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IOSCO issues regulatory measures to address increasing risks and challenges from digitalisation of retail marketing and distribution

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Madrid, 12 October 2022

The Board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) today published measures that members should consider when determining their policy and enforcement approaches to retail online offerings and marketing.

The measures outlined in the Final Report on Retail Distribution and Digitalisation aim to assist IOSCO members in adapting their regulatory and enforcement approaches, consistent with their legal and regulatory frameworks, to meet the growing challenges posed by rapidly evolving digitalisation and online activities.

The Report presents a toolkit of policy measures to help members address risks that may arise and a toolkit of enforcement measures that leverage a range of powers and technology-based investigatory techniques and enhanced collaboration with other authorities and providers of electronic intermediary services.

The policy toolkit measures relate to:

Firm level rules for online marketing and distribution;

Firm level rules for online onboarding;

Responsibility for online marketing;

Capacity for surveillance and supervision of online marketing and distribution;

Staff qualification and/or licensing requirements for online marketing;

Ensuring compliance with third country regulations; and

Clarity about legal entities using internet domains.

The enforcement toolkit measures relate to:

Proactive technology-based detection and investigatory techniques;

Powers to promptly take action where websites are used to conduct illegal securities and derivatives activity and other powers effective in curbing online misconduct;

Increasing efficient international cooperation and liaising with criminal authorities and other local and foreign partners;

Promoting enhanced understanding and efforts by, and collaboration with, providers of electronic intermediary services regarding digital illegal activities; and

Additional efforts to address regulatory and supervisory arbitrage.

Digitalisation and social media are changing the way financial services and products are marketed and distributed to retail investors, providing greater opportunities for firms to reach a broader investor base and for retail investors to access a wider range of products. Digitalisation and social media also present risks associated with the use of behavioural and gamification techniques and financial influencers (finfluencers) that impact retail investor trading behaviour.

Developments in digital offerings, including use of new complex products such as crypto-assets, also give rise to novel regulatory and investor protection challenges, spanning the whole distribution chain. As digitalisation trends evolve faster than regulatory frameworks, there is a risk that retail investors could be exposed to harmful or even fraudulent online activity.

The Report analyses global developments in online marketing and distribution of financial products to retail investors and discusses enforcement challenges encountered by regulators. It sets out examples of how some member jurisdictions have addressed these issues.

The Report is part of IOSCO’s efforts to build trust and confidence in markets facing new and emerging opportunities and risks. The overarching objective is to enhance the protection of retail investors, the main recipients of online offerings and marketing techniques.

The rapidly evolving environment demonstrates the need for an increased regulatory focus on digital marketing and offerings and for efficient collaboration, on both a domestic and cross-border level, to promote a high level of investor protection at a global scale. 

Responding to the IOSCO Report, Martin Moloney, the IOSCO Secretary General, said: “A digital revolution is sweeping the world of finance. Financial product offerings and customer on-boarding practices are no exception to this change. This revolution allows firms to refine the techniques they use in their digital marketing. While that innovation promises to provide investors with well targeted information, it also creates new risks to investors via systemic targeting and unsolicited offerings, sometimes underpinned by gamification and ‘finfluencer’ activity that is not always helpful to investors. Digital fraudsters can hide behind a “digital veil” that makes it difficult for regulators to locate, identify and take action against them. We are publishing this policy and enforcement guidance, built up from the experience of our members, to respond to the complex conduct challenges in today’s digital world, and to achieve better financial consumer outcomes.”

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