No more cohorts: FCA says fintech sandbox is now ‘always open’

By Oliver Smith on Tuesday 17 August 2021

Alternative LendingDigital BankingSavings and Investment

The regulator is on the hunt for more applicants trying to address diversity and inclusion (D&I) issues in financial services.

No more cohorts: FCA says fintech sandbox is now ‘always open’
Image source: Markus Spiske/Unsplash.

Since 2016 the UK’s financial regulator has operated a ‘sandbox’ for cutting-edge financial products and services to be tested with consumers in-market under its supervision.

Previously the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had operated its sandbox by annual cohorts, allowing a set number of companies to participate at any one time, but no longer.

FCA Innovate has announced that its sandbox is now ‘always open’, meaning firms can apply anytime to test their products at whatever stage is right for them.

“The Kalifa Review of UK FinTech recommended that the sandbox be enhanced to provide more value to firms. This included a specific recommendation that the sandbox be made available on a rolling basis, rather than through time-limited windows,” the FCA Innovate’s sandbox team wrote.

As well as being ‘always open’, the FCA has also launched a new online application form and guide, making it easier for new applicants to get started, and streamlined its internal decision-making process, resulting in quicker approvals.

Going forward the FCA Innovate team is, in particular, looking for applicants launching products and services to help people deal with the effects of Covid-19, and from firms led by underrepresented groups that are trying to address issues of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in financial services.

The application process has “incorporated D&I into the assessment of our ‘consumer benefit’ eligibility criterion, meaning firms which demonstrate that their proposal addresses issues of D&I (by benefitting underserved consumers, for example), or are run by diverse management teams, have a strong likelihood of meeting this criterion.”

Finally, in September, the second Green FinTech Challenge 2021 will be launched, encouraging a ‘green cohort’ of firms to apply for a bespoke package of sandbox support in building products and services that help the UK transition to a net-zero economy.

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