Emergent fintech firms continue to grow in Guernsey, taking advantage of the island's internationally recognised, flexible and forward-thinking regulatory environment in blockchain administration, lending, robo-advisory, data analytics, payment services, client due diligence and prime-brokerage platforms.
In particular, blockchain platforms operating in Guernsey benefit from the Electronic Transactions (Guernsey) Law, 2000 ("Electronic Transactions Law") which confirms that, subject to limited exceptions, a contract cannot be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely because the contract was made in an electronic form or by electronic means. The Electronic Transactions Law is technology agnostic and can be applied to all forms of digital technology.
On 1 March 2019, the Electronic Transactions (Electronic Agents) (Guernsey) Ordinance, 2019 ("Electronic Agents Ordinance") came into force, enabling the use of electronic agents. The Electronic Agents Ordinance is the culmination of the work of legal and other experts in the industry, in collaboration with policymakers in the States of Guernsey, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC) and Guernsey Finance, to create an environment in which electronic agents can easily be used. Guernsey is possibly the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce legislation that fully enables the use of electronic agents.
Uses and Relevance of Electronic Agents
In general terms, electronic agents consist of computer software and devices that can independently perform certain tasks without review by a person, which makes the software or device autonomous. Existing examples include driverless cars and virtual assistants in smartphones. Autonomous software and devices are not a new concept, and perhaps the most common example is vending machines for snacks and drinks. However, those types of devices can only work in accordance with how they were designed and programmed by a person. Advances in technology and, in particular, in artificial intelligence (AI), can change this by giving the software or device the ability to make its own decisions. For example, a vending machine could be enabled to decide to accept a lower offer for a snack if it thought that it needed to be sold sooner to avoid a use-by date.
Modern technologies enable increasingly complicated tasks to be automated by software and devices (also known as bots). However, existing laws around the globe envisage people, not computers, having discretion as to whether to perform certain actions that can give rise to legal rights and liabilities, such as deciding whether or not to enter into a contract.
In Guernsey, electronic agents can now be used to form (eg, by negotiating), enter into, perform and also to end contracts on behalf of a person, which could be an individual, a company or any other corporate or unincorporated entity. An electronic agent can represent just one of the parties to a contract or multiple parties, or different electronic agents could represent different parties, which makes the legislation very flexible. It is also not a requirement for anyone wishing to use such electronic agents to be in Guernsey, although in order to benefit fully from the new legislation it is likely that a person who uses such an electronic agent would need to operate it in Guernsey. The new legislation also contains a rebuttable presumption that a person who uses an electronic agent intends to create a legally binding contract using the electronic agent.
Electronic agents could be particularly relevant to businesses that are seeking to use blockchain, machine learning and AI technologies to automate contracts, which is really useful for businesses that use smart contracts.
The GFSC's Handbook on Countering Financial Crime and Terrorist Financing ("the Handbook") applies to businesses in Guernsey that are required to satisfy the island's anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) requirements. The Handbook includes a novel regime to satisfy clients' due diligence requirements using digital certifiers, which can include the use of blockchain and other recent advances in technology. This will enable businesses to use advanced technologies to satisfy their anti-money laundering obligations, which is expected to be popular with emergent fintech businesses.
Guernsey is home to an increasing number of financial research and analytics, money services and client due diligence platforms.
Financial Research and Analytics Platforms
Financial research and analytics platforms typically provide services to the island's investment management and private wealth sectors, as well as to businesses around the world. The types of services offered generally include financial research, data analytics, risk and reporting systems.
Existing financial research platforms are more likely to provide services, such as investment advice or management, which require a licence to be granted by the GFSC. However, newer financial research platforms usually limit the services that they offer, so that they do not require a licence.
Money Services and Client Due Diligence Platforms
Money services platforms provide lending, payment and FX solutions for clients as alternative financial services providers in Guernsey, and they are usually registered with the GFSC and must comply with Guernsey's AML/CFT regime.
Client due diligence platforms have been launched and continue to be developed in Guernsey, taking advantage of Guernsey's updated know-your-customer regime, which enables the use of digital certifiers. Client due diligence platforms typically provide services to regulated financial services firms in Guernsey and internationally.
Guernsey is also home to an increasing number of prime brokerage platforms, which provide services to professional and institutional investors for high-frequency and algorithmic trading.
Financial research platforms that provide investment advice and management services must be licensed by the GFSC under the Protection of Investors (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 1987 ("PoI Law"). Other platforms that provide payment services and lending solutions are typically registered with the GFSC under the Registration of Non-Regulated Financial Services Businesses (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2008 ("NRFSB Law"), which is a lighter touch regime that requires compliance with Guernsey's AML/CFT regime.
Other types of fintech platforms, including those that provide financial research solutions and do not provide investment advice, management services or money solutions, generally do not need to be licensed by the GFSC.
Proposals to repeal the NRFSB Law and replace it with new credit and finance legislation (Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation) are under consideration. It is expected that the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation will (among other things) specifically regulate certain fintech services carried on by way of business in or from within Guernsey, including peer-to-peer platforms, crowdfunding platforms, non-bank credit or finance intermediation, AML/CFT platforms, and certain services relating to digital assets. These proposals are currently at a relatively early stage of development, and there is as yet no set timeline for the enactment of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation.
There are no prescribed models for charging customers in Guernsey. However, industry participants are typically required to disclose to their customers in writing all fees and charges, together with the basis of their calculation, before entering into an agreement with customers to provide services. Industry participants may also be required to disclose any remuneration to be received in connection with a transaction prior to the execution of the transaction. If the amount of the remuneration is not known, the basis of its calculation should be disclosed.
The same regulation applies to fintech industry participants that applies to legacy financial services businesses in Guernsey.
The GFSC has introduced the Innovation Soundbox, to serve as a central hub for enquiries relating to innovative financial services.
The Innovation Soundbox is targeted at start-up financial services businesses which are considering applying for a regulatory licence or registration from the GFSC.
The Innovation Soundbox can be contacted via the GFSC's website (www.gfsc.gg) to provide initial guidance regarding Guernsey's regulatory framework and how it may apply to a new business.
Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN)
The GFSC is also a founding member of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN), together with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). A key purpose of GFIN is to create a "global sandbox" to provide firms with an environment in which to trial cross-border solutions. GFIN also acts as a network where regulators can collaborate and share experiences of innovation in emerging technologies and business models, and provides a forum for joint policy work and discussions. Further information about GFIN can be found on the GFSC's website (see above).
The GFSC's jurisdiction generally applies to financial services businesses that conduct, or claim to conduct, business in the Bailiwick of Guernsey (hereafter referred to as "Guernsey", which includes the islands of Guernsey, Sark and Alderney). This can include occupying premises or advertising a contact address in Guernsey, as well as issuing adverts or making offers in Guernsey, or making offers that specifically target clients in Guernsey.
Non-financial Regulators in Guernsey
Depending on the type of licence that has been granted by the GFSC, as well as whether any derogations have been granted, particular requirements may apply to the outsourcing arrangement, including in respect of the terms of outsourcing contracts. Certain activities, such as corporate administration, can only be outsourced to a firm in Guernsey that is licensed by the GFSC.
The extent to which fintech providers are regarded as "gatekeepers" with responsibility for the activities on their platforms, depends on whether they are subject to any of the regimes described in 2.2 Regulatory Regime. In short, fintech providers that are licensed under the PoI Law are subject to the range of regulatory requirements that are applicable to other regulated investment businesses (including requirements relating to how those businesses are managed and controlled, and the nature of the business carried out and clients serviced), while those registered under the NRFSB Law are subject to a lighter touch regime that is principally concerned with AML/CFT.
Fintech providers' regulatory responsibilities are likely to become more tailored to the nature of their businesses under the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation.
All local businesses (including those that are not otherwise regulated) are subject to Guernsey's suspicious activity reporting regime, and are accordingly under obligation to report suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.
So far, no known public enforcement action has been taken against fintech firms in Guernsey.
The principal non-financial regulatory regimes potentially applicable to fintech businesses are those relating to data protection, economic substance, complaints by members of the public, and competition law.
The Data Protection (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2017 ("DP Law") has introduced new rules into Guernsey, which are based on the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR). Essentially, these rules apply to all businesses that are established in Guernsey and process personal data (and also to non-Guernsey businesses that process the personal data of Guernsey residents), and such businesses are required to register with the data protection regulator, the ODPA (see 2.6 Jurisdiction of Regulators for further details).
Guernsey benefits from being one of only 12 countries (at the time of writing) that have been granted a data protection adequacy decision by the European Commission, which enables the free flow of personal data between EEA member states and jurisdictions, such as Guernsey, that have secured adequacy decisions, including the other Crown Dependencies. Guernsey's adoption of legislation equivalent to the GDPR makes it much easier for Guernsey businesses to access EU markets, and also reassures customers and clients of those businesses that there are safeguards in place to protect their personal data.
In anticipation of the UK leaving the EU without having secured an adequacy decision, Guernsey enacted legislation permitting the continued free flow of personal data between Guernsey and the UK until the end of 2021. At present, it is not known what position Guernsey will take if the UK is not granted an adequacy decision prior to the end of 2021.
In line with the rest of the offshore world, Guernsey introduced "economic substance" requirements, with effect from the beginning of 2019, for Guernsey companies that are engaged in certain "geographically mobile" activities, including, for example, banking, insurance, financing and leasing, equity holding, and intellectual property holding. Guernsey resident companies engaged in such activities must be able to demonstrate economic substance in Guernsey, which generally entails (subject to enhanced requirements for IP holding companies, and reduced requirements for pure equity holding companies) being directed and managed, conducting their core income-generating activities, and having adequate people, premises and expenditure on the island.
Some financial services businesses in Guernsey (and in the neighbouring island of Jersey) are subject to the jurisdiction of the CIFO (see 2.6 Jurisdiction of Regulators), which has certain powers to enable it to resolve complaints about such businesses from members of the public.
Guernsey has laws in place prohibiting anti-competitive behaviour, and mergers and acquisitions that exceed certain "notifiable" thresholds (in terms of revenue in Guernsey or in some circumstances, across the Channel Islands) are subject to the approval of Guernsey's competition authority, the GCRA.
Financial services firms that are licensed by, or registered with, the GFSC must appoint an auditor, which must audit the business in accordance with recognised accounting standards. However, no other additional requirements apply to financial services firms, except those that are applied by the GFSC.
Industry participants that are licensed or registered with the GFSC can also offer unregulated products and services. However, if those products and services are offered via the same licensed or registered entity, the products and services will generally have to comply with the regulatory requirements imposed on the industry participant in respect of its regulated activities. On this basis, it is not unusual for a financial services business to establish a separate firm to offer unregulated products and services, when it may not be necessary or desirable for any regulatory requirements to be applied to them.
Robo-advisers are not required to have a different business model to other types of investment advisers in Guernsey.
Legacy players in Guernsey have developed their own technologies to provide robo-advisory services, which are being offered in conjunction with their existing products and services. Industry participants that seek to provide robo-advisory services need to be licensed by the GFSC, and their business plans, business risk assessments and operations manuals expressly need to cover the application of the robo-advisory services, which also need to be reviewed and approved by the GFSC.
Conduct of Business Rules
Investment businesses that are licensed under the PoI Law in Guernsey must comply with the Licensees (Conduct of Business) Rules, 2016 ("CoB Rules"). The CoB Rules require licensees that deal with, or for, a client to provide best execution, unless there is a specific instruction from the client. Licensees must also have a best execution policy in place, which must be disclosed to clients. The policy should state the execution venues used by the licensee.
In order to provide best execution, the licensee must take reasonable care to ascertain the best available price for the client, in the relevant market at the time, for transactions of the kind and type concerned.
If a licensee is using a robo-advisory platform to deal with, or for, a client, the licensee is still ultimately responsible for achieving best execution for the client. Therefore, it is important that the robo-advisory platform can satisfy the best execution requirement. A suitable sample of orders should be reviewed regularly by the licensee as part of the licensee's ongoing compliance monitoring programme, to ensure the orders are executed in accordance with the licensee's best execution policy.
There are no differences in the regulation of loans to individuals, small businesses or others that are provided by fintech firms, in comparison to legacy loan providers.
While Guernsey currently does not have specific consumer lending or credit regulations, conduct of business rules and codes of conduct in Guernsey require suitability assessments in certain circumstances.
Currently, alternative lenders whose source of funds is peer-to-peer or lender-raised capital typically fall within the scope of the NRFSB Law (and are likely to fall within the scope of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation when it is enacted). The NRFSB Law requires financial services businesses to comply with Guernsey's anti-money laundering regime. It is also possible for the GFSC to impose additional requirements on financial services businesses that are registered under the NRFSB Law, such as professional indemnity insurance.
Alternative lenders whose source of funds is taking deposits are generally classified as banks in Guernsey, and must be licensed under the Banking Supervision (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 1994 ("Banking Law"). The Banking Law imposes much higher regulatory requirements on businesses than the NRFSB Law.
Syndicated loans are regularly made to Guernsey borrowers. However, these loans are typically arranged and funded by non-Guernsey commercial and investment banks, and they are usually subject to English law-governed finance documents. There are also alternative finance providers in Guernsey that offer finance on a syndicated basis.
While it is possible in Guernsey for payment processors to create and use new payment rails, payment service providers carrying out single euro payments area (SEPA) credit transfer transactions and SEPA direct debit transactions, must satisfy the technical requirements set out in Titles III and IV of the Payment Services Directive (EU) (2015/2366) and the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) Migration Regulation (260/2012), which have been adopted into Guernsey law.
Guernsey participates in the SEPA and has implemented the requirements of the Payment Services Directive (EU) (2015/2366) and the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) Migration Regulation (260/2012) into local law. Guernsey has also adopted the Wire Transfer Regulation (EU) (2015/847).
Fund administrators that conduct, or claim to conduct, any controlled investment business in Guernsey, which includes the administration of collective investment schemes or funds, must be licensed by the GFSC under the PoI Law.
Contractual terms between fund advisers and fund administrators are usually based on the fund administrators' standard terms of appointment for fund advisers. While there is an element of industry custom in respect of fund administrators' agreements, they do vary between fund administrators to reflect the particular requirements of each fund administrator and their relationship with their client fund advisers.
Guernsey's financial services regulatory regimes do not prescribe or limit the different types of trading platforms that are permissible in Guernsey. Instead, the GFSC will review each type of trading platform as part of an application for licensing or registration of the operator of the platform in Guernsey, in order to be satisfied that the platform meets Guernsey's regulatory requirements.
Certain types of platforms (such as peer-to-peer platforms) are likely to fall within the scope of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation, once it has been enacted.
Collective investment schemes and general securities and derivatives typically fall within the scope of the PoI Law. In particular, a token or coin issued using blockchain technology that has the characteristics of a security or derivative, or a fund that issues interests to investors using tokens or coins, will likely fall within the scope of the PoI Law. Financial services businesses that conduct, or claim to conduct, restricted activities in or from within Guernsey in respect of collective investment schemes or general securities and derivatives must be licensed by the GFSC. Restricted activities include promotion, subscription, registration, dealing, management, administration, advising and custody.
Other forms of digital asset classes, such as cryptocurrencies that are not asset backed, may fall within the scope of the NRFSB Law, since financial services businesses that provide services in respect of cryptocurrencies could be classed as:
Financial services businesses that are registered under the NRFSB Law generally benefit from a lighter-touch regulatory regime in comparison to businesses that are licensed under the PoI Law.
Certain services relating to digital asset classes are likely to fall within the scope of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation, once it has been enacted.
At present, cryptocurrency exchanges are not specifically regulated in Guernsey. However, it is likely that the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation will include provisions that add additional regulatory protections for customers of cryptocurrency exchanges that are not licensed under the PoI Law.
No formal listing standards exist for unregulated platforms, but general contractual principles should apply. Exchanges that are regulated by the GFSC will have detailed listing/admission to trading rules to ensure transparency and compliance with applicable laws and regulations (eg, the International Stock Exchange Listing Rules), while rules relating to the requirement to publish a prospectus may also be relevant.
Financial services businesses that are licensed under the PoI Law must comply with the requirements of the CoB Rules, which include rules governing the execution of orders. In particular, the CoB Rules require licensees to complete client and own account orders fairly and in due turn. The execution of client orders must also be effected or arranged as soon as reasonably practicable in the circumstances, unless the licensee has reasonable grounds to believe that postponing the execution of the order would be in the best interests of the client. Furthermore, a licensee must not unfairly prejudice itself or any of those for whom it has dealt where the licensee has aggregated an order for a client transaction with an order for an own account transaction, or with another order for a client transaction. If all of the orders cannot be achieved, the orders for the client transactions must be satisfied first, unless the licensee has reasonable grounds to believe that, without its own participation, it would not have been able to effect those orders either on favourable terms, or at all.
Guernsey's flexible legal and regulatory environment is attractive to peer-to-peer platform providers. For example, protected and incorporated cell companies give such platforms the ability to establish any number of separate "cells" for different portfolios, while segregating those portfolios so as to prevent cross-contamination of liability.
Currently, peer-to-peer trading platforms typically fall within the scope of the NRFSB Law and must satisfy Guernsey's AML/CFT requirements.
Looking ahead, the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation is expected to include a requirement for peer-to-peer electronic platforms to be licensed when carried on by way of business in or from within Guernsey.
Investment businesses that are licensed under the PoI Law in Guernsey must comply with the CoB Rules. The CoB Rules require licensees that deal with, or for, a client to provide best execution, unless there is a specific instruction from the client. Licensees must also have in place a best execution policy, which is disclosed to clients. The policy should state the execution venues used by the licensee.
In order to provide best execution, the licensee must take reasonable care to ascertain the best available price for the client, in the relevant market at the time, for transactions of the kind and type concerned.
While payments for order flow are generally permitted in Guernsey, firms must disclose to their customers all remuneration that they will receive in connection with a transaction prior to the execution of the transaction. If the amounts are not known, the basis of the calculation of the remuneration must be disclosed.
The EU Market Abuse Regulation (596/2014) (MAR) does not apply in Guernsey. However, the PoI Law includes a prohibition against market abuse.
Market abuse under the PoI Law generally consists of behaviour by a person or persons, in relation to collective investment schemes or general securities and derivatives traded on a regulated exchange (Qualified Investments), that is likely to be regarded by a regular user of that market as a failure on the part of that person or those persons to observe the standard of behaviour reasonably expected of a person in their position in relation to the market. Regulated exchanges are expressly prescribed and include the LSE, AIM, NYSE, NASDAQ, The International Stock Exchange, any regulated market that falls within the meaning of the European Directive of Markets in Financial Instruments 2004/39/EU (MiFID), as well as others.
The Code of Market Conduct
The Code of Market Conduct issued by the GFSC under the PoI Law includes descriptions of behaviour that amount to market abuse. These include, for example, the dissemination of information by any means which gives, or is likely to give, a false or misleading impression as to a Qualified Investment by a person who knew, or could reasonably be expected to have known, that the information was false or misleading. The Code of Market Conduct also identifies manipulating transactions, manipulating devices, and action which distorts a Qualified Investment, as behaviours that amount to market abuse. Furthermore, it should be noted that inaction can be considered a behaviour which amounts to abuse, eg, where a person fails to make a disclosure that they are under a legal or regulatory duty to make.
The Code of Market Conduct also includes descriptions of behaviour that do not amount to market abuse. These are known as "safe harbours", and include where a person passes relevant information which is not generally available to the following persons:
High-frequency and algorithmic trading platforms that provide services for, or on behalf of, clients in return for fees generally fall within the scope of the PoI Law and must be licensed by the GFSC. However, Guernsey does not have a specific regulatory regime for high-frequency and algorithmic trading platforms.
There are no specific rules in Guernsey that apply to market makers when they are functioning in a principal capacity.
Collective investment schemes (funds) are subject to specific rules, depending on the type of fund (ie, open-end or closed-end, authorised or registered, qualifying investor fund or private investment fund), which address the particular requirements for a fund. Dealers themselves are not subject to the specific rules for funds but their activities generally may fall within the scope of the PoI Law if carried out in or from within Guernsey.
Programmers who develop and create trading algorithms and other electronic trading tools are not regulated in Guernsey (unless they also carry out some other regulated activity).
Financial research platforms that provide, or claim to provide, investment advice or management services in or from within Guernsey on behalf of clients, must be licensed by the GFSC under the PoI Law.
Other financial research platforms that do not provide investment advice or management services typically do not need to be licensed by the GFSC.
The dissemination of unverified information will, in appropriate circumstances, be subject to the PoI Law's prohibition against market abuse, as described in 7.9 Market Integrity Principles.
It is the responsibility of the operator of the platform to have in place measures that prevent and avoid pump-and-dump schemes, spreading of inside information, or other types of unacceptable behaviour.
Guernsey is a world leader in captive insurance and insurance-linked securities, and the island's insurance sector is regulated by the GFSC.
Insurance Business Law
Insurtech businesses that conduct, or claim to conduct, insurance business in or from within Guernsey, by accepting risks in effecting or carrying out contracts of insurance, fall within the scope of the Insurance Business (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2002 ("Insurance Business Law") and must be licensed by the GFSC.
Insurance Managers Law
Insurtech businesses that occupy premises in Guernsey, or are contactable from an address in Guernsey, or offer to perform their services in Guernsey, and which enter into, or offer to enter into, a contract to exercise the managerial functions of an insurer, to advise clients on their insurance requirements, or to arrange contracts of insurance between insurers and clients, fall within the scope of the Insurance Managers and Insurance Intermediaries (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2002 ("Insurance Managers Law"). Insurtech businesses that fall within the scope of the Insurance Managers Law must also be licensed by the GFSC.
The GFSC has issued regulations and rules under the Insurance Business Law and the Insurance Managers Law that impose requirements on the operations of insurtech businesses that fall within the scope of these laws. In particular, the GFSC has introduced rules that impose requirements on the way that insurers, insurance managers and intermediaries conduct business and on the solvency requirements of insurers, insurance managers and intermediaries.
The Insurance Business Law and the Insurance Managers Law treat long-term and general insurance business as different categories of insurance. Long-term insurance includes life, marriage and birth, permanent health, capital redemption, credit life assurance, as well as pension fund management.
The GFSC applies different rules and requirements in respect of insurance businesses that provide general or long-term insurance products or services.
Regtech businesses in Guernsey are not currently regulated, unless those businesses provide other financial services, such as company administration.
The GFSC recently conducted an industry consultation, which asked whether businesses that provide compliance services, such as client due diligence services, should be regulated by the GFSC. The benefits of regulating client due diligence services providers would be to ensure high industry standards and also to enable client due diligence services providers to act as introducers for regulated financial services businesses. It is expected that such service providers will be brought within the scope of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation, when it is enacted.
Recent changes to the Handbook enable financial services businesses in Guernsey to adopt apps that can automatically certify identity and address verification documentation without requiring approved certifiers. This development should create a huge opportunity for regtech providers that offer services in Guernsey.
Other forms of regtech providers, such as businesses that provide reporting tools (eg, for KID reports under PRIIPs, or for FATCA and CRS reporting) or compliance management platforms, are typically unregulated in Guernsey.
The contractual terms between financial services firms and technology providers vary considerably depending on the type of relationship between the financial services firm and the technology provider, as well as the type of service being offered. However, the contractual terms would typically include provisions that cover service levels, intellectual property, confidentiality, data protection, termination, insurance and suitable warranties and indemnities.
Fund administration and management firms have already started to implement blockchain technology for the purposes of performing fund administration functions in Guernsey. In addition, participants in the financial services industry in Guernsey have been considering using blockchain technology to hold and share client due diligence information securely.
Some banks and custodians are also considering establishing services either to issue, or to act as custodian of, cryptocurrencies.
In Guernsey, blockchain is generally recognised as a software tool that can be used to record and distribute information securely. Therefore, while some of the activities that blockchain can be used for, such as token offerings, would typically be regulated, blockchain technology itself is not regulated.
However, financial services firms that are regulated in Guernsey and that wish to use blockchain technology should liaise with the GFSC to update it on how the technology will fit within the firm's business models and operating procedures; whether the technology will present any risks; and to demonstrate to the GFSC that they have sufficient knowledge and experience to use the technology.
Whether an asset that is recorded on a blockchain is regulated in Guernsey will depend on the nature of the underlying asset.
In respect of security tokens (including equity tokens) that are linked to an asset, where the value of the tokens is derived from that asset (such as shares, futures or options contracts), or where the issuer of the tokens has the characteristics of a collective investment scheme, namely:
the tokens will likely fall within the scope of the PoI Law.
Utility tokens (app coins or user tokens) that are linked to the purchase of goods or services will likely be classed as a form of informal value transfer system or network, or a form of issuing, redeeming, managing or administering means of payments, which will likely fall within the scope of the NRFSB Law.
Looking ahead, certain services relating to digital assets, such as those described above, are likely to be brought within the scope of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation.
The PoI Law
Financial services providers in Guernsey that provide services to issuers of security tokens that fall within the scope of the PoI Law, will likely have to be licensed by the GFSC, and comply with the requirements of the PoI Law and the applicable rules made under the PoI Law.
The NRFSB Law
Financial services providers in Guernsey that provide services to issuers of utility tokens that fall within the scope of the NRFSB Law will likely have to comply with the requirements of the NRFSB Law and Guernsey's AML/CFT regime. The NRFSB Law requires financial services businesses to be registered with the GFSC.
Regulation of Fiduciaries, Administration Businesses and Company Directors Law
Depending on the nature of the assets to be issued, the issuer may also need to be regulated in Guernsey and/or comply with additional rules, including in respect of disclosures to investors. If the services provided include company administration, it is likely that the services provider will also need to be licensed under the Regulation of Fiduciaries, Administration Businesses and Company Directors, etc (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2000, which has a higher regulatory burden than the NRFSB Law.
Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation
The provision of services to issuers of virtual assets is likely to be brought within the scope of the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation, once it is enacted.
Currently, blockchain asset trading platforms in Guernsey generally fall within the scope of the PoI Law or the NRFSB Law, depending on the nature of the underlying assets that are traded, which require the operator of the platform either to be licensed or registered by the GFSC. In the future, such platforms may be subject to the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation.
The GFSC has issued guidance that it would be cautious about approving applications for token or coin offerings which could be traded on a secondary market, due to the increased risk of fraud and money laundering.
Any funds that invest in blockchain assets are regulated in the same way as any other funds that invest in other types of alternative asset classes. However, it is likely that the GFSC will take a cautious approach to approving funds that invest in blockchain assets due to the potential volatility and the risk of fraud and money laundering.
The legal treatment of any cryptocurrency or other blockchain asset will be determined by whether that particular asset's features fall within the scope of existing legislative and regulatory regimes.
Decentralised finance, or "DeFi", is neither defined nor specifically regulated in Guernsey. The extent to which decentralised finance platforms will be caught be Guernsey's regulatory laws will depend on the nature of the services offered (and the assets to which those services relate): as noted in the paragraphs above, such platforms will generally be subject to either the PoI Law or the NRFSB Law at present (and may be subject to the Proposed Credit and Finance Legislation in the future).
Furthermore, businesses that use blockchain to access or store personal data are likely to be subject to Guernsey's data protection regime, as outlined in 2.10 Implications of Additional, Non-financial Services Regulations.
Guernsey has adopted Titles III and IV of PSD2 into Guernsey law. A possible disruptive aspect of PSD2 is the ability for payment initiation service providers to initiate payments from account-servicing payments service providers and for account information service providers to access customer data.
Retail banking in Guernsey is dominated by the same UK clearing banks that are implementing open banking in the UK. On this basis, financial institutions in Guernsey may seek to introduce open banking as a consequence of its adoption in the UK.
PSD2 imposes certain conditions on the access to, and use of, data by firms providing a payment initiation service or account information service. This includes a requirement for customer consent, and other requirements in relation to security and the use of data. In addition, the DP Law requires customers to be made fully aware, in a clear, concise and transparent fashion, of how their personal data will be used and by whom. It also provides for the right to withdraw consent and access to data, and the right for information to be erased. In sharing data with third parties such as account information service providers, financial institutions need to be aware of the potential for fraud or other risks.