Regulatory sandboxes – a safe place for big kids to play

Eximee Team
Published 02/06/2018

Just about a decade or so ago, autonomous car manufacturers assured us that we were entering an era where drivers would become superfluous. The cars were even supposed to know where you wanted to go and just drive you there.

It never happened. At least not everywhere.

There is a town with more autonomous cars than anywhere else. It is called The Villages – 750 miles of roads and 125 000 citizens with an average age of 70. Sounds like a city for pensioners? Rightly so, because that’s exactly what it is.

The area of 32 square miles is now the largest retirement city in the US. You can unabashedly say all drivers there are “grandpas and grandmas behind the wheel."

And do you know who else drives like a grandpa? Autonomous cars, at least at the current stage of development.

The Villages community was chosen by Ford and Chrysler as their self-driving car testing ground. Predictable weather conditions, no complicated intersections, limited traffic, low speed limits, and thousands of people who are never in a hurry and would love a ride to a golf course or church.

It’s a perfect sandbox – a separate and safe environment with strictly controlled rules where you can learn safely. Learn what? Obviously, Ford and Chrysler want to know what could surprise their autonomous cars.

Places such as The Villages also provide invaluable knowledge to legislators who, sooner or later, will face the necessity of formulating laws and regulations that will allow the safe use of autonomous cars in the real world.

What does that have to do with banking?

The key is the two words – security and safety. In the case of autonomous cars, 2018 was a milestone – when a Uber self-driving car fatally hit a pedestrian. It led many companies – with Uber at the forefront – to take a step back and give up testing in normal traffic conditions for a while.

You might say it’s impossible to hit a man with banking, though

Well, actually it is… in a way. There is no doubt that banking and finances have a significant impact on people’s lives and the activities of companies or even countries. Banking is a strictly regulated area of business. Why? Because banking must be stable and resistant to attempts to use the system in an unforeseen way (using legal methods or otherwise). A system with holes is a loss of real money.

Banking must also be innovative. Innovations in the financial sector (just like autonomous cars) need to be tested before they can be implemented. Strict regulations must be established to protect consumers, shareholders, and the rest of the market from chaos. Remember what was the cause of the big blackout in 2003 in North America? A small bushfire under the transmission line? No, it was the lack of control and fuzzy regulations concerning emergency situations.

Therefore, the priority goal of sandboxes is to adapt regulations to the rapid growth of fintech in a way that enables smooth operations in the market and an appropriate level of security for customers.

Sandboxes and fintech 

Sandboxes are fintechs’ great opportunity to attract the attention of various entities potentially interested in their development.

In 2015, in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) launched the first regulatory sandbox for fintech companies. Its goals were:

  • testing products and services in a controlled environment
  • reducing time-to-market at potentially lower cost
  • identifying appropriate consumer protection safeguards to be included in new products and services
  • better access to finance

In Asia, the pioneer regulatory sandbox was the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). You can read that:

“The regulatory sandbox will enable FIs as well as Fintech players to experiment with innovative financial products or services in the production environment but within a well-defined space and duration. It shall also include appropriate safeguards to contain the consequences of failure and maintain the overall safety and soundness of the financial system.”

The leaders of Europe are the Netherlands, Denmark, and of course, the United Kingdom mentioned earlier.

This year Poland launched a project coordinated by the Ministry of Finance and co-financed by the European Union. We are looking forward to launching the regulatory sandbox on the Polish market.

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Authors

Eximee Team