Regulatory Sandbox: Colombia
In recent years, the FinTech industry in Latin America has significantly grown in importance. The innovation led by local startups has put the region on the global Fintech map. Colombia, along with Brazil and Mexico, is one of the top 3 countries in Latin America with the most potential for FinTech implementation and success according to colombiafintech.co. For this reason, Colombia has been attracting an increasing number of foreign investors.
Nevertheless, until recently there were little to no regulations for this sector in Colombia, which made the market entry, and operating under a clear legal framework, harder for new technological developments. Recognizing the need for clear guidelines, the Colombian government created Decree 1234 from the 14th of September 2020, starting a so-called Regulatory FinTech Sandbox.
What is Regulatory Sandbox?
A Regulatory Sandbox is a framework that allows the live testing of innovative products and services in a controlled environment and under a regulator’s supervision. In Colombia, the regulator is the Superintendencia Financiera. They are in charge of establishing boundaries and rules to ensure user protection and avoid security threats.
What is the purpose of a Regulatory Sandbox?
- To provide customer security when it comes to new financial services
- To standardise the process of new Fintech companies in Colombia
- To incentivize market entry for new FinTech innovations in Colombia
Regulatory Sandbox Guidelines: Colombia
Decree 1234, enacted September 14th, 2020, is divided into 4 chapters that describe in detail what the Sandbox will entail, how to access it, how to operate in the Sandbox environment, and finally, how to exit.
Chapter 1: General Sandbox Information
The Sandbox environment will be a controlled space governed by a set of rules, procedures, plans, and conditions to test finance, stock, and insurance related technological developments. The activities conducted inside the Regulatory Sandbox will be monitored by Colombia’s Superintendencia Financiera. (Art. 184.108.40.206.1)
The innovative technological developments accepted to this Sandbox space will work towards one of the following purposes: increase efficiency for the provision of services or offering of financial products, solve problems for financial consumers, facilitate financial inclusion, improve regulatory compliance, develop financial markets, or improve their competitiveness. (Art. 220.127.116.11.3)
The objectives behind the Sandbox, according to Art. 18.104.22.168.2 will be:
- Take advantage of innovation in the provision of financial services and products.
- Watch over the protection and interests of financial consumers.
- Preserve the integrity and stability of the financial system.
- Prevent regulatory arbitrations.
Chapter 2: How to enter the Sandbox
To be a part of the Sandbox, a company needs to fulfill certain requirements (Art. 22.214.171.124.1):
- The technological development must operate to fulfill any of the purposes described in Art. 126.96.36.199.3 (mentioned above).
- The technological development shall be ready to use immediately after receiving the Certificate of Temporary Operations.
- All services shall be provided in Colombian territory.
Colombia’s Superintendencia Financiera will establish general restrictions and parameters to allow each technological development’s admission into the Sandbox.
To request a Certificate of Temporary Operations, the technological developments will have to comply with a list of requirements, some of which include a business model with the definition of the product, its goals and objectives, also a description of which technological tools will be used, its policies and procedures. (Art. 188.8.131.52.2)
Once the Superintendencia Financiera has reviewed and approved the application for the Certificate of Temporary Operations (for a max. 2 year term), the participants will be able to start the development under certain conditions including: the requirements disclosed in Art. 184.108.40.206.2, warranties to cover any possible damages, and a complete and transparent information report to the Superintendencia Financiera amongst other things. (Art. 220.127.116.11.5)
Chapter 3: Sandbox Operation
Companies shall provide information about the characteristics and risks of the product and get consent from their consumers, answer promptly to any cancellation request from the consumers, comply with all the terms and conditions signed in the Certificate of Temporary Operations, as well as provide relevant information/updates to Colombia’s Superintendencia Financiera, and finally, accept any losses their consumer might have endured during the testing phase. (Art 18.104.22.168.1)
Any information for publicity purposes will have to disclose the product’s testing condition, that the operations are temporary, and the specific date when the test phase will be completed. (The Superintendencia Financiera might require more information in specific cases).
Chapter 4: Sandbox Termination
The Sandbox will be finished once the term specified in the certificate is fulfilled, even though the term can be extended, it can’t surpass the 2 year mark. Each technological development will receive the appropriate licence to prove that the requirements were met during the trial period. (Art 22.214.171.124.1) (Art. 126.96.36.199.2)
In the case that the participants want to voluntarily leave the Sandbox before their term is over, they will have to inform the Superintendencia Financiera to activate the clearance procedure.
Lastly, the Certificate for Temporary Operations can be denied:
- If the appliers don’t comply with any of the objectives, requirements, or rules that are asked of them
- If they don’t meet the deadlines
- If they don’t manage their risks properly
Colombia’s Superintendencia Financiera has the power to revoke any Certificate, and in this case the participants will have to clear their work from the Sandbox immediately.
Benefits of a Regulatory Sandbox
Companies that have taken part in a Sandbox environment have managed to be creative without any consequences. They are allowed to experiment with different ideas and technological innovations while being regulated by a financial entity. Some benefits include:
- Regulatory certainty: helps firms understand regulatory applications
- Talent retainment and attraction
- Innovation attraction: attracts FinTech projects from international companies
- Complex project acceleration: helps lighten the bureaucratic burden and provides legal certainty
- Communication with authorities: constant and easy communication with competent authorities is encouraged and made easier
- Great opportunity for large corporations to collaborate with innovative startups
The Regulatory Sandbox is, therefore, a great platform to assure a frictionless market penetration for new technologies and the implementation of new business models. It is also a great tool that allows companies to test their projects legally and receive an implementation licence at the end of the testing period.
Colombia, which is already known to offer very good foreign investment incentives, has now also implemented Sandbox Regulations. This will assure a smoother market access for FinTech startups and businesses, while offering regulatory support and higher customer security. According to estimates, the FinTech sector will grow up to 26% in the year 2021, making Colombia more attractive for potential FinTech investments.
Here’s how Ongresso can help you:
If you are looking into applying to the Regulatory Sandbox in Colombia, we offer services that will help you achieve a successful Sandbox entry.
- We have extensive knowledge on the applicable regulatory frameworks
- We will make sure all legal obligations are met
- We will help your company prevent small errors that can be detrimental
- We can facilitate communication between your company and the colombian authorities to ensure you have complete clarity
Contact us for: Legal Services, Market-Entry Strategies and Consulting, Company Formation, Back-Office Services, Partner Search, and Employer of Record Services in Latinamerica.