Innovation is at the forefront of our vision for the future of UK financial services. The Government is committed to ensuring that the UK remains at the global cutting edge of technology and innovation in financial services. Creating the conditions needed for our Fintech businesses to grow and compete, both here and abroad, is central to delivering on this ambition. This is why, at Budget 2020, I asked Ron Kalifa OBE to carry out an independent review of the UK Fintech sector.
The Kalifa Review of UK Fintech (the Review)  was published on 26 February 2021. It made a number of recommendations aimed at Government, regulators, and industry across five areas: Policy and Regulation, Skills and Talent, Investment, International Attractiveness and Competitiveness, and National Connectivity. At publication, HM Treasury welcomed the Review and highlighted key recommendations including:
- A Centre for Finance, Innovation, and Technology to strengthen national coordination across the Fintech ecosystem to boost growth
- A regulatory ‘scalebox’ to provide additional support to growth stage Fintechs
- Amendments to UK listings rules to make the UK a more attractive location for Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)
- Improvements to tech visas to attract global talent and boost the Fintech workforce
Here we have set out the actions that Government and regulators are taking in response to the Review’s recommendations.
Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology
The Government recognises the potential for a private-sector-led Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) as an accelerator for Fintech sector growth. It can achieve this through research, thought leadership, and working with regional Fintech hubs and national Fintech bodies to identify and address barriers to growth to the benefit of the sector across the whole of the UK. I have confirmed that the Government supports the creation of this Centre and that it will work closely with the Fintech community to make it a reality.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also welcomed the Kalifa Review and has set out steps it will be taking to deliver against the Review’s idea for a ‘regulatory scalebox’, by
enhancing its existing regulatory toolkit. These actions include:
- Launching ‘Always Open’ to make the Regulatory Sandbox available on a rolling basis
- Clarifying the scope of qualifying propositions for the Regulatory Sandbox to ensure as many firms as possible are able to access support
- Launching, in conjunction with the City of London Corporation, the second phase of the Digital Sandbox pilot, inviting applications to test proof of concepts to solve sustainability and climate change financial challenges
- Considering how to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for growth-stage firms to dock in and easily navigate what sources of FCA support are available to them
- Working with industry over coming months to identify further solutions for supporting firms manage the journey to scale
The FCA has also announced plans to create a regulatory ‘nursery’ for enhanced oversight of newly authorised firms, enabling an opportunity for additional support as firms become used to the requirements of regulatory compliance.
The Lord Hill Listings Review, which was published at Budget 2021, made recommendations to boost the UK as a destination for IPOs and optimise the capital raising process on UK markets, addresses a number of the Kalifa Review’s recommendations for attracting more Fintech listings to the UK. The Government set out details of its response to Lord Hill’s Review in a Written Ministerial Statement on 19 April (HCWS919). In parallel, the FCA plans to consult on issues raised by the Kalifa Review including reducing the minimum ‘free float’ a company must have when it lists, and whether premium listed companies can have dual share class structures.
The Government demonstrated its support for attracting international talent to the UK at Budget 2021 by announcing creation of a ‘scale-up visa stream’. The new stream will be created within a new elite points-based route that will allow employees with a job offer at the required skills level from a recognised UK scale up, including Fintechs, to qualify for a fast-track visa, without the need for sponsorship or third-party endorsement. The Government will set out further details by July and the new route will be implemented by March 2022.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has announced it will create two new Fintech initiatives in response to the Review. The first is a new Fintech cohort within DIT’s Export Academy initiative. This will provide bespoke, 1-2-1 advice to eligible UK Fintechs who are ready to scale into key markets such as North America, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Tailored advice will cover topics such as legal, tax, regulation, accounting, and market entry matters, all of which will support the international expansion ambitions of Fintechs on the programme. This is in addition to the wide range of existing DIT export support services currently available for UK businesses. DIT will also establish a Fintech Champions scheme, comprising of leading UK Fintech advocates who are successfully exporting. DIT Fintech Champions will fly the flag for UK Fintech overseas and support the next generation of UK Fintechs in their growth journeys through mentoring and peer to peer learning. Both initiatives will enhance UK Fintech overseas, further elevating the UK’s status as a world leading Fintech Hub.
Regulation for digital finance
The Review also made recommendations more broadly for the Government to develop a regulatory framework for digitalisation and emerging technology in financial services. The Government is taking forward a number of initiatives in these areas:
Along with the Bank of England, HM Treasury has launched a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Taskforce to coordinate the exploration of a potential UK CBDC – the Government and the Bank of England have not yet made a decision on whether to introduce a CBDC in the UK. A CBDC would be a new form of money that would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them; the Government recognises that cash remains important to millions of people across the UK, and has committed to legislating to protect access to cash.
HM Treasury and the Bank of England are launching a CBDC Engagement Forum to gather strategic input on all non-technology aspects of CBDC.
The Bank of England is also launching a CBDC Technology Forum to gather input on all technology aspects of CBDC.
The Bank of England has launched a new account type that will allow access to central bank money by innovative financial market infrastructure providers to allow them to provide enhanced wholesale payment and settlement.
The Government has announced a financial market infrastructure (FMI) sandbox for firms exploring how to use technologies, such as distributed ledger technology (DLT), to innovate in the settlement of financial securities. This regime will aim to support firms, which are developing this new technology, with a more flexible and tailored approach to meeting requirements in current legislation, whilst appropriately balancing any risks to financial stability, market integrity and consumer protection. This new regime will be inspired by the FCA’s sandbox and HM Treasury will work together with the Bank of England and the FCA to deliver this.
In 2020 the Government committed to creating a framework of standards, governance, and legislation to enable a UK Digital Identity market. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) published a draft Trust Framework for consultation in February this year which sets out the Government’s vision for the rules governing the future use of Digital Identities. A next iteration is expected to be published this summer.
The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy is taking forward work on Smart Data and has committed to bringing forward legislation to better enable data-sharing across-sectors, including Open Finance. The FCA published a Call for Input on Open Finance in 2019 and published a Feedback Statement in March this year. This set out that the FCA will work closely with the Government as it takes forward the work on legislation as well as assessing the regulatory framework that would be needed to support Open Finance.
The Review also highlighted the benefits of tax incentive schemes in supporting Fintech growth and at Budget 2021 the Government announced steps it is taking to ensure the schemes work as efficiently as possible, including:
- A Call for Evidence on the Enterprise Management Incentive scheme to seek views on whether the scheme is meeting its objectives, and examine whether more companies should be able to access the scheme
- A review of R&D tax reliefs which follows the consultation last year on expanding the qualifying expenditures to include cloud computing and data
The Kalifa Review also makes various recommendations that Government considers industry is best placed to take forward and I am grateful to Ron Kalifa for bringing these to my attention.
I would like to conclude by thanking Ron Kalifa and his team for their exceptional work in producing this seminal Review. Ron has succeeded in producing insightful analysis, and garnering widespread support from industry for a suite of proposals that keep us on track for the continued success of UK Fintech.
I look forward to taking forward the steps I have outlined today.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords