In conjunction with its 2019/20 Business Plan, the FCA has published its research agenda, which highlights its current areas of interest across five areas and invites collaboration to develop a shared understanding.

From the results of this research, the FCA aims to advance its mission, develop evidence-based policy and identify emerging issues.


  1. Household finance and consumer behaviour

Against a backdrop of changing policy and economic flux, different generations experience a variety of outcomes. Using a lifecycle model framework, the FCA aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the issues consumers face, how they respond to different circumstances and the decisions they make throughout their lives.

The FCA is keen to understand:

  • The impact of student debt on later-life outcomes and how the housing market is affected by intergenerational wealth transfers and policy measures.
  • The retirement savings gap.
  • How debt management evolves over time, particularly how people borrow and the drivers of problem debt.
  • The impact of flexible working and income volatility on the use of financial services.
  • Consumer decision making and levels of engagement.
  • Causes of vulnerability.


  1. Securities market microstructure, integrity and stability

The FCA is interested in researching three main areas:

  1. Microstructures – to positively influence the microstructure of the market, the regulator needs to understand what market designs produce good outcomes – not forgetting that rules which work well in one market at a given time won’t necessarily work across the board.
  2. Market integrity – the FCA promotes scientific research to measure the extent of financial crime and fraud, new detection methods and explore prevention. It wants to examine conflicts of interest in the asset management sector and agency problems when raising capital.
  3. Ensuring financial stability – the FCA want to understand the effectiveness of a financial system that is now largely dominated by non-banks. This includes resilience, stability and how non-banks influence the flow of assets to and from the real economy.


  1. Competition, innovation, firm behaviour and culture

A competitive market encourages greater technology-led innovation, which helps firm’s respond more effectively to their customers’ needs.

  • Pricing: The FCA wants to understand how firms use technology and big data to set and personalise prices, as well as the use of cross-substantiation. The regulator is also interested in how consumers pay for services by consenting for their personal data to be used for commercial purposes and the impact on the end user and competition.
  • Channels for, and the effect of, coordination: The regulator is interested in methods to detect and prevent coordination between firms.
  • Competition in experienced goods: The FCA wants to understand how firms behave when consumers don’t have a full understanding of the features of a product. Relating to this, the regulator is also interested in how to create objective quality measures from collective data.
  • Culture, diversity and governance: Further research to enhance the regulator’s understanding in these areas are always welcomed.


  1. Technology, big data and artificial intelligence (AI)

AI and big data can be transformative, with these technologies used to personalise their products, detect fraud and manage risk and compliance. The FCA recognises this and wants to explore opportunities to use AI and big data to regulate more effectively and understand markets.

The FCA is looking to understand:

  • How firms utilise big data and the competitive, ethical and accessibility issues that may arise.
  • Any necessary regulatory interventions around the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).
  • The potential consequences of quantum computing for consumer protection, market integrity and financial stability.
  • How machine learning could impact future policy development.
  • How RegTech could be used to streamline and automate existing FCA processes, create more accurate risk models and help prioritise regulatory efforts.


  1. Efficiency and effectiveness

The FCA’s aim is to have a regulatory regime that is internally and externally efficient and effective. Internally, the regulator’s goal is to ensure any regulatory interventions are successful and resource is used efficiently. Externally, it wants a regime that promotes effective financial markets while minimising costs to society.

Research into the effectiveness of previous policy interventions is a useful tool to assist the FCA in developing future regulations that enable compliance from the start.