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Financial regulators need to find their ‘moral compass’ 

According to a new report  by the Finance Innovation Lab UK regulators must transform their approach to ensure the post-Brexit financial sector delivers for the economy and society,

The Regulatory Compass: Towards a purpose-driven approach to financial regulation draws on the Lab’s community of innovators to argue that rather than being ‘purpose-neutral’, financial regulation is often designed around the large, shareholder-focused firms that dominate the market – and often disadvantages those building more democratic, responsible and fair ways of doing finance. Featured case studies in the report include Abundance Investment, a groundbreaking platform that enables people to invest as little as £5 in projects that benefit society and the environment, and Airdrie Savings Bank, which until early 2018 was Britain’s only independent Savings Bank.

The Lab’s Executive Director and co-author of the report, Anna Laycock, said:

“The combined forces of Brexit and digital disruption give us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reorient regulation around the ultimate purpose of finance. Yet the experience of the innovators we work with is that regulation often fails to appreciate the huge benefits of models that put people and planet first. If we want to ensure our future financial system delivers for the economy and society, we need new regulatory mandates, rooted in democratic consultation; new metrics that focus on the things that really matter; and a different mindset, embracing fully human-centred regulation. There is no such thing as values-free regulation – only values-blind regulation. Now it’s time to put human values back at the heart of the financial system.”

The report, which was supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, also identifies three ‘regulatory fallacies’ which hinder the thinking of the Financial Conduct Authority, Bank of England and Competition and Markets Authority.

Key recommendations

> Government should conduct a review, based on full democratic consultation, to develop an agreed set of purposes for the financial system, using the results to update the mandate of the Bank of England and the FCA

> Regulators should identify and support the governance, ownership and business models that can best align the financial system with its social purpose

> Regulators should add an explicit understanding of social purpose and the value of diversity into their approach to innovation, including establishing a Diversity Hub for firms with atypical business models

> Regulators should use ‘regtech’ to focus time and energy on face-to-face interaction, aiming to build a deep understanding of firms’ culture and business practices.

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