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Australia watchdog to publish fintech 'sandbox' proposal in June
May 18, 2016 / 6:50 AM / a year ago

Australia watchdog to publish fintech 'sandbox' proposal in June

Alex Scandurra, CEO of Sydney fintech hub Stone & Chalk, talks in front of a drawing board located in the company's offices in central Sydney, Australia, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s securities regulator is set to publish a proposal next month to allow financial technology companies to start operating without a full license, one of the agency’s top executives said on Wednesday.

The potential new rules would create a controlled environment, or “sandbox”, to allow start-ups to launch in the market with restricted authorization before being granted a full license, Cathie Armour, a commissioner at the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), told the Reuters Financial Regulation Summit.

“We are going to issue a public consultation on some potential adjustments to the regulatory framework which might be of particular help to fintech businesses. They’ll obviously have regulations imposed on them but, potentially, for a limited period of time, some aspects of regulation will not be imposed just to allow experimentation.”

ASIC is exploring how it could use waivers and no-action notices to implement the sandbox framework, which ASIC hopes to get up and running by the end of the year, said Armour.

ASIC has been drafting the proposal in consultation with fintech experts, including Alex Scandurra, CEO of Sydney fintech hub Stone & Chalk.

“We are exploring the opportunity to create a sandbox that allows start-ups to validate, rapidly prototype and engage with various customer groups prior to having to engage in a formal licensing process,” Scandurra told the summit.

Visitors write ideas on a board as another works on a computer at a newly set up Australian FinTech Hub, which aims to encourage entrepreneurs of financial technology start-ups to get off the ground and compete with larger established players, in a building in central Sydney, Australia, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray - RTX2CIB3

Many fintech business models do not easily fit into the existing license-based financial regulatory framework operated in many countries, making it tough for start-ups to become established and sparking calls for regulators to provide more clarity on the rules for fintech services.

The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said last year it would launch a regulatory “sandbox” for fintech firms to create a safe space in which authorized firms can experiment to validate their business models.

Under that program, which opened to applicants last week, fintech firms which meet certain FCA criteria will be granted “restricted authorization” by the FCA to test their ideas without fear of prosecution if they break the FCA’s rules.

“We’ve looked at what the FCA’s proposal is and we’re looking to do something much more far-reaching,” said Scandurra.

Australia wants to develop Sydney as a fintech hub similar to Silicon Valley and has announced tax breaks for early-stage investments as well as a visa scheme for entrepreneurs to attract talent.

Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits

Reporting by Swati Pandey and Michelle Price; Additional reporting by Elzio Barreto; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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