Regulation  

Advisers' response to Project Innovate

This article is part of
Guide to making Project Innovate work for you

Advisers' response to Project Innovate

Project Innovate and the move to improve financial technology (fintech) across the industry has had a mixed reception, with some rushing to embrace it and others holding back. 

What Project Innovate set out to achieve, from its launch in October 2014, was to help firms, both large and small, financial and non-financial to develop technology that would enhance the customer experience and improve outcomes across financial services.

At the time, the then chief exective of the FCA, Martin Wheatley, said the project was necessary to help reduce the advice gap and bring financial services into the modern world.

As part of Project Innovate, the FCA launched a regulatory 'sandbox' where ideas could be created and tested, along with an advice unit, which opened in May 2016.

Later on in 2016, Christopher Woolard, director of strategy for the FCA, delivered a speech at the British Bankers Association's FinTech Banking Conference, held at City law firm Allen & Overy, in which he outlined the initial successes of Project Innovate and reiterated the need for the financial services industry to commit to fintech developments.

In his speech, Mr Woolard commented: "This is an exciting time for the FCA and our work around innovation in the financial services sector.

"We have an overarching statutory objective as a regulator to make financial services markets work well.

"Traditionally, financial regulators around the world have tended to look upon disruption and innovation with suspicion, at best a risk to the prudential security of the models of existing incumbents.

"In the UK, both we and the PRA have begun to change that analysis and focus on the long-term benefits for the strength of markets of greater competition. We want UK firms to feel that both established players and start-ups can bring new ideas to market, invest and be able to grow."

Where we are now

More than two years on, there have been some significant developments, such as the use of Facebook chatbots and artificial intelligence to help get people started on their savings journey, through to far more complicated automated software that enables the investor to participate in enterprise investment scheme-qualifying companies on-platform.

However, not all of these have come about as a result of Project Innovate; some of these have been led by entrepreneurial young people such as the two founders of Plum, while others have been dictated by necessity, such as the growing use of online chat helplines for advisory firms needing new ways to engage with new and existing clients.

With regard to how advisers have met the challenges of Project Innovate specifically, some respondents have claimed there is still a lack of actual technological innovation, stating that many firms have not engaged fully with the spirit of Project Innovate for reasons of cost, resourcing or practicability.