On 4 August 2017, the European Banking Authority (EBA) published a discussion paper on its approach to FinTech. To enable a better understanding and insight into the financial services offered and financial innovations being applied by FinTech firms within the European Union, the EBA undertook a FinTech mapping exercise. The EBA received responses from 22 Member States and two European Economic Area (EEA) states, and the discussion paper outlines the results of its EU-wide mapping exercise, the main financial services provided, regulatory status and proposals on future work on FinTech.
Like an iceberg, the majority of the internet is concealed from plain sight. The “Dark Web,” or websites and content that use anonymizing networks to provide untraceable access to unindexed sections of the web, comprises a segment of what lies beneath that which is visible through a Google search. Cliff Histed and Nicole Mueller contributed an article to American Lawyer on this topic. The article contains insight into the concerns shared by former FBI Director, James Comey, as well as European law enforcement authorities.
To read the article, click here.
The European Commission recently announced that it is working on setting up an EU blockchain observatory. This will be a pilot project to build up technical expertise and regulatory capacity on topics related to blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT).
The EU blockchain observatory is being developed under the framework of the European Commission’s Task Force on FinTech, which was established following the adoption by the European Parliament of an own-initiative report on virtual currencies on 26 May 2016. Co-chaired by the European Commission’s Directorate Generals on Financial Services (DG FISMA) and on the Digital Single Market (DG CONNECT), the Task Force was set up in November 2016 to explore policy responses to FinTech. It is expected to deliver its final recommendations in the course of 2017.
On 14 November 2016, the European Commission launched an internal Task Force on Financial Technology (TFFT) that aims to assess and make the most of innovation in the FinTech area, while also developing strategies to address the potential challenges that FinTech poses. The work of this Task Force builds on the European Commission’s goal to develop a comprehensive strategy on FinTech. It appears to take a cautious approach. The launch statement warns that “technological development provides great opportunities for existing financial institutions, alternative service providers and new business models, provided that any risks are carefully managed”. This internal Task Force will bring together the expertise of European Commission staff across several areas, such as financial and digital services, digital innovation and security, and competition and consumer protection. It will also engage with stakeholders and present policy suggestions and recommendations in the first half of 2017.
Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said:
“we see technological innovation in finance as a development that we need to encourage and enable. It brings huge opportunities for consumers and for industry, both by established players and new Fintech firms. Our Task Force will help us make sure that our policy supports the pursuit of these opportunities, while addressing any risks that may emerge. Efficient financial markets need to make the best possible use of the opportunities that technology presents, while also preserving competition and making sure that new operating systems are safe.”
Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger said:
“Digital innovation is transforming the entire economy and in particular the financial services sector. It disrupts business models and value chains, leads to the emergence of new players and services. The Digital Single Market strategy aims at laying down an appropriate framework and enabling solutions concerning for instance electronic authentication or cyber-security. Our ambition is to foster financial innovation while preserving financial stability and protecting consumers and investors.”
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.
A new trade body designed to aid regulatory understanding of virtual currencies has been launched in response to increased government interest in Europe.
The Brussels-based European Digital Currency & Blockchain Technology Forum (EDCAB) is a public policy platform for digital currencies and distributed ledger technologies. It also co-organised an industry expo for policymakers in the European Parliament from 18 to 21 April 2016.
Virtual currencies have rapidly risen up the European policy agenda in all the major institutions:
- The Council of the European Union put virtual currencies at the top of a list of targeted areas for rapid progress at its February 2016 meeting, and has called for legislation to be tabled by the end of June 2016.
- The European Parliament is preparing its own initiative report on virtual currencies, with the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs scheduled to vote on the report on 25 April 2016. Additionally, the Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection is also considering the issue later in April.
- The European Commission has been considering regulation of virtual currencies through its Action Plan and proposals to combat terrorist financing, with legislation ready for the end of June 2016.
By Jacob Ghanty
The second EU Payment Services Directive is set to change the banking landscape in Europe. In the linked article, Jacob Ghanty describes some of the changes that PSD2 will bring about. This article was first published in inCOMPLIANCE, member publication of the International Compliance Association www.int-comp.org.