In April 2017 The FCA announced that it was seeking stakeholder views on the potential for future development of DLT in the markets the FCA regulates.
The FCA received 47 responses from a wide range of market participants including regulated firms, national and international trade associations, technology providers, law firms and consultancies.
DLT has come to greater public prominence as it underpins digital currencies such as Bitcoin. This paper is not about Bitcoin or other so-called cryptocurrencies. Rather its remit is to consider the range of ways that DLT can impact on financial services and the regulatory implications.
Respondents expressed particular support for the FCA maintaining a ‘technology-neutral’ approach to regulation and welcomed the FCA’s open and proactive approach to new technology, including our Sandbox and RegTech initiatives.
The feedback also suggested that current FCA rules are flexible enough to accommodate the use of DLT by regulated firms and no changes to specific rules were proposed. Many respondents suggested that DLT solutions could deliver regulatory requirements more efficiently than current systems, substantially reducing costs for firms and regulators alike.
However, some respondents doubted the compatibility of permissionless networks (permissionless networks allow general public visibility of transactions online and are open for broad participation whilst permissioned networks typically feature a ‘gatekeeper’ who controls access) with our regulatory regime. Based on the feedback and its own work, overall the FCA is open to all forms of deployment of DLT (including both permissioned and permissionless DLT networks) provided the operational risks are properly identified and mitigated.
The FCA will continue to monitor DLT-related market developments, and keep its rules and guidance under review in the light of those developments. It will work collaboratively with industry, HM Treasury, the Bank of England, the Information Commissioner’s Office and other UK bodies to ensure a co-ordinated approach towards DLT in the UK. At an international level, the FCA will work closely with national and international regulatory bodies to shape regulatory developments and standards.
On the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) market, the FCA will gather further evidence and conduct a deeper examination of the fast-paced developments. Its findings will help to determine whether or not there is need for further regulatory action in this area beyond the consumer warning issued in September. In the meantime, the FCA highlights how an ICO-related business proposition needs to be designed to satisfy the ‘consumer benefit’ condition for access to the FCA’s Innovate facilities.
Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, said:
"The original paper opened a discussion about DLT and the volume and breadth of responses we received from the industry demonstrates the significance of this issue. DLT has the potential to transform practices across a number of markets, sharpening competition and improving risk management. At the same time we have to be alive to the risks of certain applications of it. We will continue to work with a range of agencies and firms to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the use of DLT in financial services."