Trading apps risk turning investors into gamblers: FCA

By James Langton | November 21, 2022 | Last updated on November 21, 2022
2 min read

Citing threats to investor protection from gamification techniques, the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is calling on the operators of mobile trading apps to review their design features to ensure they don’t violate firms’ obligations to treat customers fairly.

The FCA issued the warning to firms, noting its research has found that investors who use mobile trading apps with gamification features, such as providing investors with points, badges and celebratory messages for making trades, are more likely to invest in products that exceed their risk appetites.

“Whilst gamification can be used to engage consumers positively, the FCA found it being used in ways that may mislead consumers or lead to poor outcomes and problem behaviours,” the regulator said in a release.

Alongside its warning, the FCA published research that raises concerns about investors who use mobile gaming apps with gamification features being exposed to high-risk investments, and that some of these investors “exhibit behaviours similar to problem gambling.”

“Some product design features could be contributing to problematic, even gambling-like, investor behaviour,” said Sarah Pritchard, executive director of markets with the FCA, in a release accompanying the regulator’s warning.

“We expect all firms that offer stock trading to consumers to review and, where appropriate, make improvements to their products based on these findings,” she said. “They should also ensure they are providing support to their customers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances or those showing signs of problem gambling behaviour.”

The FCA said it intends to do further research into trading app usage and design features, “in particular to understand some wider financial vulnerabilities for users of these apps, such as whether they borrow to invest and the scale of any losses.”

Last week the Ontario Securities Commission published research that highlighted concerns with gamification tactics. Specifically, it carried out an experiment that found investors who were rewarded with worthless “points” traded 39% more frequently than investors who didn’t get these rewards.

That report also recommended that regulators consider investor protection concerns that arise from these features, and possible regulatory responses.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.