The financial regulator is accelerating its plans to pilot a "digital sandbox" in a bid to support firms facing challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement on its website yesterday (May 4) the Financial Conduct Authority said it was "swiftly progressing plans" to allow firms to trial services and products in a digital testing environment, especially those tackling coronavirus-related challenges.
The regulator's sandbox allows firms to test products and services in a controlled environment and on a small scale, with the process being overseen by the watchdog.
The FCA said it had explored the concept of a digital sandbox prior to the pandemic, but these plans had now been accelerated to begin accepting applications for the programme in the summer.
The regulator said: "We are swiftly progressing plans so that we can provide support to innovative firms looking to tackle coronavirus-related challenges facing firms and consumers.
"We will pilot these features and tools to support firms developing specific use cases, and will evaluate the effectiveness of the feature or tool through this pilot."
The digital sandbox could see the FCA use simulated or synthetic data to represent testing products and services in the real markets, which would speed up the process of firms launching solutions which could help consumers during the pandemic.
Firms testing products in the digital sandbox would access regulatory support in developing testing plans, with the FCA being in a position to signpost relevant rules and informal steers during the authorisation process.
As the coronavirus crisis unfolded in the UK at the beginning of March the FCA shed all "non-critical" work and delayed any regulatory work which could be postponed in light of the pandemic.
The move was an attempt to allow firms in the financial services sector to focus on "supporting their customers during the difficult period".
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