June 24, 2020

Today’s episode of our special series on the future of regulation after the pandemic takes us across the Atlantic (virtually) to talk with one of my favorite Barefoot Innovation guests. He is Christopher Woolard, the interim CEO of the UK Financial Conduct Authority.

Chris has made two prior appearances with us, here and here. Before assuming the lead role at the FCA, he has been, for years, a primary architect of the agency’s innovation initiatives, including its unique regtech program -- which I consider to be clearly the best in the world.

In our conversation, Chris talks about the opportunity to come out of this crisis and “build back better.” He discusses how the FCA has converted to the work-from-home environment and what adjustments may last beyond the crisis. He shares the worry that the economic downturn will follow the common crisis pattern of strengthening large incumbent firms at the expense of smaller ones, and how to avoid wiping out a decade of innovation. He talks about impacts on vulnerable consumers and on the UK’s fabled fintech sector and describes the government’s efforts to build a bridge over the crisis and get as many people across it safely, as possible.

I also asked about the FCA’s innovation program, headed by Nick Cook. Chris describes the fortunate timing of the FCA having just finished embedding data scientists in every one of its units, right before the pandemic hit and sent everyone home. He gives an update on their famous regulatory sandbox program, which is breaking records. And on regtech, he explains that the agency has two enormous initiatives underway, one on financial crime and one on digital regulatory reporting. The latter has the potential to save literally billions of pounds in the UK and is, in my view, a model that will be widely adopted -- and will completely reshape the regulatory landscape.

Let me mention that we at AIR are about to put out a paper we call the Regtech Manifesto, which explores that future.

As Chris says, the crisis has brought the future forward.

More on Chris

Prior to being appointed Interim Chief Executive, Christopher was the FCA’s Executive Director of Strategy and Competition and a member of the FCA’s board. Before joining the FCA in January 2013, Christopher held senior roles at Ofcom, the BBC, and in the civil service. He is a Sloan Fellow of London Business School.

Christopher is also a member of the Prudential Regulation Committee and the Financial Policy Committee

More for our Listeners

I hope you enjoyed today’s show. Watch for our upcoming episodes, including one with Albert Forkner, the innovative banking commissioner of Wyoming, and one with Haime Workie, who leads innovation at FINRA.

Meanwhile, please stay safe.

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