UK Financial Regulator Targets Simpler Rules to Boost Growth

The UK financial regulator should make its rules simpler under a new mandate to boost the country’s competitiveness, a senior official has said.

(Bloomberg) — The UK financial regulator should make its rules simpler under a new mandate to boost the country’s competitiveness, a senior official has said.

“There is scope to make rules less complex and thus less costly to comply with,” Vicky Saporta, the Bank of England’s executive director of prudential policy, said in a speech Tuesday.

The government gave regulators a secondary objective to promote the international competitiveness of the financial services industry this summer, in an effort to boost the economy after Brexit. The Prudential Regulation Authority, part of the BOE, remains independent and still has a primary objective to protect the financial system’s safety and soundness. 

One of the main ways to promote competitiveness is by having sound regulation, Saporta said at a BOE conference on UK growth. According to a survey of industry participants carried out by the PRA, 93% said its regime already fosters trust in regulated firms, she said. 

Yet only 50% thought the PRA’s regime made the UK an attractive place for overseas firms to set up a financial services business and believed the PRA’s rule book was accessible, suggesting there is room for improvement, Saporta said.

Read more: UK Banks Warn Watchdog Against Being First on New Capital Rule

She added that finding ways to measure the PRA’s success on competitiveness will be challenging, given the need to use what is in the regulator’s control and taking into account its other obligations.

Political Pressure

Charles Randell, ex-chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority — the UK’s consumer financial services watchdog — said it would be important to avoid “capture” of the regulator by either industry or political interests in areas such as crypto assets. 

When he was chair of the FCA, “there was a lot of political pressure to welcome firms that are now under investigation by America’s Department of Justice,” Randell said at the same conference. “At the FCA we didn’t think that was a good idea and so we didn’t.”

Marcus Lim, assistant managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said it was possible to pursue the “Goldilocks zone” between sound regulation and economic support. 

Singapore is one of the only regimes in the world where the regulator has dual objectives similar to the ones introduced in the UK. One key to its success is to rotate officials between jobs regulating banks and promoting their growth, Lim said.

Philippe Aghion, a professor at the London School of Economics and Insead, highlighted the competing duties within green finance, with the chance of a short-term productivity boost from high-emissions finance compared to longer-term growth in encouraging the transition to a green economy. 

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