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SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce Proposes US-UK Digital Securities Sandbox

3 mins
Updated by Lynn Wang
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In Brief

  • SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce proposes a US-UK sandbox for blockchain in securities trading.
  • The joint sandbox offers a secure environment for testing distributed ledger technology (DLT).
  • It aims to promote innovation and regulatory insights, while ensuring investor protection.
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The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Hester Peirce has proposed a joint US-UK “digital securities sandbox.” This joint proposal aims to foster innovation in using blockchain technology for securities trading.

This initiative, building on the Bank of England’s (BoE) and Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) efforts, provides a secure environment for experimentation while maintaining regulatory standards.

Collaborative Sandbox to Spur Blockchain Advances

The sandbox provides a regulated environment for firms to experiment with distributed ledger technology (DLT) in securities trading and settlement. The goal is to explore how DLT can improve efficiency and speed in financial transactions while maintaining investor protection, market integrity, and financial stability. However, it’s important to note that the DSS differs from the Digital Sandbox launched by the FCA in August 2023, which aims to support early-stage digital product development.

The Bank of England and FCA’s joint consultation paper outlines the Digital Securities Sandbox (DSS) as a key step towards integrating innovative technologies into the financial system. The DSS aims to streamline securities issuance, trading, and settlement. Despite DLT’s promise, Peirce acknowledges limited opportunities to test its real-world applications.

Read more: The State of Crypto Regulation in the United Kingdom

“As the consultation aptly notes, ‘use of developing technology, such as DLT, has the potential to change settlement by offering increased speed and efficiency, while potentially removing the need for intermediaries,’ but opportunities for testing the technology have been limited,” Peirce wrote.

Peirce emphasizes the transformative potential of a cross-border sandbox. She suggests this collaboration could yield greater benefits than a domestic initiative alone.

The sandbox would promote cross-border innovation and provide valuable insights for regulators by allowing firms to operate under consistent regulatory frameworks in the US and the UK. This initiative would also enable firms to test DLT applications within defined regulatory boundaries and ensure compliance with anti-fraud provisions and other safeguards.

Participating firms must adhere to monetary and customer limits and comply with anti-fraud regulations. An information-sharing agreement between the SEC and UK regulators would facilitate joint oversight and learning. It would also address concerns about the supervision of non-UK firms.

Sandboxes have proven effective in promoting innovation in highly regulated sectors. Smaller, disruptive firms gain the opportunity to compete against larger incumbents. Data from the FCA’s sandbox indicates that participating firms have higher capital-raising success, better survival rates, and improved regulatory comprehension. These environments also help regulators craft more effective and efficient regulations, gaining insights into the practical operation of emerging products and services.

“This capital raising effect is most pronounced for ‘smaller and younger firms.’ One report found that firms have used the FCA’s sandbox to ‘understand how regulatory requirements would apply to their innovative services or products,’ perform testing that could ‘speed up the creation of a minimum viable product,’ or use their experience with real customers to ‘refine their business model’,” Peirce noted.

Furthermore, the proposed cross-border sandbox could significantly impact financial markets. Innovators could serve both US and UK markets simultaneously. This collaboration would generate extensive data on complex technologies, helping regulators understand their real-world applications better. Additionally, this initiative could drive firms to expand their product and service offerings across borders, providing consumers and investors with access to new and innovative financial products.

Specifically, the sandbox could explore the potential of tokenization to enhance market transparency, enable asset fractionalization, and achieve operational efficiencies. It could also tackle challenges like blockchain interoperability, cybersecurity risks, privacy concerns, and the fragmentation of asset ownership.

The UK Treasury initiated consultations on the DSS in July 2023. Following the consultation, the government announced plans to enact legislation for the initiative in November.

Read more: Crypto Regulation: What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks?

DSS Objectives.
DSS Objectives. Source: Bank of England

New regulations were introduced in December, equipping the nation’s financial regulators with the necessary framework to oversee the sandbox. These regulations took effect on January 8 under the UK’s Financial Services and Markets Act 2023. The regulatory authorities expect the initial applicants for the DSS program to join the sandbox initiative in the autumn of this year.

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Lynn Wang
Lynn Wang is a seasoned journalist at BeInCrypto, covering a wide range of topics, including tokenized real-world assets (RWA), tokenization, artificial intelligence (AI), regulatory enforcement, and investments in the crypto industry. Previously, she led a team of content creators and journalists for BeInCrypto Indonesia, focusing on the adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in the region, as well as regulatory developments. Prior to that, at Value Magazine, she covered...
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