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Financial promotion rules: what’s the impact on BVNK’s UK customers?

Six months on from the FCA’s introduction of a financial promotions regime for crypto, we cover what we’ve learned and what you can expect as a BVNK customer.

By
Tom Boydell
May 24, 2024
3
min read

It’s been six months since the FCA published its amendment order to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, extending the scope of the UK’s financial promotions regime to include stablecoins and crypto assets.

The rules aim to reduce harm to those who invest in higher risk products by ensuring they know the risks. The regime was already in place for a number of services, such as crowdfunding, but in October 2023, it came into effect in the UK for crypto assets

In this post, I‘ll cover how the rules impact BVNK, some of the challenges the industry has faced in applying them, and the steps we’re taking to make the process smoother for our customers.

Why do financial promotion rules apply to BVNK?

The FCA’s rules on financial promotions are designed to reduce the risk of financial loss, by making sure consumers know the risks involved in any investment or service. 

Under the updated rules, the FCA classifies crypto assets as a ‘Restricted Mass Market Investment (RMMI)’, like peer to peer investment products and unlisted company shares. Because of this, any businesses offering crypto services to UK customers, including stablecoin payments, face new restrictions on how they promote them. The rules also apply in an extra-territorial way, meaning they apply to any global business offering crypto products to UK customers. 

While these rules are primarily designed to protect retail investors, they also apply to B2B businesses like BVNK, since as part of our payment services, we enable customers to convert fiat currencies for crypto and stablecoins, and to exchange crypto and stablecoins into fiat.

It’s essential that we comply with the rules, so our customers in the UK can better understand our products, their regulated status, the limited protections available, and ultimately to continue using our stablecoin payment services.

Which BVNK customers are impacted?

You’re likely to be affected by the financial promotions rules for crypto, if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • is not directly authorised under FSMA by the FCA

and:

  • you’re a customer of BVNK’s crypto payment services, or
  • would like to sign up to BVNK’s crypto payment services.

What does it mean in practice?

Financial promotions rules intentionally create friction when you first interact with crypto services, to make sure you understand the risks. If the rules apply to you, you will experience one of more of the following frictions:

Risk warnings 

When you discover BVNK: you’ll see risk warnings on our website and across our marketing communications, which include a link to learn more. We appreciate the content of these warnings is focused on investing, rather than the typical crypto payments activity you may expect from BVNK, but it's still important for you to understand the risks present. The wording is mandated by the FCA, and since our services fall in scope of the regime, we need to show these messages as they are.

When you sign up to BVNK: If you’re signing up to our platform, you’ll be shown a personalised risk warning showing your company name and summarising the risks of using crypto services. You’ll need to acknowledge it to continue signing up.

UK customers signing up to BVNK will go through these steps

Self categorisation

When signing up to BVNK, as a first step, you’ll need to complete a ‘self-categorisation’ form so we can evaluate your capacity for financial loss. As part of this, you’ll have to acknowledge the risks of using crypto asset services. Once complete, the form is valid for one year (so we’ll be in touch annually to refresh!).

Appropriateness quiz 

Alongside the categorisation, you’ll need to demonstrate that you understand the risks of using crypto asset services by completing a short online quiz. The pass mark is 6 out of 7 and you’ll have three attempts. To help you better understand crypto asset risks, we’ve prepared some guidance on our Help Centre including this summary of risks and this note on mitigating risks.

24 hour cool-off period 

The FCA rules state that you can't access our services for 24 hours after starting the sign-up journey. This is to give you the opportunity to reflect on the risks and to exit the journey if you want to. Please note: in reality, this 24 hour cool off will likely not impact the speed at which you can begin using our services. When you onboard to BVNK’s platform, you’ll need to provide the usual KYC documents which will be reviewed and verified by our compliance team, before you can process funds. This typically takes a few weeks, but our team is here to support you throughout the process and answer any questions.

Next steps: improving your experience 

We appreciate the challenges in applying these financial promotion rules to business customers, and we know that some of the mandated steps and messages won't always make sense in the context of the crypto payments services we offer. But it’s essential for us to comply with the rules to ensure BVNK customers make informed decisions when using crypto services.

While we fully support the purpose of the regime – to protect and educate customers – the rules have been built for retail consumers. Because of this, some parts of it, such as categorisation forms, don’t carry over to business customers well, and in some instances create unnecessary confusion. We continue to give feedback to the FCA about our customers’ experiences, and the challenges of applying this regime to business customers, and we’re working hard to try and shape how these rules evolve in the future.

We're also aiming to make it easier for our customers to complete the required steps. For example, by automating manual processes and making tasks more intuitive to complete. We always appreciate feedback, so if there is anything you feel we could make clearer, or at any point you would like more support, please do get in touch.

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