Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), sometimes referred to as blockchain, is coming under increased scrutiny by policy makers in the EU institutions. We have produced a one page guide highlighting the key initiatives which companies using DLT should be following.
To a rather muted fanfare, the British Government published its industrial strategy green paper last month. As far as the energy and climate change audience were concerned, in the run-up to the publication of the strategy, the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Department (BEIS) – a department still in its infancy - was essentially facing two challenges:
2017 is set to be a year of acceleration in the pace of regulation of the financial services sector at global and European levels. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) is making steady progress on plans including a leverage ratio surcharge for global systemically important institutions (G-SIIs).
In July, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – the body that regulates loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding in the UK – launched a ‘call for input’ on the current rules applied to crowdfunding in the UK.
The prospect of video gamers becoming paid professionals, and people placing bets on the outcome of contests, would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago.
Some of the UK political instability following the EU Referendum in June is beginning to dissipate. A new Prime Minister, reshuffled Ministerial teams, and reshaped Government machinery are in place. A timetable of sorts for the next steps is beginning to form, ie. no triggering of Article 50 to commence the departure negotiations, during this calendar year, but likely early in 2017. What is still concealed in opacity is any inkling of what the UK position might be in the parallel discussions on a future economic and co-operative relationship with the EU.
Last week’s gloomy Global Economic Outlook from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (the OECD) raises further questions on the degree of reliance placed by policymakers on monetary policy as an engine to boost output in a low growth, ultra-low inflation, economic environment. Markit Economics’ recent study of combined PMI indicators for the UK and the Eurozone indicated growth in the second quarter of 2016 of 0.2% and 0.3% in each respective market. The OECD downgraded the forecast for UK GDP growth in 2016 to 1.7%.
Last week’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) set of interim recommendations on the UK retail banking sector represents the culmination of nearly two years work from the new competition regulator analysing plans for structural, market, and anti-trust reform of the industry. It is important to remember the political context which gave rise to the enquiry.
With just six weeks left to go, the battle over the UK’s continued membership of the European Union is rising in volume and intensity. A key issue for investors in UK-traded financial services products and markets is undoubtedly what effects the decision made on June 23 will have on the climate for purchasing or retaining bonds, equities or other assets linked to either the performance of sterling or the stock market. Ultimately these are reflections on the underlying health of the UK economy itself, and the likely economic temperature if the UK stays within or leaves the Single Market, both in the short term and medium-to-long term.
One of the key policy responses to the financial crisis which led to the Great Recession was the subsequent action taken by EU Heads of Government through the European Council in June 2009 to strengthen the regulatory system governing all financial services providers within the Single Market area. In establishing a new European Banking Authority (EBA), within a European System of Financial Supervisors, which could take decisions on the basis of majority voting, member states also adopted a trio of regulations applicable throughout the Single Market – known together as the Single Rulebook.
In most parts of the world, the Millennial Generation has more personal and economic freedom than any which preceded it, but is also facing a squeeze on wealth and assets not experienced in the last 70 years. The UK Government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission considers that social mobility is in danger of going into reverse in some areas of the UK, and that inequality of assets between generations could worsen matters.
These are key months in the future of financial services, and for the power of traditional banks in the global economy. The recent Citigroup report spelled out in clear terms the potential of Blockchain technology, which underpins the digital currency Bitcoin, to revolutionise financial services way beyond payment and remittance services, into asset management and insurance. The report modelled projected surges in Blockchain use in retail banking services and automation of some routine financial advice, with a multi-trillion potential market in new peer-to-peer lending created by the app economy, while having the effect of losing 1.7m retail banking jobs in the EU and US. A recent McKinsey study showed that in Western Europe as much as 40% of new deposits could come via digital-only banking by the end of the decade, and 80% of people in developed Asian markets would be prepared to shift their accounts to banks offering digital only platforms.
Referendums are transformative events. Governments may come and go, but a decision to stay in or leave an economic union like the EU is an irrevocable judgement on the nation’s destiny – the most important decision in the lifetimes of voters in the UK. The implications will affect everything from the regulation of the air we breathe to the pensions we invest in. For the financial services sector, the general investment climate in the UK, as well as the contours of central bank policy on the equity banks must retain as capital buffers will be shaped by the outcome on June 23.
The world of financial services is changing fast. The implications of blockchain technology or decentralised ledgers may not yet be a hot kitchen table topic but has the potential to utterly change the worlds of banking, insurance, asset management, and access to finance. In short, it could transform the economy around us. Though the US remains the largest base for investment in FinTech companies developing peer to peer finance and smart payment mechanisms with over $12bn investment in FinTech startups in 2015, more than doubling year on year growth, the UK is the fastest growing global market. With over £3.5bn annual investment in the sector in the UK, it is Europe’s FinTech leader over competition from Paris and Frankfurt.
The ways and means in which regulation is developed and implemented in the internet age have changed. Regulation across the globe can only follow the rapid expansion of new innovation and business models in, for example, online short-term rentals or car-sharing platforms. There is a continuing trend towards companies developing an idea and going to the market with it fast, with the result that regulation is so far behind it must adapt to the new business environment.
On a day when the entire financial services industry in the UK and in Continental Europe dissected the long-awaited – albeit leaked – European Commission Action Plan on Capital Markets Union, a few eyebrows were raised about some potential implications for the fintech community. Regulators at national and supranational level are still pondering over an optimal regulatory framework to promote the fintech industry whilst at the same time ensuring adequate consumer protection; but not necessarily on a like-for-like basis with the established providers, who are already beginning to use the ‘level playing field’ argument to challenge the disruptors.
In a speech at the European Parliament plenary debate on Monday 6th July, First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said that the Commission “remains strongly committed” to present a circular economy package towards the end of this year. The reasons are quite simple: Vice-President Katainen, Commissioner Vella, Commissioner Bienkowska, and others, essentially believe that the new circular economy package can bring:
In February of this year, the European Commission unveiled its Green Paper for ‘Building a Capital Markets Union’. Over the coming five years it will be the flagship project for the Directorate General responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (DG FISMA). The Green Paper clearly states that the European Commission’s objective is to stimulate economic growth, largely through simpler access to capital markets, which will diversify the sources of SME financing and in turn support their growth. So what does the Capital Markets Union (CMU) mean for new innovative and a high growth companies? How does the CMU plan address their many concerns whilst also building on their many achievements?
With the UK General Election just six weeks away, the recent Budget was an opportune time for The Chancellor, George Osborne, to set out his stall and give the UK electorate a glimpse of what a Conservative-led Government after the election would prioritise. Among the macroeconomic announcements and promises were policies solely aimed at the growing financial technology (Fintech) sector. Both the Conservative Party and Labour Party now recognise the importance of this budding industry and have been quick to publicise their aspirations for the sector, should they lead the next Government.
Crowdfunding is now considered a legitimate alternative form of finance for businesses across Europe. The sector continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down. Investment-based (or equity) crowdfunding is no exception – according to a recent report by NESTA, this form of crowdfunding grew by 201 per cent in 2014.