Since launching a so-called regulatory “sandbox” in 2016, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority has won accolades from banking officials around the world for providing a safe space for fintech firms to test out products without the threat of punishment if those products break any rules.

Now the U.K. regulator is seeking input on whether it should expand its sandbox to include letting fintech companies test their ideas with regulators from around the world. . Its thinking is that by allowing fintech firms simultaneously conduct tests in different jurisdictions, regulators from different countries could more easily work together to solve common cross-border problems.

Financial Conduct Authority
Bloomberg News

“The overall approach would be to better understand and solve common regulatory problems, as well as being more helpful to firms who have aspirations to grow at scale in multiple markets,” the FCA said in announcing the initiative this week.

The vision is meant to address the reality that many issues fintechs are tackling — from know-your-customer rules to cross-border payments — involve working with multiple regulators in multiple countries.

Currently, the FCA sandbox lets firms test their products only in the U.K. Even with the geography restrictions, it has been cited by industry experts as an effective tool in helping fintech companies realize their visions.

Since launching in 2016, the sandbox has supported 60 firms. So far, the FCA says the model has succeeded in reducing the time and cost of getting innovative ideas to market — an important objective for startups that often struggle to keep the lights on while waiting for banks to buy their products.

The U.S. has tested similar concepts but to a lesser degree. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for instance, has an initiative called Project Catalyst that is designed to help fintech firms navigate the inevitable regulatory challenges that they will encounter.

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Mary Wisniewski

Mary Wisniewski

Mary is deputy editor of BankThink. She also writes on a variety of subjects as part of American Banker's bank tech team.