The speed at which technology is changing the financial services landscape is putting unprecedented pressure on regulators.
Digital technologies are reshaping payments, lending, insurance and wealth management – a process accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As policymakers attempt to lay the groundwork for their inevitable closer integration with traditional finance, they need to strike a fine balance between:
Not to stifle but to promote innovation
Meeting the core regulatory objectives of financial stability, financial integrity, fair competition and consumer protection, including data privacy.
Stay one step ahead of the potentially unintended consequences of disruption
Multiple technologies are driving innovation in finance. Whether it’s APIs, artificial intelligence and machine learning, biometrics, cloud computing or distributed ledger technology, they all face their own regulatory challenges.
These nascent technologies—under the guise of digital banking, crowdfunding, borderless payments, robo-advisory, or encrypted assets—are expanding rapidly.
They are creating new patterns of consumer behavior — bypassing traditional intermediaries and eroding old boundaries — and disrupting traditional business models.
This all means that the regulatory gap is a challenge: for both innovators and regulators. The idea that regulations can be drafted slowly and remain unchanged for a long time has been turned upside down. But because most existing regulations were not written with digital channels in mind, innovation and regulation are often at odds.
With the rapid emergence of new fintech services, government agencies are challenged to draft or amend regulations at unprecedented speed.
Regulators must weigh the benefits and risks while developing technology-specific policies, guidelines and/or regulations to protect consumers and the financial system.
But the good news is that many governments are taking swift action. The global success of the “regulatory sandbox” approach is evidence of this.
In the UK, following UK FinTech’s Kalifa Review, the UK has now permanently opened the regulatory sandbox it began piloting in 2015.
what is it? It is a service that provides regulatory expertise to simplify pre-launch testing for companies looking to deliver innovations in the UK financial services market.
It is being emulated globally – in some 50+ countries, making the sandbox now synonymous with fintech innovation.
This learning-by-trying approach has proven to be a win-win for both regulators and fintech companies:
The sandbox provides a safe environment for fintech companies to test their products under close regulatory oversight
Firms receive advice to help them navigate regulatory complexities and simplify pathways to authorization
At the same time, regulators gain the evidence base for their regulation and awareness of what needs to change.
In addition, they gain the advantage of being familiar with new financial technologies and trends and have the opportunity to identify risks.
Technological developments may not yet have led to major changes in the structure of financial regulation. Its prudential safeguards, consumer protection and market integrity remain largely unaffected.
But if the future of fintech is technology-driven, regulation and regulatory intervention will inevitably catch up as regulators measure the innovation and efficiency brought by new entrants against gaps in regulation, enforcement and consumer protection. Potential challenges.
The key to success is balance. For regulators, this means keeping pace with innovation. For the fintech space, this means responsible creation.