Who doesn’t love a light bit of reading over the Summer? On the penultimate day of Parliament before the Summer Recess, amidst a certain amount of political turmoil, the Government introduced the Financial Services and Markets Bill 2022. This 330-plus page document is the largest piece of financial services legislation in more than two decades.
The Bill was introduced by the new Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, who had only been in his role for 15 days. Its ambition is to set the foundations for how UK financial services will operate in a post-Brexit world, with a focus on driving innovation, growth and the UK’s role as an international financial centre.
It is a bold ambition to pass a bill which covers an enormous amount of ground. The most prominent areas include the repealing of retained EU law; the creation of a regulatory framework that gives UK authorities new powers, competitiveness and growth objectives; a net zero regulatory principle.
There are many other parts of the Bill, each of which warrants close and detailed examination, so for now, I will pick out the additional parts which I find interesting:
- Crypto – The Bill contains a new power for HM Treasury to introduce bespoke rules on the regulation of payments, payment systems and service providers in relation to the payments that include “digital settlement assets”.
- Access to cash – Against a background of the growth of digital payments, the Bill will require HM Treasury to publish a statement of policy concerning cash deposit and withdrawal services.
- Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud – The Bill will enable regulators to require that victims of push payment scams are reimbursed and that consumer protections are applied consistently.
- Financial markets infrastructure (FMI) sandboxes – The Bill will give HM Treasury the power to introduce FMI sandboxes under secondary legislation. This new power will be particularly welcome to innovators in digital and other alternative trading, clearing or settlement offerings whose operations do not fit neatly into existing regulatory criteria designed for a pre-digital era.
However, current ownership of the Bill also makes me feel like there is a missed opportunity. John Glen MP, who recently resigned as City Minister, will no longer be responsible for steering the legislation through Parliament. Glen had held his post for four and a half years, an impressive feat in itself, but he had also invested a great deal of time and energy into meeting and engaging with the industry and consumer groups. His successor, Alan Mak MP, may provide to be equally adept, particularly with his experience of tech to bear, but Glen would have been a highly informed and experienced owner of the Bill, arguably of even greater importance given the breadth of issues that will be covered.
The passage through Parliament is likely to take at least a year so we will have to see if there will be another City Minister by the time the Second Reading comes round on 7 September (which happens to be two days after the new PM is decided).
So for those who want to be a “thought leader” on the future of financial services in the UK, this is the Bill they should be paying attention to. The key now is to find the right ways to engage with policymakers and influencers who will be digging into the detail and make sure your point of view is heard and understood over the months to come.