Navigating the Future: The UK’s Competitive Edge in Fintech Regulation and Innovation

“The UK has a strong competitive advantage in areas like cybersecurity, privacy and, increasingly, artificial intelligence. A lot of work, however, remains to be done. This is not an automatic process by any means,” outlines Dr Devraj Basu, Senior Lecturer in Finance in the Accounting and Finance department at the Strathclyde Business School. Basu helped set up the RegTech Forum which brings together industry, academia and government to help understand the fast moving RegTech landscape and how Scotland and the UK can position themselves to become leading global players.

“While the UK has well established strengths, it needs to pull together all these very different areas by creating an ecosystem solution,” he continues. Basu feels that if the UK provides a proper regulatory framework in the context of technology it will provide a greater impetus in unlocking innovation. A stable regulatory framework is also needed to adapt to technological change to ensure it’s fit for consumers - AI being a prime example. But the UK needs to simultaneously join up with international best practice as well. “These elements require a deep understanding of all the issues, as well as an aspect of agility to bring together all the different stakeholders,” he says.

Regarding the appetite of UK regulators towards the development of overarching digital public infrastructures (such as the so-called ‘India Stack’ built on Aadhaar, India's digital ID system), Basu believes that the UK can learn from establishing digital identities, preferably through the creation of an overarching framework for privacy regulations. However, the parallels stop there. This is because the UK would, unlike India, have to tackle its legacy technology issues. Further, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) can only play a limited role in transforming legacy infrastructure because rather than dishing out prescriptive directions to industry, the FCA is a principles-based regulator which can only outline overarching maxims.

In terms of innovating financial regulation itself, Basu feels that the UK has done the right thing by introducing regulatory sandboxes. Moreover, he feels strongly that the FCA should start looking at the costs that regulations impose on businesses and how they can be minimised. This could be achieved by implementing a ‘by design’ philosophy by providing either high-level roadmaps that minimise cost or interactive processes that lead to better regulation. “One way of being innovative is if the regulator could convince organisations that the adoption of new regulations would actually improve products or sales. One thing that's come out of our RegTech Forum is this notion of the ‘by design’ philosophy, which takes a proactive view on regulation, which in turn encourages innovation,” Basu explains. “Ideally a regulator should be a body that guides businesses through a process and helps them get better.”