Project Innovate and UK financial services

Held on Thursday, October 1

With support from Kemp Little


  • Anna Wallace (FCA)

  • Lucy Frew (Kemp Little)

  • Dan Morgan (Innovate Finance)

  • Lee Cowles (Nutmeg)

  • Mark Whitcroft (Illuminate Financial)

  • Mutaz Qubbaj (Squirrel)


Andrew Hilton, director of the CSFI, talks to Dan Morgan (Innovate Finance), Lucy Frew (Kemp Little), Mutaz Qubbaj (Squirrel) and Lee Cowles (Nutmeg) following the Centre's October 1 round-table on financial innovation and regulation.


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In 2014, the FCA launched Project Innovate “to ensure that our regulatory regime supports the development of innovative products and services that can improve the lives of consumers”. It was supposed to identify and remove barriers to competition, work with the Payments System Regulator to promote innovation in payments, support digital passports, encourage new digital technologies and promote mobile solutions in the banking area. It also led to the FCA’s “Innovation Hub”, which was intended to help innovative firms negotiate the regulatory framework, giving them informal steers where necessary.

All well and good… But (as the FCA itself says) “innovation is fragile and, in the regulated sector, the environment is particularly unforgiving for innovators”. It has, therefore, issued a “Call for Input” on the regulatory barriers to innovation in the digital/mobile space. It has also announced a number of enhancements for Project Innovate – including:

  • a bespoke Project Innovate authorisation process;
  • an expansion of its international reach;
  • new regulatory safe harbours / “sandboxes” – where firms can experiment without regulators breathing down their necks; and
  • a ‘RegTech’ initiative, intended to apply the same sort of technology to regulation as has been applied to regulated products.

All very admirable – and all very exciting (at least potentially). We are, therefore, delighted that Anna Wallace – head of the FCA’s Innovation Unit – has agreed to come and discuss what she and her team are up to.

But she won’t get things all her own way. I am also delighted that we have put together a pretty awesome panel (albeit, too big – I know), representing the various sectors that stand to benefit from the FCA’s help. They are:

  • Lucy Frew, head of financial regulation at Kemp Little, where she advises start-ups and established players on the regulatory implications of technology innovations;

  • Dan Morgan, head of policy and regulation at Innovate Finance;

  • Lee Cowles, managing director of Nutmeg, the online investment management platform;

  • Mark Whitcroft, a partner at Illuminate Financial, the FinTech VC fund; and

  • Mutaz Qubbaj, the co-founder of Squirrel, a financial platform that partners with employers to help employees save and manage their bills directly from payroll.