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Bank of England, FCA consulting on Digital Securities Sandbox, views Autumn date for first entrants

The Bank of England (BOE) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are consulting on their proposed approach to operating the U.K.’S Digital Securities Sandbox (DSS), with a tentative timeline of Autumn 2024 for the first cohort of DSS applicants to become sandbox entrants.

The DSS will modify regulations in the U.K. to enable financial market participants to use new technology—such as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)—in the trading and settlement of digital securities such as shares and bonds.

The regulations aim to create a controlled environment, allowing companies and authorities to test new technology in financial markets, overcoming existing regulatory obstacles, and fostering innovation in the digital asset industry.

Successful applicants to the DSS will be able to provide securities depository and settlement services and operate a trading venue under the modified regulations.

“The new Digital Securities Sandbox reshapes how we regulate by allowing firms to test regulatory changes using real world situations before these changes are made permanent. We hope this will be a more effective, collaborative and quicker way of delivering regulatory change,” said Sheldon Mills, Executive Director of Consumers and Competition at the FCA.

“The new sandbox also helps strengthen the UK’s leading position as a global and vibrant financial centre, by driving adoption of new technologies for trading and settling traditional assets, like bonds and equities.”

Mills also noted that the FCA continues to work with the BOE, government, and industry to protect the integrity and “cleanliness” of U.K. markets.

Meanwhile, Executive Director for Financial Market Infrastructure at the BOE, Sasha Mills, described the DSS as “an important tool for regulators to learn how we need to react to benefit safely from developments in technology and changes to vital financial market processes such as securities settlement.”

The consultation outlined a timeline for the DSS. Notable dates included a deadline for feedback on the consultation of May 29, 2024; a joined BOE and FCA response to feedback and opening of the DSS to applications in summer 2024; and a proposed date of Autumn 2024 for the first cohort of DSS applicant to become sandbox entrants.

The Sandbox is intended to run for five years and could lead to new permanent regulations for trading and settling digital assets in the United Kingdom.

The UK’S Digital Securities Sandbox

The U.K. Treasury began consulting on the framework for the DSS in July 2023, setting out how institutions could apply to establish and operate digital securities depositories and/or trading venues under a modified temporary legislative framework.

This consultation ended on August 22, 2023, after which the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, outlined plans for the DSS in his Autumn budget statement, stating that he hoped it would facilitate the expansion of the digital assets sector in the country.

“The government will lay a statutory instrument to implement the Digital Securities Sandbox, delivering on the Edinburgh Reform announcement to implement a Financial Market Infrastructure Sandbox in 2023,” according to the budget.

In December 2023, the government introduced a new regulation that provided the FCA with rules for supervising the DSS for tokenized securities, with the Sandbox subsequently coming into effect on January 8, 2024.

The new DSS regulation is one of the first changes to come as part of the U.K. government’s Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 (FSMA), which was passed on June 29, 2023, with the goal of integrating digital assets into the U.K.’s financial services regulation.

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