UK regulators launch sandbox to integrate DLT with financial system

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The Bank of England (BoE) and the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have announced the launch of the Digital Securities Sandbox (DSS) on April 3.

The new framework aims to facilitate the use of emerging technologies, such as distributed ledger technology (DLT), in issuing, trading, and settling financial securities. It will allow participating firms to explore innovative technological applications within a structured regulatory environment.

The initiative represents an effort by UK financial regulators to integrate cutting-edge technologies into the financial market infrastructure, aiming for a more efficient and resilient financial system.

Digital finance

Designed as a five-year program, the DSS is intended to let firms undertake roles traditionally associated with central securities depositories, including the issuance, maintenance, and settlement of securities.

Furthermore, the framework enables the integration of these roles with trading venue functionalities, potentially leading to the creation of new business models in the financial sector.

The DSS has been established with three key objectives: to encourage innovation in the financial system, to maintain financial stability, and to uphold market integrity.

It encompasses a variety of financial instruments, such as equities, bonds, money market instruments, and units in collective investment undertakings — excluding the trading and settlement of derivative contracts and unbacked digital assets like Bitcoin.

The initiative aims to seamlessly integrate new technological solutions into the financial markets, allowing for regular interaction between DSS participants and other market players. Securities issued within the DSS are intended to be used in conventional financial transactions, including as collateral and in derivative contracts, subject to existing regulatory standards.

Mitigating risks

To mitigate risks to financial stability, the Bank of England plans to set limits on the value of securities that can be issued within the DSS. This approach reflects the experimental nature of these technologies in significant financial contexts.

The DSS will introduce a phased structure of permitted activities, with each phase designed to gradually increase the scope of allowed operations for participating firms.

The sandbox is anticipated to offer considerable benefits to the financial system, particularly in enhancing the efficiency of post-trade processes. This could lead to significant cost reductions for various market participants, including pension funds, investment firms, and banks.

The Bank and FCA have initiated a consultation period to gather input on the DSS’s proposed operation and regulatory framework. The consultation is directed at potential infrastructure providers and stakeholders interested in the DSS, including firms, law firms, and industry bodies.

Following the consultation, the central bank and FCA will issue a response and finalize the guidelines and regulations for the DSS, with plans to accept applications starting summer this year.

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