U.K. startups working with distributed ledger technology are having problems accessing traditional banking services, according to a report issued last week by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.
The financial regulator, which runs a regulatory sandbox to allow new types of companies to test "innovative products, services and business models in a live market environment," reportedly witnessed startups in its fintech testing framework being blocked from opening accounts.
The FCA did not name the startups involved or the banks that denied them services.
As the report stated:
"We have witnessed the denial of banking services first-hand across a number of firms in the first two cohorts of the sandbox. Difficulties have been particularly pronounced for firms wishing to leverage DLT, become payment institutions, or become electronic money institutions."
Startups working with the technology, including using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies directly, have long had banking access issues. Yet, the fact that these troubles are now extending to blockchain and distributed ledger firms is notable given the role of the FCA in policing the U.K. financial sector, as well as the differences in open and permissioned blockchain systems.
Exacerbating problems, the report indicates that the standards by which the startups are being assessed are not consistent from bank to bank.
"We are concerned by what appear to be blanket refusals for certain kinds of applicant firms. There are also apparent inconsistencies within individual banks regarding how they apply their assessment criteria in approving access to banking services," the FCA wrote.
The report went on to note that some banks are concerned about the appearance of money laundering and financing terrorist organizations, along with lending to potentially risky ventures.
Despite the banking issues, however, the report found that “the first year of the sandbox met a genuine demand,” and that the authority was “encouraged” by the results.
Blocked or denied image via Shutterstock