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Could Taiwan’s new regulatory sandbox spur innovation in its financial services industry?

by Christine Chen and Jeremy Olivier

The Financial Technology Development and Innovative Experimentation Act, passed by Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan in January of this year, aims to foster a positive environment for new and untested forms of financial technology, also known as “fintech.” The Act provides for the creation of a regulatory sandbox, following in the footsteps of the UK, Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong. The sandbox would allow fintech startups a period of up to three years to develop and test out their products or services, while avoiding the risks associated with such development or endangering the rights and interests of financial consumers.

Thus far, two companies have submitted a complete application package to participate in the sandbox, but around 40 potential applicants have approached the competent authority designated by the Act, the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), with queries regarding the sandbox. Most of these are simply inquiring about the application requirements and process; however, over ten have received guidance from the FSC and will likely apply in the future. Applicants include companies engaging in a wide range of financial technology development, such as blockchain cross-border remittance technologies, P2P online lending platforms, investment robo-advisors, online insurance, cryptocurrency platforms, and others.

In this article, we provide a general overview on the Act, highlighting key provisions related to participation in the regulatory sandbox.

As mentioned above, the competent authority designated in the Act is the FSC, which is responsible for the creation of a unit dedicated to reviewing all applications, determining the effectiveness and feasibility of each innovative experimentation plan being applied for, and overseeing the progress of each plan once it has been approved.

Chapter II of the Act indicates the required documentation for applying to take part in the sandbox. This includes an application form, information regarding the individual, sole proprietorship or partnership, or legal person applying for the sandbox, and an innovative experimentation plan, which should illustrate the innovativeness of the technology, indicate the source of funds for the project, and potential risks and risk management mechanisms, among others. Supplemental documentation may also be requested by the FSC.

The FSC, in its review of an applicant’s filing package, will determine whether 1) the project involves financial businesses that require its permission, approval, or concession; 2) the project is innovative; 3) the project can increase the efficiency of financial services, reduce costs, or enhance the interests of financial consumers or enterprises; 4) potential risks have been assessed and response mechanisms have been prepared; and 5) protection measures and compensation for participants (those consumers that have chosen to take part in the experimentation) have been prepared. The review process may take up to 60 days, and may include adjusting the content of the plan being applied for, limiting the eligibility of participants, adding requirements, and exempting the plan from certain regulations. Any application that is approved by the FSC will be disclosed on its website, and this disclosure will include the applicant’s name, the duration and scope of the experimentation, the regulations that the project is exempted from, and other relevant information.

Once the experimentation by an approved applicant is underway, the FSC will continue to play a supervisory role, and maintains the right to periodically check the progress of any project. Furthermore, it has full discretion in revoking its approval of a project that it determines could be adverse to the market or to the interests of the participants, goes beyond the scope approved of by the FSC, or violates any additional requirements or obligations established by the FSC or any of the provisions of the Act. The length of the experimentation is limited to one year, but a six month extension may be applied for. In cases in which the experimentation involves amending existing laws, the duration may be extended up to three years, longer than that of other countries’ sandboxes.

The Act also contains a number of articles protecting participants in the sandbox, including ensuring that the financial product or service contract entered into by the applicant and participant is fair and drafted in good faith, and providing for a dispute resolution channel, in accordance with the Financial Consumer Protection Act.

The final section of the Act lists the specific regulations that experimentation approved by the FSC is exempt from. This includes provisions of the Banking Act, the Trust Enterprise Act, the Act Governing Electronic Payment Institutions, and the Securities and Exchange Act, among others. Nevertheless, sandbox applicants will not be exempt from the provisions of the Money Laundering Control Act, the Terrorism Financing Suppression Act, and other related laws and regulations.

Based on the success of other fintech sandbox schemes worldwide (90 percent of applicants participating in the first round of the UK’s version have gone on to market, for example), there are high hopes that such a system can foster much-needed innovation in Taiwan’s finance industry as well. As with similar regulations, knowledge of the application process, as well as of the relevant restrictions and exemptions once an application is approved, are essential to ensuring an applicant’s successful navigation of the sandbox.

For more information on Taiwan’s fintech regulations, please contact Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com.

 

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