Archive:June 7, 2016

EU movement on virtual currencies and distributed ledger technologies
Gamification and financial services
Brexit: the effect on UK FinTech

EU movement on virtual currencies and distributed ledger technologies

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

The EU Parliament has called for the creation of a task force to be led by the EU Commission to monitor distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and virtual currencies (VC).  The EU Parliament proposed that the task force consist of technical and regulatory experts who will:

  • provide the necessary expertise to support EU member states’ efforts to monitor DLT;
  • bring together stakeholders;
  • foster awareness and analyse the benefits and risks of DLT;
  • identify best practice standards;
  • assess existing EU regulation with a view to updating it in response to increased DLT use; and
  • develop stress tests for widely used VCs and DLT schemes.

The EU Parliament also recommended that the EU Commission revise EU legislation on payments in light of new technological developments with a view to furthering competition and lowering transaction costs possibly by means of promoting a universal and non-proprietary electronic wallet. The EU Commission is currently considering proposals to include VC exchange platforms in the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive to end the anonymity that has been traditionally associated with such platforms.

This recent regulatory activity in the EU reflects the increased attention that VCs and DLT have been receiving from governments around the world. Australia has recently focused on anti-money laundering and tax implications for VCs and Japan introduced regulations on VC exchanges in March.

Gamification and financial services

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

How would you use gamification to enhance the mobile and online experience for banking customers? That is the question Barclays Bank is asking developers during its Launchpad Business Challenge. Challenge applicants will have access to Barclays’ sandbox banking data and APIs to pitch their ideas. The Challenge will run for 3 weeks in June with successful applicants’ products being released on Barclays’ Launchpad platform for customers to explore and test.

Gamification involves applying game design elements and principles in non-game contexts and is used to improve user engagement and learning. A simple example of gamification is using a points based quiz to improve financial literacy.

This is not the first time that Barclays has experimented with gamification. In 2010 it released an interactive virtual city game in which players’ characters experienced the consequences of good and bad money management decisions.

Gamification is also a novel way to present important information to consumers in a way that is more approachable than traditional methods. In 2015 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) published a relief instrument which allows regulated disclosure documents such as Product Disclosure Documents and Financial Services Guides be disclosed in innovative ways. The accompanying good practice guidance issued by ASIC in Regulatory Guide 221 stated that disclosure documents can now incorporate a range of digital features including gamification.

Regulatory Guide 221 can be found here.

Brexit: the effect on UK FinTech

By Jonathan Lawrence

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom will hold a referendum about whether to remain in or leave the European Union. A British exit from the EU has been labelled a “Brexit”.

A recent Financial News poll has showed that the UK FinTech sector is substantially in favour of staying. Financial News surveyed 118 FinTech professionals to gauge their opinion.

More than two-thirds said Brexit would be detrimental to UK FinTech. However, nearly 18% believe it is still unclear what the long-term impact would be. The remaining 13% think UK FinTech would benefit from a decision to leave the European Union.

Often tech talent is sourced from countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia. The ability to access talent was a major concern of some business people interviewed. The other key potential issue is regulation. There’s a circular debate over whether there would be lighter regulation after the UK left the EU, or whether it would be forced to stay in line with the rest of Europe as a price for continued market access. One theory is that the European market – already smaller than the US – would, in effect, be divided in two. US FinTech firms already have the advantage of addressing a bigger market – partitioning Europe would make this advantage greater still.

More than 84% of those who said Brexit would harm UK FinTech said it would make London less attractive for foreign FinTech companies as a location for their European HQ. However, the largest share believes London would maintain its dominance as a FinTech hub. Asked which European cities would most threaten London, 28% answered “none”, closely followed by Berlin, 25%. Frankfurt came third with 15%.

On the other hand, some 13% said the sector would be better off and 18% were undecided. Of those who believe UK FinTech would benefit, 63% thought it would free up resources that could be reinvested in innovation. Some 58% said Brexit would make it easier for FinTech companies to do business with clients in non-EU countries.

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