FCA spends £1.8m on innovative firms project

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The FCA has spent more than £1.8m on a programme designed to bring new and innovative businesses into the financial services market.

Since it launched in October 2014, “Project Innovate” has cost the regulator £1,853,840, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.

Project Innovate houses the FCA’s newly created Advice Unit, which works with firms looking to develop automated, lower cost advice models. The advice unit has been given a £500,000 budget for 2016/17.

The FOIA broke down the overall costs of Project Innovate as £1.66m on staff and £184,439 on operational costs.

Operational costs include £119,660 on external consultancy and communications fees, £31,794 on events and staff training, £21,585 on travel, and £11,399 on catering, printing and publication subscriptions.

The FCA says that external consultants have been contracted “to support the FCA in launching, operationalising and broadening the scope [of] Project Innovate.”

Travel costs relate to the regulator signing “co-operation agreements” with overseas regulators to support promoting the UK as a centre for innovation in financial services. It currently has deals with regulators in Australia, Singapore and Korea.

The FOI also revealed that the Regulatory Sandbox, which allows firms to experiment with new business models under controlled conditions, has cost £90,183 in staff costs.

Previous projections obtained by Money Marketing suggested Project innovate would cost the regulator £1m a year. The £1.85m spend runs to 2 November 2016, meaning the regulator has come in under budget on the project so far.