CySEC’s call for viewsThe Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a call for views on establishing a Regulatory Sandbox. The Call and accompanying Press Release were circulated on 16th March 2022 on CySEC’s Website (the “Call”) and invites stakeholders across the financial services industry to provide their own feedback on establishing a Regulatory Sandbox for the promotion of innovation in the industry. The Call refers to and concerns regulated entities, Financial Technology (FinTech), Regulatory Technology (RegTech) companies, their professional associations from Cyprus or abroad and in general, any interested party with views as to the merits of establishing a Regulatory Sandbox, its scope and its testing process.
Background – Rationale
FinTech, the Covid-19 pandemic and digitalization have had a major impact in automating a numberof sectors, including the financial services sector and the opening up of online channels ofcommunication and exchange of information. CySEC is using these channels and building on theprevious efforts undertaken by the Innovation Hub, CySEC’s initiative to support innovativebusinesses and engage with providers of emerging financial technologies. In particular, thepractical efforts of the Innovation Hub have included guidance on whether envisaged anddeveloped FinTech and RegTech solutions encompassed regulated and licensable activities andtools, as well as feedback on the merits of such solutions.
Other initiatives, which CySEC refers to in its call and relate to the promotion of innovation in the financial services sector, include and/or contemplate the introduction of:
– the Crypto-Asset Service Providers (CASPs) Registry, which accompanies a detailed licensing framework for entities engaged in the crypto-assets space and the offering of services related to crypto-assets;
– a pilot regime for market infrastructures based on distributed ledger technology (DLT), providing for the conditions for operating a DLT market infrastructure, trading DLT financial instruments and acooperation framework between such DLR market infrastructures and regulators;
– the proposed Regulation on Digital Operational Resilience (“Dora”), addressing the managing and supervision of information communication technologies (ICT) risks
All these initiatives come within the EU’s greater Digital Strategy and build upon a number of other initiatives undertaken at the EU level (by way of other examples, the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence and the European Strategy for Data), which aim to bring the EU at the forefront of digital technology, data and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure.
Interested parties have a short deadline to register their interest in participating in the call. They must provide, by 28th March 2022, a brief paragraph to the innovationhub department of CySEC, on their background and any innovation-related activities.
The Experience Abroad
At the international fora, regulatory sandboxes made their appearance in the mid-2010s, following thedual financial and sovereign debt crisis. Still shaken from the effects of the crisis and a renewed push forcompetition in the financial services sector, the development of new products and services has beenwelcomed as an opportunity to modernize the banking, insurance and investment sectors and aid withthe deconcentration of risk in those industries. In the United Kingdom, the Financial Conduct Authority introduced its own regulatory sandbox in 2016,with other jurisdictions joining the race for innovation shortly after, namely Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Innovation Hubs and Regulatory Sandboxes
In Australia and the United Kingdom, and analogously to the experience in Cyprus, the regulatorysandboxes evolved from their pre-existing innovation hubs. Regulatory sandboxes are usuallycomprised of limited entities which meet a number of pre-determined entry criteria, and which, incoordination with the supervisory authorities (CySEC in the case of Cyprus), are allowed and facilitatedin developing their products and services within a more relaxed regulatory environment. Innovationhubs are intended to be wider. They commonly provide a pathway of communication between industryactors and regulators with regards to their innovations more generally. Regulators will equally provideguidance under both regulatory sandboxes and innovation hubs, to help actors, either individually or onan industry basis, navigate through the regulatory regime applicable to them. Thus, under the rightconditions, both innovation hubs and regulatory sandboxes can prove useful.
CySEC’s proposal to establish its own Regulatory Sandbox is a welcoming proposal towards promotinginnovation and competition in the financial services sector. It also builds up on previous measuresadopted both at the national and EU level and facilitates discussions on future initiatives. For this effortto be fruitful nevertheless, it will be crucial for a number and variety of actors to express their interest toCySEC’s call for views.