Financial Conduct Authority 

FCA takes stock of innovation work

FCA takes stock of innovation work

Close to 700 companies have received support from the Financial Conduct Authority's innovation programme, with the regulator claiming those using the project have come to market 40 per cent faster than their peers.

The FCA launched Project Innovate in 2014 as a means to encourage innovation in the financial services market, aimed at fostering competition and growth by supporting both small and large businesses in developing products which could improve consumer services. 

In an evaluation report published today (April 29) the City-watchdog reported its Innovate project had received 1,563 applications for support since inception and 686 companies had received assistance from the regulator as a result. 

According to the FCA, some companies which have introduced their innovations through the Innovate programme have come to market 40 per cent faster than equivalent financial services companies.

The regulator stated this equates to cutting three months from testing the innovation to rolling out in the market.

For those companies which sought regulatory support via Innovate 149 had received informal steers from the regulator, meaning the FCA provided a view on how it would apply its regulatory requirements to their business models.  

The report found five firms which received an informal steer from the FCA's advice unit went on to launch a robo-advice or guidance proposition, including large players such as NatWest, Nationwide and HSBC UK. 

Informal steers were also provided to Standard Life's 1825 regarding the innovation of an automated advice tool for consumers approaching retirement. 

The regulator revealed 1825 had approached the FCA with questions regarding the provision of suitable pension decumulation advice and help in understanding how the rules around personal recommendations would apply in practice. 

The FCA stated it provided informal steers during the development phase, with 1825 going on to build its model and test the end-to-end automated advice process. 

Speaking at the Innovate Finance Global Summit 2019 in London today Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said demand for Innovate in the industry had been "huge" but the regulator was continuing to "take a step back" to assess whether the project was having the desired impact on the market. 

He said: "We all agree that innovation in the interests of consumers is a good thing. It’s a subject that attracts great attention.

"But are we achieving it? Can we be measured in deeds and not words?

"When we launched FCA Innovate, we believed that we had an approach that could create the conditions for this to happen.

"We asked ourselves: can we encourage innovation in the interest of consumers? Can we help innovative firms operate in a regulatory context, getting their products to market faster?

"Some of this is difficult to measure." 

But Mr Woolard said the regulator was now able to demonstrate Innovate is having an impact and the progress made is "significant and real", although "there is much, much more to do". 

He added: "If you read our evaluation report, you’ll see no one is claiming things are perfect. Many of the challenges we face are of a global nature.