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FCA Regulatory Sandbox


Impact for scaleups


Applications and 22 selected since August 2021


Firms tested in first seven cohorts


Participants in 9 themes of the permanent digital sandbox


Regulatory sandboxes operating globally on FCA model


Organisations are part of GFIN

Key sectors


The Financial Conduct Authority’s Regulatory Sandbox, launched in 2016, provides a testing environment for innovative products and services in the real market with real customers. Its successful model has now been replicated across the globe, including Africa, East Asia and the Pacific regions.

Since its launch in 2016, the Regulatory Sandbox has operated on a cohort basis, but in August 2021, it moved to an always open model, allowing firms to submit their applications throughout the year, an approach also encouraged by the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech. Firms can now access testing services at any point throughout the year, at the point and time that is right in their development lifecycle. 

Under this new model, 22 firms have been accepted onto the programme, with their propositions operating across the retail lending, retail investments, retail banking, payments and wholesale sectors. The main types of innovation have continued to be dominated by data and technology infrastructure, with firms using AI/machine learning and predictive analytics, distributed ledger technology (DLT) / blockchain technology, open banking, APIs and digital ID. 

This year, following the successes of two Digital Sandbox pilots, the FCA launched the permanent FCA Digital Sandbox. The evaluation reports from the pilots have concluded that the Digital Sandbox initiative addresses the needs of early-stage and scaling firms, especially in the networking and collaboration. Almost 6 in 10 of the scaling participants have reported positive progress which has included securing  funding and partnership, launching products or receiving industry rewards and recognitions. Innovators across all financial service sectors can join the programme and to date, 58 participants are included across 9 themes: Consumer Investments Advice & Distribution; Cross-sectors & Other; Fund & Investment Management; Infrastructure & Exchange; Insurance; Payments; Retail Banking; Retail Lending; and Wholesale Banks & Intermediaries.

In 2022, FCA also launched the ‘Innovation Pathways’ programme, a bespoke support service for firms that are not yet ready to test but need help understanding the FCA regulatory regime prior to doing so. The programme helps businesses understand the process; regulation rules, the implications for their business model, and what they need to do to launch a regulated business. To achieve this, dedicated case managers, customised signposting, discussions and feedback with FCA subject matter experts, informal steers, pre-authorisation meetings, an assigned Authorisations case handler and dedicated supervisory support are available to support them. 

FCA also serves as chair for the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN), launched in 2019, bringing together over 70 international organisations committed to supporting financial innovation in the interests of consumers. Members include the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the USA’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission. Building on the model developed by the FCA Sandbox, it has developed a cross-border testing environment for scaleups.

FCA Regulatory Sandbox website