Worldwide Focus on Fintech Regulation Signals Opportunity for PFs

In the U.S., regulators, businesspeople and other groups are in the midst of a debate about how financial technology firms should be regulated. The OCC’s proposed special purpose national bank charter for fintech companies is one example; a white paper outlining policy objectives around the fintech sector issued by the Obama administration at the end of its term is another.

But the U.S. is hardly the only place where the deliberation over just how to oversee this rising sector is taking place. Financial technology is on the minds of governments worldwide, which signals real opportunity for payment facilitators.

This week, India’s government was said to be considering establishing a separate regulating agency to govern electronic payments, according to an article in the Economic Times.

The Reserve Bank of India currently regulates payments as well as the banking system, but proponents of a separate regulator say that banks have different interests – and different needs – from financial technology companies, the article said.

Those who believe the Reserve Bank of India should continue to regulate the payments industry maintain that the central bank should maintain control over the money supply in India, which would include “maintaining the confidence in money as a means of exchange,” according to the article.

The debate over establishing a new regulator in India comes at a time when the country’s digital economy is experiencing significant growth, spurred by government policies that include demonetization and its support of new digital technologies.

Also just this week, in his opening remarks at the G20 conference, “Digitising finance, financial inclusion and financial literacy,” Deutsche Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann addressed the topic of regulating financial technology companies.

Weidmann said that “it is quite obvious that regulating fintechs and the entire digital financial industry smartly without hindering financial innovation is warranted.”

“That’s why the objectives of the German G20 presidency include taking stock of the different regulatory approaches,” he continued. “Our aim is to develop a set of common criteria for the regulatory treatment of fintechs.”

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and chair of the Financial Stability Board, also touched on the topic in his keynote address at the conference, in which he outlined questions the Board is asking about the role of financial technology, its impact on other regulated entities, and how supervisory approaches should address the sector.

“From start-ups in London’s Silicon Roundabout to established players in The Valley, entrepreneurs are applying their creativity and technical ingenuity along the financial services value chain. To its advocates, this wave of innovation promises a FinTech revolution that will democratise financial services,” Carney said in his address.

“Fintech’s true promise springs from its potential to unbundle banking into its core functions of: settling payments, performing maturity transformation, sharing risk and allocating capital,” he continued. “This possibility is being driven by new entrants – payment service providers, aggregators and robo advisors, peer-to-peer lenders, and innovative trading platforms.”

The focus on developing appropriate regulatory approaches for these new entrants not only acknowledges the valuable role these companies are already playing, but also implies a belief that growth in this sector is going to accelerate – which is very good news for payment facilitators.

“The challenge for policymakers is to ensure that Fintech develops in a way that maximises the opportunities and minimises the risks for society,” Carney said.