UK financial watchdog to widen competition probe into market data

FILE PHOTO: FCA signage seen at their head offices in London

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Tuesday it would look more closely at whether market benchmarks, and credit and market data vendors are hindering choice for investors.

The FCA had already begun looking at data in wholesale markets generally, and will now turn to whether there is a lack of competition in sections of the market that is stopping customers from finding cheaper or better quality alternatives.

"We will be expanding to broader ranges of wholesale data shortly and plan to launch a market study covering competition for benchmarks, credit ratings data and market data vendors in November," FCA executive director for markets, Sarah Pritchard, told a City & Financial conference.

"This work is intended to ensure that competition is working well, that good quality information is available to market participants that want it, and that innovation is keeping up with market developments."

The regulator is under pressure from government to help create a more competitive capital market to bolster London's role as a global financial centre.

It has been criticised for taking too long to authorise new firms.

"The pending authorisations backlog has been slashed by 40% in the last year and the FCA is trialling automated forms to further speed the process," Pritchard said.

Another government target for reform is pruning MiFID II, a suite of securities trading and investment rules inherited from the European Union. But Prichard said reforming it would be "complex".

Ahead of this, the watchdog will review the boundary between investment advice and guidance, which determines the level of rules, she said.

She echoed comments from global and EU regulators on the need to monitor and be aligned on regulating commodity markets after Russia's invasion of Ukraine triggered volatility in cross-border energy and metals trading.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)