCOBS), along with new guidance concerning the communication and marketing of currency transfer services. The FCA has made these changes, aimed at payment institutions (PIs), electronic money institutions (EMIs), and registered account information service providers (RAISPs), with a hope to protect consumers by providing a clear and consistent set of rules that firms must abide by.