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The UK Digital Securities Sandbox (DSS) Regulations 2023 came into force on January 8, 2024. The regulations are an initiative by the UK government to spearhead the use of blockchain technology in securities.

With the DSS regulations now in effect, firms can experiment with assets pertaining to securities market infrastructure, like clearing houses, investment firms and stock exchanges.

Presented to the Parliament on December 18, the DSS came as a modification of the preceding FCA sandbox. The DSS aims to create a regulated sandbox for firms to experiment with asset tokenization.

Considering the increased interest in this securities trading and the need to adapt to global trends, the UK government eventually implemented the DSS with hopes of a smooth venture into blockchain regulation.

Details on the DSS

The DSS outlines several essential procedures related to the financial market infrastructures (FMI) sandbox, such as the creation and operation of an FMI sandbox, FMI sandbox application procedure and requirements and determination of approval for an FMI sandbox application.

Furthermore, the DSS also outlines provisions on sandbox arrangement requirements, the creation of sandbox rules by regulators, the FMI sandbox supervision and cooperation between appropriate regulators.

While the impact of the DSS regulations on the UK crypto scene remains unknown, most early responses to the DSS are positive.

“It is great to see the UK truly starting to take ownership of its crypto policy. This quick and strong move from HM Treasury is a big positive — now it is time for participants to enthusiastically engage and prove that positive change merits proactive participation,” said Bittrex Global CEO Oliver Linch.

According to a report on the industry response to the DSS consultation by the UK government, many were satisfied with the inclusion of notary, settlement, maintenance activities and trading venue operation in the DSS.

The permissionless systems included in the DSS consultation also received several positive responses. According to these actors, permissionless systems could implement decentralized governance, peer-to-peer trading, self-custody and disintermediation of legacy infrastructures.

After five years, the UK government will cease implementing the DSS on January 8, 2029. Following the occasion, His Majesty’s Treasury will evaluate the sandbox’s performance and determine its continuation or possible future amendments.

Global tokenization trends

Although banks are becoming more likely to use crypto technologies and perform practices like smart contracts and asset tokenization, the Bank of England said the increasing popularity of tokenization may lead to increased financial stability risks.

According to the bank, the increasing numbers of asset tokenization on public blockchains can increase the size of the crypto asset ecosystem and the interconnectedness of markets for crypto assets. Furthermore, asset tokenization practices can result in direct exposures to systemic institutions if left unchecked.

Yet, these risks are at minimum levels at the moment, and banks continue to participate in the tokenization trend. For example, HSBC said in October 2023 that it plans to provide tokenized securities custody service for institutions starting in 2024.

HSBC proposes the custody service in partnership with Swiss digital asset firm Metaco to allow institutions to keep blockchain-based tokens that represent their traditional financial assets. Once live, the service will complement HSBC’s Orion digital asset issuance platform.

French bank Société Générale (SocGen) also onboarded the tokenization hype train by completing its first tokenized green bond issuance on Ethereum in early December 2023. On the occasion, AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) and Generali Investments bought the $10.8 million digital tokenized bonds.