Global Regulators Now Eyeing Fintech

This picture taken on June 20, 2014, shows an entrance of La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Stephane de Sakutin — AFP/Getty Images

Global regulators may propose rules to prevent “fintech” innovations from destabilizing the broader financial system, the G20’s Financial Stability Board said on Saturday.

FSB Chairman Mark Carney said in a letter to central bankers and finance ministers from the Group of 20 economies meeting in Shanghai that assessing the systemic implications of fintech innovations would form part of the task force’s core policy work this year.

It marks the first time that regulators at the global level have begun scrutinising fintech, a sector that includes blockchain, the distributed ledger technology underpinning bitcoin that proponents say could radically change payments systems.

So far regulators have been treading carefully as countries such as Britain are wary of crimping a sector that is still tiny compared with banking, but could create many new jobs in future.

“The regulatory framework must ensure that it is able to manage any systemic risks that may arise from technological change without stifling innovation,” Carney said.

The FSB will discuss its findings in March and consider its next steps, he added.

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Carney, who is also Governor of the Bank of England, said the more difficult economic and financial conditions since the start of this year partly reflect weaker growth prospects.

Banking shares have come under pressure, reflecting concerns that lenders have to do more to adjust their long-term business models to a lower growth, lower nominal interest rate environment, Carney said.

Carney said the FSB will report in September on whether there has been a reduction in market liquidity and, if so, its extent, drivers and likely persistence.

Banks and central bankers have locked horns over why liquidity in secondary bond markets has thinned, with bankers blaming tougher regulation introduced by the FSB and others since the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Central bankers say much of the heavier liquidity in markets before the crisis was “illusory” with insufficient evidence so far to show that some of the new rules need rolling back.


Linked to the liquidity issue is a worry that asset managers could not cope with heavy redemptions, or investors pulling money out of bond funds en masse.

“We have prioritised work to analyse structural vulnerabilities in asset management activities and to identify risks that may merit policy responses in four areas,” Carney said.

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The FSB, which sets global standards implemented by G20 member countries, will issue policy recommendations in September after looking at leverage in funds, and their operational risks and securities lending activities.

“An over-optimistic ‘liquidity illusion’ may have been reinforced by the growth of investment products offering redemptions at very short notice,” Carney said.

Policies to reduce “fire-sale” risks in open-ended investment funds may also help, he said.

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Carney said IOSCO, which groups global securities markets regulators, will publish by December a “toolkit” of measures to promote proper conduct by individuals and firms in markets.

Global regulators will also consult on more detailed rules to prevent clearing houses, which stand between two sides of a derivatives trade, from becoming “too big to fail” due to their size and reach, Carney said.

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