Archive: April 2017

1
Is abolishing the 457 visa putting Australian jobs first now, but putting Australia’s tech future last?
2
FCA outlines FinTech and RegTech priorities for year ahead
3
Blockchain Has a Perception Problem
4
NetSpend Settles FTC Claim Regarding Prepaid Debit Cards
5
RegTech Association launches in Australia
6
FCA discussion paper on distributed ledger technology
7
Global FinTech Report 2017
8
UK Regulatory Innovation Plan
9
Part 1: What is the new Australian crowd sourced funding regime?
10
Part 2: Looking to raise capital under the new Australian crowd sourced funding regime?

Is abolishing the 457 visa putting Australian jobs first now, but putting Australia’s tech future last?

By Nyomi Gunasekera

As the dust clears after the Australian Government’s shock announcement to abolish the Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa scheme and replace it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage visa scheme – a move touted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to be “in the national interest to put Australians and Australian jobs first” – there has been much talk about what effect this might have across the industries which rely on overseas talent the most.

With Australia looking to position itself as a FinTech hub, the changes could impact our ability to attract top talent and may make it less viable for startups to base their operations here.

While the 457 scheme itself is set to be scrapped in March 2018, changes are already at play – most notably as of 19 April 2017, 216 occupations were removed from the eligible skilled occupations list for temporary skilled migration – many within the IT field including Web Developer, ICT Support and Test Engineers NEC (‘Not Elsewhere Classified’) and ICT Support Technicians NEC.

Pending applications in these categories will be rejected.  However, existing 457 visa holders will not be impacted by the changes.

Most 457s are granted for jobs requiring advanced skill and extensive experience, set by a national standard. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection statistics show that a large chunk of the 457s granted since 2014 have been in the Information Media and Telecommunications sector, and predominately in skill level 1 positions.

The question remains – will Australia have the local talent to plug this gap, or will roadblocks in the tech industry’s ability to bring in foreign skill and expertise before more Australians are adequately trained in IT harm the industry and the future of tech jobs in Australia?

FCA outlines FinTech and RegTech priorities for year ahead

By Jonathan Lawrence

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently issued its Business Plan 2017/18 that deals with its FinTech and RegTech priorities for the year ahead. The FCA wants to engage more with regional and Scottish FinTech hubs. In its risk outlook, the FCA talks about more complex value chains that utilise FinTech posing a risk to consumer protection and market integrity. The issues associated with the oversight and controls of increasingly complex chains of third party relationships are reflected in the FCA’s priorities. The technological resilience of incumbent firms will also continue to be an area of focus because of the risk of disruption to financial markets. The FCA states that FinTech firms may not fully understand the scope of regulation and its impact on their business model. This could lead to cases of non-compliance with FCA rules, which could pose risks to consumer protection and market integrity. In addition, the FCA fears that greater reliance on technology poses increased operational risk, and risks to market integrity. The FCA believes that FinTech business models shift risk from financial firms to consumers without consumers fully understanding the implications or having adequate safeguards.

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Blockchain Has a Perception Problem

By Tyler Kirk

The International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) just wrapped up a panel on “FinTech and the Transformation of Financial Services” here in Washington, DC. Presenting 4 propositions, the IMF invited the panelists and the audience to vote on whether they agreed or disagreed with each. Following the panel’s discussion on each proposition, the votes were compared. To the exclusion of all other Fintech topics, there was an almost singular focus on blockchain in each panelist’s response to the propositions. This focus by itself is illuminating, however the audience and the panel diverged dramatically on one proposition, whether FinTech will help rather than hinder regulation of AML and combatting the financing of terrorism (“CFT”). The panel agreed, 92% to 8%, that FinTech would assist with AML and CFT efforts. The audience was essentially split, agreeing 57% to 43%. Similarly, 40% of the audience believed FinTech posed a threat to financial stability while only 17% of the experts shared that view. The takeaway here is that, while those of us who are intimately familiar with this technology clearly understand its benefits, the general electorate does not. So, does Congress? Financial regulators? Now is the time to engage counsel and shape public policy.

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NetSpend Settles FTC Claim Regarding Prepaid Debit Cards

By Julia B. Jacobson and Eric A. Love

NetSpend Corporation has reached a settlement with the U.S. FTC about the FTC’s claims that NetSpend’s advertisements deceived consumers about the availability of funds deposited on general purpose reloadable prepaid cards (GPR Cards).

On its website, NetSpend indicates that its target customers are those without a traditional bank account or who “rely on alternative financial services.”  According to the FTC’s November 2016 complaint, NetSpend’s advertising promises “guaranteed approval” and “immediate access” to funds that are “always available.”  Instead, the complaint alleges, cardholders experienced delayed or denied access to funds on their GPR Cards and NetSpend depleted account balances by charging inactivity fees and often delayed resolving and providing provisional credit for account errors.  The FTC also noted in its complaint that thousands of customers “complained about NetSpend’s practices to government authorities, Better Business Bureau and NetSpend itself.”

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RegTech Association launches in Australia

By Claire de Koeyer and Jim Bulling

Launching in March 2017 the RegTech Association is focused on “promoting the achievements, partnerships, collaborations, incubations and seeding of RegTech in Australia” through advocating, educating and supporting businesses in the sector. This is likely to involve facilitating engagement with industry stakeholders, advancing the use of technology and improving regulatory compliance outcomes.

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FCA discussion paper on distributed ledger technology

By Jacob Ghanty 

The FCA has published a discussion paper (DP) on the potential uses of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in financial services.  The purpose of the DP is to start a dialogue on the risks and opportunities in relation to DLT.  The FCA has gained exposure to DLT through its Regulatory Sandbox initiative.

The FCA describes DLT as “a set of technological solutions that enables a single, sequenced, standardised and cryptographically-secured record of activity to be safely distributed to, and acted upon by, a network of varied participants.”  It states that industry efforts to investigate DLT have become especially concentrated over the past 24 months and, in the second half of 2017 into 2018, it expects to see firms moving on from “Proof of Concept” to “real-world” deployment of this kind of technology.

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Global FinTech Report 2017

By Jonathan Lawrence

In its recently published Global FinTech Report 2017, PwC provides the results of a survey based on the responses of over 1,300 participants involved in the financial services industry from 71 countries and across six regions. Respondents included CEOs, directors, heads of department and other top management.

Key messages include:

  • 88% of incumbents are increasingly concerned they are losing revenue to innovators
  • 77% of financial institutions will increase internal efforts to innovate and 82% expect to increase FinTech partnerships in the next three to five years
  • 77% expect to adopt blockchain in some way by 2020
  • 54% of incumbents see data storage, privacy and protection as the main regulatory barrier to innovation
  • 30% of large institutions are investing in artificial intelligence

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UK Regulatory Innovation Plan

By Jonathan Lawrence

The UK Treasury has recently published its Regulatory Innovation Plan in relation to FinTech. The plan overviews the current work and future projects of the four UK financial services regulators: Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the wider Bank of England (BoE). It examines how the regulators are adapting to and encouraging disruptive business models and also utilising new technologies to reduce regulatory burdens on business. Highlights include:

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Part 1: What is the new Australian crowd sourced funding regime?

By Rania Seoud, Claire de Koeyer and Daniel Knight

Crowd-sourced funding (CSF) is a developing alternative to traditional capital funding methods, allowing eligible early stage / start-up companies to raise funds from a larger pool of investors without the need for costly disclosure documents such as a prospectus.

CSF took significant steps forward with  the Corporations Amendment (Crowd Sourced Funding) 2016 (Cth) (Act) that establishes a regulatory framework to facilitate CSF by small, unlisted public companies in Australia receiving assent and coming into operation. The CSF regime takes effect from 28 September 2017.

The Act allows eligible unlisted public companies with an annual turnover or gross assets of up to $25 million to advertise their business plans on a licensed online crowd funding platform to raise up to $5 million in 12 month rolling periods. Investors receive a share of the company in return for their investment.

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Part 2: Looking to raise capital under the new Australian crowd sourced funding regime?

By Rania Seoud, Andrew Gaffney and Daniel Knight

While the CSF regime removes some of the existing regulatory barriers to capital raising, there are a number of other key considerations for eligible companies intending to utilise the CSF regime.  Below are just a few:

  • CSF intermediary platform requirements: Offers for a company’s securities must be made through an authorised CSF intermediary. At this point in time and apart from service fees, it is unclear whether a CSF intermediary will impose any other obligations on the company to be admitted onto their platform (e.g. due diligence, verification and CSF offer document sign off obligations).
  • Disclosure requirements: The CSF offer document must contain certain information required by the regulations which are yet to be released.
  • Liability: The Company and its individual directors and officers may be held liable for loss or damage suffered by a person due to a defective CSF offer document. Accordingly, it is important that you have a reasonable objective basis for the contents of the CSF offer document. In particular, you will need to be careful when providing financial forecasts and statements regarding future events.
  • Restrictions on advertising: There will be restrictions on advertising for the CSF offer.
  • How do you value your business: In practice, you will need to determine a pre-money valuation for your company to set an appropriate offer issue price.
  • Setting a minimum size for investment: While there is a maximum investment cap of $10,000 per investor per offer, to avoid having many shareholders with small parcels and the associated administrative burden, you may want to consider setting a minimum subscription amount.
  • Share buy-back mechanisms: Where certain requirements are met, companies utilising the CSF regime will be exempt from meeting higher corporate governance and reporting requirements applicable to public companies for a period of 5 years (e.g. annual audit and filing of financial statements). At the expiry of the 5 year period, the company may want to ensure that it has in place effective mechanisms to allow it to convert back to a proprietary company should the need arise (e.g. consider including share buy-back, share valuation mechanisms in the company’s constitutional documents).

You may find our article on CSF intermediaries and ASIC’s CSF Guidance of use. 

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