While the financial technology sector continues to innovate and find tech-savvy ways to shake up traditional banking – from cross-border payments to blockchain enhanced transactions – a global financial watchdog has denied these firms pose a risk to the current system.
In a speech on 3 November at the Chatham House 'Banking Revolution' conference in London, Svein Andresen, secretary general of the Financial Stability Board, said that "much hype" surrounds the fintech sector and it remains important for authorities to "stay on top of developments."
However, as reported by Reuters, he added: "In our judgement, most fintech at this stage has not come to a point where systemic financial system risks are posed." Yet he admitted that regulators are "acutely aware" of the need to monitor for innovation and embrace technological change.
The Financial Stability Board, which manages financial regulation across the G20, is currently in the process of analysing the consequences – and benefits – of fintech. The watchdog was established in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis and consists of both regulators and government officials. Its current chair is the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.
In his speech Andresen said the focus of the FSB to date has been to analyse fintech in wholesale rather than retail markets, Reuters reported. Making reference to the rapid growth of fintech in some countries he warned "once the cat is out of the box" it can be difficult to contain.
In the UK, the central banking system has remained cautious about embracing fintech or blockchain technology. Nevertheless, the sector reportedly generated a significant £6.6bn in revenue in 2015 alone and also attracted £524m in investment last year, according to the government.
According to Coindesk, the FSB is planning to expand its work into blockchain. Yet like many – it remains in an exploratory stage. Back in July, the watchdog said it was looking into "risks and opportunities presented by the developments in financial technology."
In his speech, Andresen elaborated on these plans. He said: "We have considered the financial stability implications of distributed ledger technology, and we continue to work in this area, jointly with Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, to identify key issues that market participants and policymakers need to address."
He said the FSB and its partners have probed distributed ledger technology (DLT) and analysed the experiences with "innovation facilitators" such as hubs, sandboxes and accelerators.
After the launch of the UK's own fintech accelerator programme, officials within the Bank of England (BoE) said it was committed to looking at the opportunities digital currency and blockchain can provide, but like the FSB, remained hesitant to talk about solid plans.
Victoria Cleland, the chief cashier of the BoE, said: "There is a high expectation that the latest wave of fintech activity will be transformative [but] some of the most recent changes have been more tactical, and focused on enhancing the customer experience, while leaving the core structures unchanged. We have yet to see the paradigm shift."