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As 2020 comes into view, what can we expect to be at the top of regulators’ agendas? Key themes that are new from last year are ESG and an increased focus on operational resilience. Both EU and UK authorities are looking at how buy and sell-side firms should embed ESG considerations into their organisational and customer-facing processes. Whilst legal reforms are under discussion, we expect that institutional investors and market adaptations, such as the rise of green bonds, will continue to drive the debate, perhaps faster than the regulators and legislators can catch up. Much of the EU-level reform work being undertaken at present is dependent on the finalisation of an EU-wide ESG “taxonomy” (stemming from a proposed Taxonomy Regulation), which has proven to be particularly contentious, with the categorisation of “sustainable” activities a sticking point.

Operational resilience will form an important work-stream for UK regulators. The PRA is seeking to embed operational resilience into the UK’s prudential framework by the end of 2020 so that this forms a pillar of prudential supervision that is equally important as the financial resilience pillar, and the FCA is increasingly focused on this area from a conduct as well as a prudential perspective. The regulators’ response in this area is likely to reflect the political scrutiny that they are currently under, as exemplified by the recent Treasury Select Committee report on IT failures in financial services. The Committee’s report raised questions in particular over whether the current enforcement regime is ineffective in addressing operational failures, and the absence of any successful enforcement cases under the SMCR was specifically highlighted as evidence that the current approach may not be sufficiently robust. As a result, we may see increased enforcement action against firms and individuals for prolonged IT failures.

Technological innovation will continue to be a major theme in 2020, with regulators and firms alike continuing to grapple with digital disruption. Open Banking and Open Finance, and the risks of data ethics and machine learning are just some of the innovation topics on the FCA’s agenda. The debate over regulation of cryptoassets is also likely to continue. Whilst the implementation of 5MLD will bring some cryptocurrency service providers within scope of AML supervision, the wider debate on regulation of crypto looks set to rumble on, with products like Libra adding further impetus to global regulatory discussion. More broadly, the UK’s approach to FinTech will continue to set trends internationally, as the FCA seeks to enhance its burgeoning reputation in the space and focus on global engagement beyond the EU post-Brexit. We expect to see the FCA driving the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) – including by assisting firms in the GFIN’s cross-border pilot scheme – as well as supporting the 6th cohort of UK firms in its Regulatory Sandbox.

The FCA will continue to embrace its role as a consumer and competition-focussed regulator. Following the super-complaint to the CMA regarding unfair treatment in the insurance, mortgage and cash savings sectors, fair treatment of existing customers is a key priority for 2020, with pricing intervention a possibility. The theme of ‘review, refit and renewal’ will also continue in 2020 as the FCA continues to review its previous work in the retail investment advice sector, and on MiFID II and SMCR implementation.

Finally, enforcement continues to trend upward with the number of cases opened by the FCA rising throughout 2019. Given the significant number of large cases settled in 2019, fines may not continue to rise in 2020 but firms should expect an ongoing focus on investigation and enforcement action including, potentially, some SMCR cases.

Whatever 2020 may bring and the accuracy of our predictions, we look forward to working with you.

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Philip Annett is a partner in the Baker McKenzie London office and has experience in a wide range of contentious, regulatory and compliance matters. He has an in-depth knowledge of working with various UK and international regulators, having previously been a senior lawyer in the Enforcement Division at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), where he led some of the regulator's highest-profile enforcement cases, and having been seconded to the Bribery and Corruption Division at the Serious Fraud Office. Philip has received acknowledgement from numerous legal industry guides. The UK Legal 500 note him as "an expert in enforcement matters". Also that "he is technically gifted and his deep experience and pragmatic approach means he is able to deliver for clients in an effective manner".

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Caitlin McErlane advises asset managers, banks, major corporates, exchanges, clearing houses and payment institutions on navigating UK and EU financial services regulation. She has particular experience in advising clients on operating in compliance with ongoing regulatory developments, including MiFID II, EMIR, the Investment Firms Regulation, ESG reforms, AIFMD and the Market Abuse Regulation.

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Richard Powell is Lead Knowledge Lawyer for Baker McKenzie's Financial Institutions Industry Group where he is responsible for legal content projects, training and knowledge initiatives. Previously he was a member of the UK Financial Conduct Authority's Enforcement Division where he advised on regulatory cases. He has also been an editor of Bloomberg Law's UK Financial Services Law Journal.

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Julian is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's Financial Services Group in London. Julian advises financial institutions including international and local fintechs, investment and retail banks, asset managers, investment advisers, payment services firms and product issuers on compliance with UK and European regulatory obligations. Julian also has experience in advising on the spectrum of regulated financial services and products including deposit products, payment accounts and electronic money products, consumer credit, insurance, derivatives, managed funds, structured debt and equities. Julian has completed a secondment to UBS AG and Western Union Business Solutions, in their in-house legal and compliance teams. Duties included advising equity derivatives, fixed income derivatives and equities teams on general commercial and regulatory issues. He is currently on secondment from the Australian offices of the Firm and has extensive experience with both Australian and English financial regulation.

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Guy Stevenson is an Associate in Baker McKenzie's London office.

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Shaneil Shah is an Associate in the Financial Services & Regulatory Group in the London office. Shaneil has experience advising FinTechs, funds, banks, asset managers and payment institutions on compliance with their regulatory obligations and has spent time on secondment to Baker McKenzie in Hong Kong.

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David Halliday is a partner in the IT/Communications Practice Group in Baker McKenzie's London office. His practice spans a broad range of contentious and non-contentious work in the IT/telecoms area, with particular focus on dispute resolution.

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Sue specialises in technology and had been advising on technology projects for over 20 years. She advises clients (both customers and vendors) on a wide range of technology matters, including outsourcing, cloud, digital transformation, technology procurement, development and licensing, m/e-commerce, AI, blockchain and data privacy. Sue also advises on the commercial, technology and intellectual property aspects of M&A transactions and joint ventures. Her clients include some of the world's best known tech companies and multinational corporations. She also enjoys working with emerging and growth companies. Sue is the Firm’s co-chair of the EMEA Financial Services Industry Group and co-chair of the Firm's UK FinTech practice. Sue was named TMT Lawyer of the Year at the Euromoney Women in Business Law Awards 2019.

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Steve Holmes leads Baker McKenzie's Technology & Communications practice in London. Steve is rated by the UK legal directories as a leading lawyer in the outsourcing, telecoms and technology categories, which state: "He is very commercial and experienced . . . He is definitely someone you want on your side in a tough negotiation" (Chambers UK, 2020, Telecoms). “Steve is a superstar. He builds rapport like no one I've ever seen and gets deals done efficiently and with finesse." "He's one of the top lawyers in the outsourcing market" (Chambers UK, 2020, Outsourcing). "Very strong." "Excellent academically and commercially" (Chambers UK, 2020, Information Technology). “Steve Holmes brings a combination of expert and commercially relevant analysis that is very much appreciated” (Legal 500, 2020, IT and Telecoms). Clients commend his "wealth of experience in the IT world and for his understanding of where the market is and where the technology is developing," and comment that “his customer service is great and he challenges us to think creatively" (Chambers UK, 2019, Information Technology).

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Matthew Dening is the Chair of the Firm's Global Derivatives Practice and a member of the Firm’s Structured Capital Markets Group in the London office. He focuses his practice primarily on cross-border structured finance transactions involving derivatives, repos and securities lending, as well as the regulation of financial products under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR), MiFID II and the Securities Financing Transactions Regulation (SFTR). Matthew has received acknowledgement from numerous legal industry guides. He has been ranked as a leading expert by Chambers & Partners since 2005, and is currently ranked Band 1 in Structured Finance & Derivatives in the most recent Global edition. They highlight that he "understands complex problems very well, and is able to think about business issues in conjunction with legal requirements," as well as being "incredibly responsive and client-friendly." He regularly acts for buy-side derivatives firms. The UK Legal 500 note him as "a true expert in this area of law, a pleasant person who can explain very difficult matters clearly." Matthew is a member of the Editorial Board of Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Finance Law. He is a frequent speaker and guest panellist at conferences in both the derivative and structured product area, as well as law firm management. He was recently a guest panellist at Thomson Reuters Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law in 2019.

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Iolie Calochristos is an Associate in Baker McKenzie's London office.