FCA Concerned About Gambling Aspects of Trading Apps

Stock trading app

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has warned operators of trading apps about aspects that are similar to gambling. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Certain concerns

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has laid out its concerns over gambling-like aspects of share trading apps. The FCA issued a warning on Monday to operators of stock trading apps to conduct reviews of their design features, especially when game-like elements exist. There are concerns that certain aspects of these apps increase the risk of users engaging in actions that are not in their own best interest.

operators giving users in-app badges, celebratory messages, and points

The FCA statement outlined certain areas of concern, such as operators giving users in-app badges, celebratory messages, and points when they conduct trades. There are also concerns that notifications about the latest market news can have a negative impact on users.

Research based views

the FCA has discovered through its research that people using apps with these types of features are more likely to invest in types of products that are above their appetite of risk. There are also concerns that trading apps expose people to particularly high-risk investments, with some users showing indicators that are similar to problem gambling.

Gamification is often used by operators to try to positively engage further with users. The FCA believes that this approach can also mislead users and lead to problem behaviors.

FCA executive director of markets Sarah Pritchard explained that “some product design features could be contributing to problematic, even gambling-like, investor behavior.”

She reiterated that all trading app operators should review their systems and make improvements where appropriate. Operators should also ensure that they are providing a level of support to users, especially for people who might be at risk or could be showing certain problem gambling behavior signs.

A lot of moving parts

The FCA has plans to conduct more research on the use and design features of trading apps. It wants to better understand certain financial vulnerabilities associated with people using these types of apps, including whether users are likelier to have bigger losses and try to borrow in order to invest.

9% of adults who hold investments have borrowed money in order to invest

According to the Financial Lives Survey for 2022 by the FCA, 9% of adults who hold investments have borrowed money in order to invest. Of those people, almost half of them would not have had the money to invest without borrowing.

New consumer duty rules are taking effect next year in the UK. Under these rules, all operators must have offerings that allow users to make informed decisions in a timely and effective manner when it comes to financial services and products.


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