Archive: September 2016

1
The Sandbox is getting crowded
2
Blockchain–powered contract management and outsourcing
3
FinTech hub ecosystems
4
Further developments on Britcoin
5
Australia’s first listed FinTech investment company
6
To support payments innovation, avoid unnecessary regulation
7
Regtech Earns a Name
8
Movement in marketplace lending regulation for small business loans
9
HKMA’s support to fintech development in Hong Kong
10
Goldman Accelerates FinTech Disintermediation

The Sandbox is getting crowded

By Jonathan Lawrence

In a recent speech delivered at the British Bankers’ Association FinTech Banking Conference, Christopher Woolard, the Director of Strategy and Competition at the UK Financial Conduct Authority spoke about the high level of interest in the FCA’s Regulatory Sandbox for FinTech ventures. The Sandbox aims to create a ‘safe space’ in which FinTech businesses can test innovative products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a live environment without immediately incurring all the normal regulatory consequences of engaging in the activity.

Of 69 applications to join the Sandbox, the FCA has accepted 24 to develop towards testing. The FCA’s team has been expanded to meet demand. 40 of the unsuccessful first time applicants will be offered assistance via Project Innovate or other FCA staff, in some cases to prepare for the next cohort of the Sandbox.

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Blockchain–powered contract management and outsourcing

By Susan P. Altman

Add outsourcing services to the long list of industries that face disruption directly attributable to blockchain, which list already includes financial services, supply chains, IoT, risk management, digital rights management and healthcare. It is well-known that blockchain technology, that is, technology enabling distributed ledgers with continuously maintained and verified blocks of records, promises huge savings and disruption in the financial services industry. IBM has now partnered with the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) to apply blockchain technology to the design, management and execution of contracts between businesses. IBM and BTMU are piloting a blockchain project to test its usefulness in automating business transactions for which one party has contracted with the other to provide goods or services. Initially, the technology will be used to monitor delivery and usage of equipment with a sensor that embeds information into the blockchain. The information will then automate invoicing and payment processes between the two companies.

Of especial interest to outsourcing lawyers is the announcement that IBM and BTMU will develop smart contracts on a blockchain to improve the efficiency and accountability of service level agreements in multi-party business interactions. It appears the technology is intended to be used in the increasingly common and complex environment of multi-party, multi-vendor services. Lawyers can expect to see more robust service level agreements with service providers within that complex environment, certainly in terms of accountability. However, it remains true that service levels are only as valuable as the relevancy of what is being measured. And that is still a decision that, for now, requires human input.

FinTech hub ecosystems

By Jonathan Lawrence

A recent EY study looks at how the UK FinTech ecosystem compares to that of California, New York, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia based on their status as FinTech hubs. The report considers four attributes in each region:

  • Talent (availability and pipeline)
  • Capital (seed, growth and listed)
  • Policy (regulatory regimes, government programmes and taxation policy)
  • Demand (consumer, corporate and financial institution)

The analysis was commissioned by the UK Government to inform policy and support the sector. It also includes case studies on Israel and China.

The study gives extremely interesting comparative data across the regions and provides recommendations for the UK Government based on the experience in other countries.

Further developments on Britcoin

By Jonathan Lawrence

Victoria Cleland, Director for Banknotes and Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, gave a speech on FinTech issues on 8 September (see the speech here).

Of particular interest were Ms Cleland’s remarks on the Bank’s long-term research on the wide range of questions posed by the potential of a central bank-issued digital currency (CBDC), including whether a CBDC would be feasible and whether it would benefit the economy and the financial sector, over the medium term. To support its research, the Bank has invited contributions to a set of research questions on the opportunities and challenges that could arise from the introduction of CBDC (see the questions here).

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Australia’s first listed FinTech investment company

By Russell Lyons, David Bath and Marie Zuo

On or around 19 October 2016, H2Ocean is proposing to list on the Australian Securities Exchange as a listed investment company (LIC). Following a successful initial public offering (IPO), H2 Ocean will become Australia’s first LIC focused on investing in early and growth stage FinTech companies. H2Ocean proposes to invest in between 15 and 50 FinTech startups which will have typically graduated from an incubator or accelator program or will be backed by a reputable venture capital firm. These startups will be based in both Australia and overseas.

The H2Ocean IPO will allow potential investors to be exposed to FinTech investments and venture capital as an alternative asset class, which might not otherwise be directly accessible to the public. This unique offering in the Australian market comes at a time where global FinTech financing is trending towards venture capital backed FinTech companies and is expected to reach a record high in 2016.

So far, H2Ocean has gained support from Mike Cannon-Brookes, Atlassian co-founder, who will be subscribing for shares in the IPO. Mike Cannon-Brookes backed Australian payments company Tyro in its $100 million capital raising at the end of 2015.

Treasurer Scott Morrison also attended the H2Ocean launch last week. With high profile supporters and as Australia’s first listed FinTech investment company, H2Ocean is another encouraging sign for Australia’s FinTech future.

To support payments innovation, avoid unnecessary regulation

By John R. Gardner

The rapid growth of new payment system innovation in recent years in many ways mirrors similar growth in the credit card industry in the 1950s and 1960s.  A review of the development of the credit card industry leading up to the significant amendments to the Truth in Lending Act in 1970, and the ultimate effect of the legislation when viewed against the concerns voiced by Congress, arguably demonstrate that the legislation was unnecessary, inefficient and anticompetitive. Accordingly, legislatures and regulators should take a cautious approach to enacting restrictions proposed in the name of consumer protection.  To avoid the mistakes of the past, legislatures and regulators should carefully consider how such measures might limit competition and innovation, whether such measures would truly result in a benefit to consumers, and whether there are any less restrictive measures that would result in equivalent consumer protection.

You can read my full article here.

Regtech Earns a Name

By Susan Altman

Technology solutions for bank regulatory requirements have been around for decades, but their soaring popularity has led to them earning their own nickname within the fintech world: they’re now “regtech” solutions, according to a new report issued by Bain & Co. in the American Banker.  Regtech products are designed to benefit banks’ efforts to comply with growing regulatory burdens and improve internal governance controls.  Bain estimates that governance, risk and compliance costs account for 15% to 20% of the total “run the bank” cost base of most major banks.  It’s no small wonder that banks are struggling to devise a robust and efficient approach to compliance and are outsourcing the implementation and hosting of advanced compliance tools with nimble regtech-focused outside vendors.  Bain has identified more than 80 emerging regtechs that extract and structure data, integrate data from banks’ proprietary systems, third-party data providers and public sources, and crunch the data in automated, scalable ways.  Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, continuously improves the quality, precision and reliability of the insights that emerge.

Bain predicts that banks’ relationships with regtechs will be significantly shaped by regulators, in the form of governance, risk and compliance standards and approval of proposed solutions. As new requirements go into effect, banks will need to continuously assess the level of functionality, complexity and efficiency of current technology, systems and data.  And did we mention, this all has to be done in a very secure environment?

Movement in marketplace lending regulation for small business loans

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

Marketplace lenders who cater to small businesses are about to face increased regulation in relation to the credit they provide. From 12 November 2016, some businesses will receive the same protection currently available to consumers as unfair contract terms in small business contracts will become prohibited.

Small business contracts include loans which are entered into with businesses which have fewer than 20 employees for an amount less than $300,000 or less than $1 million if the term of the loan is more than 12 months.

Under the new law, a contract term will be unfair if:

  • it would cause a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations;
  • it is not reasonably necessary to protect the interests of the party who would be advantaged by the term; and
  • it would cause detriment to a party if the term is relied on.

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HKMA’s support to fintech development in Hong Kong

By  Michael P. W. Wong

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), announced on 6 September 2016, the launch of Fintech Innovation Hub (FIH) and the Fintech Supervisory Sandbox (FSS).

The FIH will be jointly established by the HKMA and the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute for the purposes of supporting and promoting the research and development of fintech by the local financial services industry.  The FIH will be equipped with all the requisite IT systems and supported by technical teams, enabling industry players to pioneer or build upon new fintech solutions, such as enhanced biometric authentication and integrated mobile payment services.  In addition, operation of the FIH is expected to facilitate dialogue between the HKMA and the relevant industry players on emerging technologies by serving as a common training venue.  For instance, the HKMA may wish to explore “regtech” solutions to improve its regulatory efficiency in the FIH.

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Goldman Accelerates FinTech Disintermediation

By Susan Altman

Goldman Sachs, in a dramatic sign of the times, has recently started giving its clients for free the very software tools that made Goldman a global trading powerhouse, per the Wall Street Journal.  A decade ago, Goldman considered licensing the software to rival Deutsche Bank and threw around licensing values in the billions of dollars.  Now it’s free, at least for customers.  The software, known as Securities DataBase, or SecDB, remains Goldman’s prime tool for measuring securities risk and analyzing their prices and is used to analyze potential trades.  Why the change?  Some experts point the finger at new regulations limiting the banks’ trading risks and making it costly to hold large inventories of stocks and bonds on their books.  In addition, electronic trading and research has squeezed margins across the financial industry.  In an effort to build its customer base, Goldman plans to make the web-based application available to customers who can then customize and operate the tools on their own.  Goldman joins many others in offering its own risk-management system to customers, including startups and big players like BlackRock.  It seems like every Fin is now a Tech as well.

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