Future of financial services regulation – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Treasury Committee

Related inquiry: Future of Financial Services

Date Published: 16 June 2022

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Future overall direction of financial services regulation

1. The EU has reasons to be very prescriptive when setting its financial services rules: it must ensure that all member states are acting together and implementing the same rules consistently across multiple national legal systems. The UK, now that it is outside the EU Single Market, can operate with greater freedom. (Paragraph 20)

2. Given that the UK has historically exercised significant influence in the framing of EU regulations, the UK’s exit from the European Union should not in itself be the cause of instant or dramatic changes to financial services regulation in the UK. Nevertheless, there will be opportunities to tailor inherited EU regulations to the UK market, and to seek opportunities for simplification, while being mindful of continued compliance with global standards. The new regulatory framework should aim to enable the regulators to respond more quickly and flexibly to new evidence about the effectiveness of regulation, and developments within financial markets. (Paragraph 21)

3. The Treasury should respect the principle of regulatory independence, and must not pressure the regulators to weaken or water down regulatory standards, or to accept changes to the regulatory framework which could impede the regulators’ ability to achieve their primary objectives. The regulators have been made operationally independent for a reason. If regulatory standards were to be changed or substantially weakened so as to increase the risks to financial stability, UK consumers and taxpayers could be harmed. Simplifying financial regulation and tailoring it appropriately to the UK market must be approached with care, and without compromising regulatory independence. (Paragraph 22)

4. We will remain alert for any evidence that regulators are coming under undue pressure from the Treasury to inappropriately weaken regulatory standards. (Paragraph 23)

5. Deregulation or simplification will in themselves impose costs on industry in the short term. Regulators should make every effort to limit the costs of compliance with the rules, for example by communicating planned changes in advance, grouping sets of changes together, and minimising the frequency of changes to those where a compelling need and a significant cost benefit has been articulated. That said, regulators should not let short-term costs, or the views of market participants who have already adapted to existing arrangements, limit the scale of their ambition when finding opportunities to genuinely simplify the regulatory framework without sacrificing resilience. (Paragraph 30)

Ease of access to international financial markets

6. The UK’s exit from the European Union has had an impact on the UK’s ability to export financial services to the EU. However, it remains the case that the UK still has many competitive strengths as a global financial services centre. Brexit has served as a catalyst for a renewed focus on the competitiveness of the UK’s exports, including financial services. (Paragraph 45)

7. There is a clear view from the financial services sector that co-operation between regulators is more significant than trade deals for ensuring reciprocal market access for financial services. While trade deals can open up new markets for financial services, the Government should strive to make progress on mutual recognition as an element in any free trade agreement. (Paragraph 46)

Proposed growth and competitiveness objective

8. We recommend that there should be a secondary objective for both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority to promote long-term economic growth. The wording will be crucial: pursuing international competitiveness in the short term is unlikely to lead to economic growth or international competitiveness in the long term if it is achieved by weakening the UK’s strong regulatory standards. Weakening standards could reduce the financial resilience of the UK’s financial system and undermine international confidence in that system and the firms within it. (Paragraph 72)

9. In designing the new secondary objective, there should also be some consideration for the ways in which financial services serve the ‘real economy’. The financial services industry can help deliver economic growth not simply by growing itself but also by facilitating economic growth by providing capital, credit, insurance and other services to firms in the ‘real economy’. (Paragraph 73)

10. The Treasury should continue to reject any calls for a growth and/or competitiveness objective to become a primary objective. This would increase any pressure on regulators to trade off competitiveness against resilience, and would undermine the regulators’ ability to deliver on their core functions. There is a danger that as memories of the financial crisis fade, its lessons are forgotten. (Paragraph 74)

Financial inclusion

11. The regulations made by the FCA, and the manner in which it supervises and enforces those regulations, could have a significant impact on financial inclusion. However a primary role of the FCA should not be to carry out social policy, or to fill the gaps where it is Government that ought to be stepping in and addressing these issues. Government, community, and individuals all have a role to play in tackling poverty, an issue which is far broader than regulation. (Paragraph 89)

12. The FCA should make every effort to ensure that it is not designing or implementing regulation in a way which could unreasonably limit the provision of financial services to consumers who might benefit from them. When placing new requirements on firms, the FCA should consider not only the impact on consumers and businesses, but also the impact on those who might be prevented from accessing financial services as a result of those new requirements, or who might find themselves accessing services on inferior terms. We recommend that the Treasury should require the FCA to have regard for financial inclusion in its rule-making, but not to make changes relating to financial inclusion to the FCA’s objectives. (Paragraph 90)

13. We welcome the clearer acknowledgement that the FCA is working to support financial inclusion, and we would urge the FCA to continue to do so. The FCA should provide an annual report to Parliament on the state of financial inclusion in the UK and the Treasury should consider putting this report on a statutory basis. This report should also include a summary of areas where the FCA’s work has supported financial inclusion or future work which could impact on financial inclusion; and any recommended additional measures lying within its area of competence and which could be taken by Government and other public bodies to promote financial inclusion. (Paragraph 91)

The new regulatory framework

14. The Treasury and regulators should publish a forward-looking schedule of approximately when they expect each EU financial regulatory file to move across to the regulatory rulebooks, including timelines for consultation, and when they expect the overall project to conclude. This should give industry a better opportunity to plan for the changes they may need to make, and give the various stakeholders (including industry, consumer groups, academics, and other experts) more time to plan their engagement in the process. (Paragraph 96)

15. Regulatory independence is critical for the competitiveness and effectiveness of UK financial services regulation. The host of new accountability mechanisms proposed by the Treasury must be carefully reviewed in this light, to ensure that regulatory independence is not compromised. These mechanisms largely seem reasonable as individual changes, but there is a risk that the collective impact could be excessive in its impact on regulators’ resourcing, as well as their ability to make decisions quickly where needed. (Paragraph 100)

16. The Treasury should be sparing in its use of the proposed power to require regulators to review their rules, and should not use it to implicitly require the regulators to consider a general ‘public interest’ requirement for rulemaking. Each use of this power is a potential weakening of the independence of the regulators. Regulators should not be expected to reverse or adjust regulation where such regulation is deemed to remain appropriate to carry out the regulators’ statutory objectives. That being said, the regulators should not impose costs without being able to show benefits. (Paragraph 105)

17. The Treasury has not set out the expected impact of this new power on regulatory resources. In order to avoid imposing a significant burden on regulatory resources to conduct these reviews, and to safeguard regulatory independence, the Treasury should fund these reviews itself, whether they are conducted by regulators themselves or independent persons. Reviews of regulatory rules which have been imposed by the Treasury should not crowd out the budgets over which regulators have discretion for fulfilling their objectives. The imposition of such costs on the Treasury would also further help it consider whether all such reviews were necessary. (Paragraph 106)

18. We expect the regulators to prioritise changes where the cost for consumers is lowest in comparison to the benefit. Regulators’ approaches to assessing the marginal impact of new policies is already well-developed. We therefore believe that the creation of a new statutory panel to advise regulators on cost-benefit analysis—in addition to the panels that regulators already maintain for consulting industry and other stakeholders—would add only marginal, if any, value and could pose some risk to regulatory independence. If such a panel is established, however, it should provide comments on rules changes post-publication, to avoid causing delays to the policymaking process. (Paragraph 111)

19. The information the FCA has made available on how it is performing against its service standards shows a deteriorating picture. The FCA has a reputation for being too slow in its authorisation work, and this will inevitably hold back British fintech companies and crypto firms as well as larger firms. When the FCA publishes its next update on the service standards it should write to us, outlining any areas where it is still not meeting its statutory and voluntary timelines, and setting out its strategy for closing any gaps. (Paragraph 119)

20. The FCA should consider how to improve its engagement with the poorest consumers, including seeking opportunities to improve the availability of data about people who are on the lowest incomes. The FCA must seek data on the issues vulnerable consumers experience directly. Civil society groups and other researchers can provide a valuable input, but they are more constrained than industry in terms of access to funding. (Paragraph 124)

Simplifying requirements for smaller banks

21. We will conduct scrutiny of the Prudential Regulation Authority’s ‘Strong and Simple Framework’ proposals. We will examine the impacts of the proposed reforms on the safety and soundness of smaller firms, and whether the reforms would successfully reduce the burden of regulation for these firms. (Paragraph 136)

Solvency II

22. In their review of Solvency II, the Treasury and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) should aim to secure a robust insurance regulatory regime that adequately captures risk and incentivises investment in infrastructure and business, but one that is also appropriately tailored to the UK market. (Paragraph 147)

Use of internal models to quantify capital requirements

23. The Prudential Regulation Authority should consider where there is more that can be done to reduce the advantages from which large banks and insurers benefit through modelling their own capital requirements. The purpose of doing so would be not only to strengthen competition by reducing the barriers faced by smaller or newer firms, but also to assess whether firms modelling their own capital requirements are truly reflecting the levels of risk involved. (Paragraph 154)


24. The FCA should investigate whether there are more opportunities to enable larger firms to undertake controlled, supervised experiments with innovative products. For example, it may be desirable to allow firms to be more experimental with the designs of new products, by setting aside additional capital in order to compensate consumers generously if new products being tested out by a limited number of consumers turn out not to benefit those consumers as anticipated. This approach would not be without risks, and would have to be carefully designed to avoid disadvantaging smaller firms, but it is an example of the type of bold approach which the FCA should be prepared to consider. (Paragraph 160)

Payments innovation

25. There is a range of innovations taking place in payments systems and with alternative means of exchange, including crypto-assets, stablecoins, and central bank digital currencies. These innovations could provide opportunities to address weaknesses in international payments systems and potentially to serve consumer needs, and in the case of central bank digital currency to safeguard monetary sovereignty. There are challenges associated with innovations in payments, including consumer protection, preventing crime and financial stability. We will be conducting further work on how these challenges are managed. (Paragraph 175)