The following posts provide a snapshot of the principal U.S., European and global financial regulatory developments of interest to banks, investment firms, broker-dealers, market infrastructures, asset managers and corporates.
UK Parliamentary Committee Calls For Urgent Regulation of Crypto-Assets
The U.K. House of Commons Treasury Committee has published a report calling for crypto-assets to be regulated in the U.K. as a matter of urgency. The Treasury Committee considers that the current "ambiguity of the UK Government and regulators' position is clearly not sustainable" and is recommending that an amendment be made to the Regulated Activities Order to bring crypto-assets within the U.K. regulatory perimeter, supervised by the Financial Conduct Authority. The Committee does not specify in the report the activity related to crypto-assets that should go into the RAO, but recommends that it should at least include the issuance of crypto-assets through Initial Coin Offerings and the provision of crypto-exchange services. This will, according to the Committee's report, address anti-money laundering risks and consumer protection, aligning investor protections with those adopted in the U.S.
The Committee is also seeking various actions by the Government and the U.K. regulators.
US Agencies Issue Multiple Digital Asset-Related Enforcement Orders
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority have issued three digital asset-related enforcement orders, and the SEC also suspended trading in two securities that track the value of digital assets. The orders mark an uptick in digital asset enforcement from previous months.
Crypto Asset Management, LP
On September 11, 2018, the SEC alleged that hedge fund manager Crypto Asset Management (CAM) had caused its Crypto Asset Fund (CAF) to fail to register as an investment company based on its digital asset investments, marking the first time the SEC has invoked the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the 1940 Act) in an enforcement proceeding against the managing member of a pooled investment vehicle that invests in digital assets.
Basel Committee on Banking Supervision Provides Brief Update on Various Workstreams
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has published a press release summarizing the outcome of its meeting on September 19-20, 2018. The Committee committed to consider Pillar 1 and Pillar 3 measures to prevent banks adjusting their balance sheets around regulatory reporting dates to manipulate reported leverage ratios. In addition, the Committee intends to further analyze banks' exposures to crypto-assets to reach a conclusion on whether action is needed to address the risks that these assets may present.
The Basel Committee will publish the following before the end of the year:
- an updated 2018 list of global systemically important banks, along with the high-level indicator values of all the banks that are within the G-SIB assessment exercise;
- final revisions to the market risk framework (towards the end of the year);
- a consultation paper (in October 2018) on whether the exposure measure should be revised to alleviate its impact on client clearing, including presenting options for revising this; and
- the revised Principles on Stress Testing (in October 2018).
The Basel Committee also published responses to Frequently Asked Questions on the treatment of settled-to-market derivatives under the Liquidity Coverage Ratio and Net Stable Funding Ratio.
View the press release.
View the FAQs.
US and Singaporean Regulators Sign FinTech Collaboration Agreement
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Monetary Authority of Singapore today signed a cooperation arrangement on FinTech innovation, which is to be supported by the agencies' respective FinTech initiatives, LabCFTC and the MAS Financial Technology & Innovation Group. The arrangement will facilitate inter-agency cooperation on FinTech innovation and referrals for innovators that wish to enter the other regulator's market. In addition, it will provide an information sharing framework between the agencies focused on FinTech market trends and developments, innovations and best practices within their respective jurisdictions. The arrangement also calls for joint events, proofs of concept, trials and innovation competitions where permitted, along with periodic meetings to discuss FinTech issues of common interest.
CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo in a statement said that he believes this collaboration with the MAS will "enhance global awareness of the critical role of regulators in 21st century digital markets," while Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the MAS, said that he hopes the arrangement will "create more opportunities for firms in both jurisdictions, especially in developing innovative business models for the derivatives market."
The arrangement follows a similar agreement reached by the CFTC and the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority this past February, and reflects the global nature of FinTech markets and the importance of cross-border collaboration between regulators.
View the cooperation agreement.
View the CFTC/FCA agreement.
European Supervisory Authorities Report on Automation in Financial Advice
The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities has published a joint report on automation in financial advice. The Report follows the ESA's 2015 joint discussion paper and follow-up report in 2016. The Report provides a summary of recent sectoral work by the ESAs in this area and the main findings of a survey with national regulators on the evolution of automation in financial advice in the securities, banking and insurance sectors. The ESAs observed that automated services are more often offered through partnerships between established financial intermediaries and FinTech firms than by FinTech firms alone. The ESAs also found that automation in financial advice has grown slowly and that the number of firms and customers involved is still limited. As a result, the ESAs do not consider that any of the previously identified risks have materialized and therefore that further action is unnecessary at this stage. The ESAs will conduct a new monitoring exercise if and when market developments and risks merit the work.
View the report.
Regulators Unveil Plans to Launch Global Financial Innovation Network
12 international financial regulators and related organizations have announced the launch of the Global Financial Innovation Network. The announcement, which was accompanied by a consultation paper on the role and objectives of the GFIN, serves as part two of a whitepaper published earlier this year by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority on the possibility of forming a "global sandbox." The GFIN, as proposed, would consist of three components: (i) information sharing and collaboration through a network of regulators; (ii) joint policy work and regulatory trials; and (iii) cross-border firm trials.
The GFIN hopes to build upon existing information sharing agreements to allow information sharing to take place on a larger and quicker scale, which would allow regulators to fill information gaps related to innovation, technological trends and emerging issues. This would help FinTech firms navigate international regulations by providing a comprehensive forum through which to interact with multiple regulators. In addition, the GFIN aims to provide a space to encourage joint policy work and address areas of divergence between financial services regulators, particularly with respect to emerging technologies and legacy business models and regulatory frameworks. As envisioned, the GFIN would also facilitate cross-border trials of emerging technologies across global jurisdictions.
US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Begins Accepting National Bank Charters from FinTech Companies
The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced that it would begin accepting national bank charter applications from non-depository FinTech companies that seek to engage in the business of banking. In connection with the announcement, the OCC released a policy statement that outlines the OCC’s chartering authority with respect to non-depository FinTech companies, the OCC’s stated support for reasonable innovation, and the chartering standards and supervisory expectations applicable to such institutions.
US Treasury Publishes Report on Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation
The U.S. Department of the Treasury released its report on Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation. The FinTech report is the fourth in a series mandated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13772 on Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System.
UK Payment Systems Regulator Reports on the UK Contactless Mobile Payment Sector
The U.K. Payment Systems Regulator has published a Report setting out its understanding of the Contactless Mobile Payments sector, following information-gathering during 2016 and 2017. CMPs are in-store payments made by consumers, using apps installed on their mobile devices, usually using Near Field Technology for communication between the mobile device and the retailer's point-of-sale terminal and with payment security enabled via a "tokenization" process.
The PSR conducted two calls for information in 2016 and 2017, to increase its understanding of:
- whether the way CMPs operate and the way they are being offered in the U.K. potentially affects competition, innovation and the interests of people and organizations that use payment systems (and, if so, how); and
- whether there were any restrictions affecting the provision of tokenization services.
The Report explains how CMPs work from a functional and technical perspective, outlines the main participants and their respective roles, summarizes the PSR's consideration of particular issues and proposes next steps.
UK Financial Conduct Authority Proposes Changes to Rules Governing Peer-to-Peer Lending Platforms
The Financial Conduct Authority has launched a consultation on new rules for loan-based crowdfunding platforms, also known as peer-to-peer lending platforms. The FCA implemented rules regulating FCA-authorized firms operating investment-based and loan-based crowdfunding platforms on April 1, 2014. Investment-based crowdfunding is governed by the Markets in Financial Instruments package and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, as transposed into U.K. law. The regime for P2P lending is a national one and is less detailed and prescriptive.
The FCA began a post-implementation review of the crowdfunding sector and the applicable regimes in 2016. In the post-implementation review, the FCA identified that harm may be caused to investors as a result of poor business practices and due to the business models that some platforms have adopted. The consultation paper summarizes the FCA's findings from that review and sets out the FCA's proposals to change certain rules and guidance.
G20 Sets October 2018 Deadline for Financial Action Task Force to Clarify AML/CTF Standards For Crypto Assets
The G20 Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors have issued a communiqué following their meeting in Buenos Aires on July 21 - 22, 2018. Among other things, the communiqué requests that the Financial Action Task Force clarify, by October 2018, how its global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards apply to crypto assets.
The FATF's global standards (also known as the 40 Recommendations) promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. However, the FATF standards do not refer explicitly to crypto assets or the associated service providers and intermediaries, which creates uncertainty as to the scope of AML/CTF obligations that may apply to them.
Bank of England Confirms its Renewed Real-Time Gross Settlement System Can Interface With DLT
The Bank of England has published the outcomes from a "Proof of Concept" it ran to understand how its renewed Real-Time Gross Settlement service could be capable of supporting settlement in systems operating on innovative payment technologies, such as those built on Distributed Ledger Technology. The BoE has operated the RTGS service since 1996 to provide a safe and reliable means of settling high-value cash payments in real time in sterling central bank money. The BoE published a blueprint for renewal of the RTGS in May 2017, setting out how it proposed to overhaul the system to ensure higher resilience, broader access, wider interoperability, improved user functionality and strengthened end-to-end risk management of the high-value payment system.
UK Conduct Regulator Outlines Scope of Digital Regulatory Reporting Pilot
The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has published the terms of reference (dated June 2018) for the pilot phase of its Digital Regulatory Reporting project. The FCA is working with the Bank of England in the RegTech sphere to explore ways of using technology to link regulation, compliance procedures and firms' policies and standards together with firms' transactional applications and databases.
The FCA published a Call for Input in February 2018 following a TechSprint in November 2017, at which a 'proof of concept' was achieved, showing that it was feasible to make regulatory reporting requirements machine readable and executable. Using this "Digital Regulatory Reporting" would allow firms to map their regulatory requirements directly to the data that they hold. Potential benefits include automated, straight-through processing of regulatory returns, greater accuracy in data submissions and faster implementation of changes in regulatory requirements, as well as cost reduction and improvements to competition.
Financial Action Task Force Reports to G20 and Financial Action Task Force' US Presidency Announces Priority Work for 2018-2019
The Financial Action Task Force has published its report to the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. The report gives an overview of recent FATF work and its proposed next steps in its current workstreams. The United States takes over the FATF Presidency for the period July 2018 to June 2019 and has separately published a document summarizing its priority and other initiatives for the duration of its presidency.
Financial Stability Board Reports on the Work of International Bodies on Crypto-Assets
The Financial Stability Board has issued a report to the G20 providing an overview of its current work on crypto-assets and that of the international standard setters, namely the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, the International Organization of Securities Commissions and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. The G20 Ministers of Finance and Central Bank Governors issued a communiqué in March 2018 stating that they were concerned that crypto-assets raise a number of problematic issues in the contexts of consumer and investor protection, market integrity, tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing. The G20 highlighted that crypto-assets may also have implications for financial stability and called on the FSB to provide a report on ongoing work by July 2018.
UK Regulator Announces Successful Applicants to Cohort Four of Its Regulatory Sandbox
The Financial Conduct Authority has published a press release confirming the acceptance of 29 firms to begin testing in the fourth cohort of its regulatory sandbox.
The FCA's regulatory sandbox is part of Project Innovate, the FCA's initiative for encouraging innovation in the interest of consumers. On its launch in June 2016, the FCA sandbox was the first in the world and has since been emulated by regulators globally. The sandbox is open to authorized and unauthorized firms of all sizes and provides a controlled live environment for participating firms to test product and service innovations on a time-limited basis. Applicants to the sandbox must satisfy strict eligibility criteria to be able to test in the sandbox and testing is subject to appropriate safeguards for consumer protection which are set on a case-by-case basis. Cohort 4 had 69 applicants, which is the largest number of applicants to date.
European Banking Authority Publishes First Outputs from Its FinTech Roadmap
Following the publication of its FinTech Roadmap in March 2018, the European Banking Authority has published two reports contemplated by the Roadmap.
The first report sets out the results of a thematic review of the impact of FinTech on the business models of incumbent credit institutions. The second report outlines the perceived benefits and potential prudential risks of seven FinTech use cases.
The EBA has also established a FinTech Knowledge Hub for the sharing of information and experience and promotion of emerging trends among EU national regulators.
UK Prudential Regulator Sets out Expectations on Firms' Exposures to Crypto-Assets
The U.K. Prudential Regulation Authority has published a "Dear CEO" letter, addressed to the Chief Executive Officers of banks, insurance companies and designated investment firms. The purpose of the letter is to remind firms of their relevant obligations under the PRA rules and to communicate the PRA's expectations regarding firms' exposures to crypto-assets.
Crypto-assets have exhibited high price volatility and relative illiquidity and may also be vulnerable to fraud and manipulation, which raises concerns about potential misconduct and poses issues for market integrity. The PRA's letter does not define crypto-assets, but the Financial Conduct Authority uses this term to refer to any publicly available electronic medium of exchange that features a distributed ledger and a decentralized system for exchange. The FCA recently published a "Dear CEO" letter outlining best practice for firms in handling the financial crime risks that crypto-assets can pose.
European Banking Authority Proposes Updated Guidelines on Outsourcing by Financial Institutions
The European Banking Authority has launched a consultation on draft Guidelines on outsourcing arrangements. The proposed Guidelines are intended to update and replace the outsourcing guidelines issued in 2006 (by the EBA's predecessor, the Committee of European Banking Supervisors) that applied to outsourcing by credit institutions. The proposed Guidelines will have a wider scope, applying to all financial institutions that are within the scope of the EBA's mandate, namely credit institutions and investment firms subject to the Capital Requirements Directive, payment institutions and electronic money institutions. The proposed Guidelines also integrate the recommendation on outsourcing to cloud service providers that was published by the EBA in December 2017.
The proposed Guidelines set out a definition of outsourcing in line with delegated legislation under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. They cover: (i) proportionality and group application; (ii) the nature of outsourcing arrangements; (iii) the applicable governance framework; (iv) the outsourcing process; and (v) guidelines on outsourcing addressed to competent authorities. A separate Annex provides an illustrative template that could be used for complying with the requirement in the proposed Guidelines to maintain a register of all outsourcing arrangements at institution and group level where applicable.
EU's Fifth Money Laundering Directive to Enter into Force July 2018
The Fifth Money Laundering Directive has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will enter into force on July 9, 2018. Member States must transpose the directive into their national laws within 18 months of that date. 5MLD makes a number of changes to the European Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing regime set out in the Fourth Money Laundering Directive.
The key changes introduced by 5MLD are:
1. Extending the scope of "obliged entities" to include providers of exchange services between virtual and fiat currencies as well as custodian wallet providers. These entities will need to register in their home Member State.
2. Harmonizing the application of enhanced customer due diligence for third countries that are determined by the European Commission to be high risk countries. Member States will be able to apply additional measures, where appropriate.
UK Financial Conduct Authority Sets out Good Practice for Handling Financial Crime Risks from Crypto-Assets
The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has published a "Dear CEO" letter to U.K. authorized banks, setting out its views on best practice that banks should adopt for handling the financial crime risks that may be posed by so-called crypto-assets. The FCA uses this term to refer to any publicly available electronic medium of exchange that features a distributed ledger and a decentralized system for exchange. Crypto-assets include crypto-currencies, a well-known example of which is Bitcoin. The FCA acknowledges that crypto-assets can be used without any criminal motives. However, the fact that crypto-assets can be held relatively anonymously and can be readily transferred between countries can make them attractive for criminal purposes. Banks should adopt proportionate measures to mitigate the risk that they are used to facilitate financial crimes involving crypto-assets.
EU Fifth Money Laundering Directive Adopted
The Council of the European Union has adopted the EU's Fifth Money Laundering Directive, following the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council in December 2017. 5MLD will amend the existing EU Money Laundering Directive.
US District Court Dismisses Challenge to US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency FinTech Charter
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors challenging the OCC’s authority to grant special purpose national bank charters to companies that provide bank-like services but do not accept deposits (largely FinTech companies.) The D.C. District Court’s decision follows the December 2017 dismissal by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York of a similar lawsuit filed by the New York State Department of Financial Services against the OCC. The court found that CSBS did not have standing to bring the action, as it did not plead an injury in fact and that any of the grounds asserted by the CSBS were speculative and contingent on whether the OCC in fact charters a FinTech company, and that regardless, CSBS failed to identify an imminent injury to a particular member of its organization. In addition, the court dismissed the action on ripeness grounds, citing, among other reasons, that the OCC still has yet to issue a charter to a FinTech company.
View full text of the court’s decision.
Financial Action Task Force Publishes Outcomes of its 2018 Private Sector Consultative Forum
The Financial Action Task Force held its annual private sector consultative forum in Vienna on April 23 – 24, 2018. The annual forum provides a platform for the FATF to learn more about the private sector's views and concerns on issues related to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. Attendees at the forum included representatives from the financial sector and other businesses and professions subject to AML/CTF obligations.
UK Financial Conduct Authority Publishes its 2018/19 Business Plan
The Financial Conduct Authority has published its Business Plan for 2018/19 which sets out its key priorities for the coming year. The FCA confirms that it will continue to focus on issues relating to the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU by working with the Government, ensuring appropriate transition measures for EEA firms, working towards operational readiness and cooperating at international level.
The FCA divides the remainder of its priorities into cross-sector priorities and sector priorities. There are seven cross-sector priorities: firms' culture and governance; financial crime and anti-money laundering; data security, resilience and outsourcing; innovation, big data, technology and competition; treatment of existing customers; long-term savings, pensions and intergenerational differences; and high-cost credit. There are seven sector priority areas: wholesale financial markets; investment management; retail lending; pensions and retirement income; retail investments; retail banking; and general insurance and protection. The FCA also published Sector Views for each of these sectors which provide an FCA view of how each sector was performing as of mid-2017.
UK Financial Conduct Authority Confirms Regulatory Status of Cryptocurrency Derivatives
The Financial Conduct Authority has published a statement confirming the regulatory requirements applicable to firms engaged in cryptocurrency derivatives. The FCA does not regulate cryptocurrencies, provided that they do not form part of other regulated services or products. However, the FCA states that cryptocurrency derivatives may be categorized as financial instruments under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II and that firms carrying out regulated activities in cryptocurrency derivatives should comply with the FCA's Handbook rules as well as the directly applicable EU provisions. The FCA points out that dealing in, arranging transactions in, advising on or providing other services that are regulated activities in relation to derivatives that reference cryptocurrencies or tokens issued through an Initial Coin Offering will require FCA authorization.
View the FCA's statement.
European Central Bank Issues Final Guides on Licensing Credit Institutions and FinTech Credit Institutions
The European Central Bank has published finalized versions of its guides “Guide to Assessments of Licence Applications” and “Guide to Assessments of FinTech Credit Institution Licence Applications”, following consideration of the responses to consultations on draft versions of the guides, which the ECB ran between September and November 2017.
The ECB has been exclusively competent, since November 2013, to authorize all Eurozone credit institutions and credit institutions established in any other EU Member States that participate in the Single Supervisory Mechanism via close cooperation arrangements.
The ECB exercises its competence in close cooperation with the relevant national regulators. The ECB has developed the Guides, which are not legally binding, to promote awareness and enhance the transparency of the assessment criteria and processes for establishing a credit institution within the SSM. These should serve as practical tools to support applicants and all other entities involved in the process of bank authorization to ensure a smooth and effective procedure and assessment.
UK Government Launches FinTech Sector Strategy
HM Treasury has published a document entitled "FinTech Sector Strategy: Securing the Future of U.K. FinTech" to coincide with the U.K. government's second International Fintech Conference.
The Strategy Paper provides an overview of the work already conducted by successive U.K. governments to support the FinTech sector by promoting competition and removing barriers to entry. Drawing on the findings of the 2017 "UK FinTech Census," which set out a comprehensive review of the sector and the challenges it faces, the government has identified further action it might take to remove barriers to entry and growth faced by FinTech firms. These further actions focus on reducing the cost of regulatory compliance, ensuring access to skilled talent, improving FinTech firms' access to equity finance, improving the take-up of new FinTech services, increasing competition and providing access to new markets.
UK and Australian Regulators Agree Enhancements to FinTech Bridge
The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have signed an enhanced cooperation agreement on FinTech innovation. The new agreement supersedes the previous cooperation agreement entered into by the two countries' regulators in March 2016. It aims to enable public officials and private parties to work together to foster Fintech innovation and help early-stage Fintech firms to expand their businesses. The FCA and ASIC will, through their Innovation Hubs, explore ways to speed up the process of authorization of innovative businesses that are already authorized in the other jurisdiction. The framework agreed between the regulators includes a referral mechanism and mutual access to regulatory sandbox testing environments, enabling the two authorities to refer FinTech businesses between their respective sandboxes. The Authorities also plan to share and use information on innovation in their respective markets.
Commenting on the enhanced cooperation agreement, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond stated that "This is our most ambitious collaboration to date, bringing together regulators, policy-makers and private sector leaders to collaborate on growing our respective fintech markets in tandem."
View the Enhanced Cooperation Agreement.
View the FCA press release.
UK Secondary Legislation on Regulatory Treatment of Peer-to-Peer Borrowers
The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Carrying on Regulated Activities by Way of Business) (Amendment) Order 2018 has been published. This Amendment Order amends the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Carrying on Regulated Activities By Way of Business) Order 2001 to clarify the position of borrowers who raise funds through peer-to-peer lending platforms.
The Amendment Order provides that, subject to a number of conditions, if a borrower using peer-to-peer lending uses the capital of, or interest on, money received by way of deposit solely to finance its other business activities, this is to be regarded as evidence indicating that the borrower is not carrying on the business of accepting deposits. This clarifies that only firms whose core business involves borrowing through a peer-to-peer platform would need to obtain a banking license and be regulated as a "deposit taker." The Amendment Order resolves uncertainty for businesses borrowing via peer-to-peer platforms (and for the platforms themselves) by clarifying the circumstances in which those borrowers would be considered to be carrying on the regulated activity of accepting deposits.
The Amendment Order comes into force on March 22, 2018.
View the Amendment Order (S.I. 2018 No. 394)..
View the explanatory memorandum.
G20 Communiqué Calls for Recommendations for Regulation of Crypto-Assets
The G20 has published a Communiqué following the meeting of Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors in Buenos Aires on March 19 – 20, 2018.
Among other things, the Communiqué states that the G20 welcomes the finalization of Basel III and remains committed to full, timely and consistent implementation and finalization of the reforms. The G20 looks forward to the outcome of the evaluation of the reforms to identify and address any unintended consequences, which is being led by the Financial Stability Board.
The G20 also commits to continue to address the decline in correspondent banking relationships. It welcomes the FSB's March 2018 progress report on correspondent banking and calls on the FSB to monitor, with the FATF, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, the adoption of the recommendations in the FSB's March 2018 report "Stocktake of Remittance Service Providers' Access to Banking Services."
European Supervisory Authorities Issue Final Report on Financial Institutions' Use of Big Data
The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities has published a final report on the use of Big Data by financial institutions. The Final Report has been prepared following feedback to a discussion paper published in December 2016 by the Joint Committee’s sub-Committee on Consumer Protection and Financial Innovation. “Big Data” is the term used to refer to situations where high volumes of different types of data, produced with high velocity from a wide variety of data sets and sources, is processed (often in real time) by IT tools, such as powerful processors, software and algorithms. Big Data tools have been in use for several years in some sectors, but less so in others. Nevertheless most respondents to the ESAs’ discussion paper agreed that Big Data may have an impact on almost all financial institutions and on their products and services. The use of Big Data techniques can help financial institutions to improve their understanding of customers’ preferences and their interactions with customers and clients. This can enable them to tailor products to their target markets and support effective product governance. However, the use of Big Data also entails risk.
European Banking Authority Publishes FinTech Roadmap
The European Banking Authority has published a Roadmap setting out its conclusions following responses to its August 2017 discussion paper on its approach to financial technology. The EBA adopts the definition of FinTech that is used by international standard-setting bodies, namely, “technologically enabled financial innovation that could result in new business models, applications, processes or products with an associated material effect on financial markets and institutions and the provision of financial services”.
Regulators and supervisors must balance, on the one hand, the needs for consumer protection, a level playing field, the integrity of financial markets and the stability of the financial system against, on the other hand, the need to ensure the opportunities presented by FinTech can be fully realized.
International Standard Setters Report on the Implications of Central Bank Digital Currencies
The Committee on Payments and Markets Infrastructures and the Markets Committee of the Bank for International Settlements have issued a joint report that considers two types of central bank digital currency: (i) a wholesale CBDC for use in financial markets and limited to select financial institutions; and (ii) a general purpose CBDC that would be available for use by the public. The report analyzes the implications of both types of digital currency in the core central banking areas of payments, monetary policy implementation and financial stability.
As regards wholesale CBDCs, the report finds that, while they might be useful for payments, more work is needed to assess their full potential. The report also finds that a wholesale CBDC would not alter the basic mechanics of monetary policy implementation, but that its transmission could be affected. The report states that a general purpose CBDC could have wide-ranging implications for banks and the financial system and could also have effects on the efficiency of financial intermediation. As a result, the report concludes that any jurisdiction considering the launch of a CBDC should carefully and thoroughly consider the implications before making any decision.
The joint report has been published in advance of the meeting of the G20 central bank governors and finance ministers, scheduled for March 19-20, 2018, which, among other things, proposes to discuss the technology behind cryptocurrencies.
View the joint report.
View the press release.
European Commission Outlines its Action Plan for FinTech
The European Commission has issued a Communication on FinTech to the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Central Bank, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.
The Communication sets out the Commission's Action Plan for FinTech, building on responses from the Commission's public consultation on its policy approach to FinTech, which ran from March to June 2017, and on the work of the Task Force on Financial Technology which was established in November 2016. The Action Plan is part of the Commission's efforts to build a Capital Markets Union and a true single market for consumer financial services. It is also part of its drive to create a Digital Single Market. The Communication is accompanied by Frequently Asked Questions on FinTech and a factsheet.
At this stage, the Commission considers that there is limited need for regulatory or legislative action or reform. However, the outcome of ongoing monitoring and assessment of innovative technologies may point to the need for regulatory action at EU level in the future. The current Action Plan is concerned with initiatives designed to facilitate the emergence of innovative models throughout the EU (through sandboxes and similar approaches), to enable innovative models to scale up (through consistent licensing, common standards and interoperability). The Commission also aims to improve the uptake of technological innovation in the financial sector, by ensuring the suitability of the regulatory regime, reducing barriers to entry for innovative firms such as cloud service providers and, in particular, harnessing the potential of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies. The Action Plan further outlines planned initiatives to strengthen cybersecurity as well as the integrity of the financial system.
European Commission Proposed Legislation to Regulate Cross-Border Crowdfunding Service Providers
The European Commission has published a proposed Regulation on European Crowdfunding Service Providers for Business. The proposed ECSP Regulation is part of the EU Capital Markets Union initiative and the Commission's FinTech Action Plan. It aims to increase access to finance through crowdfunding for innovative companies, start-ups and SMEs.
The Commission is seeking to introduce an "EU label for crowdfunding service providers" which would be authorized and supervised by the European Securities and Markets Authority and able to passport their services across the EU. Currently, different EU Member States apply different levels of regulatory requirements to CSPs. Some Member States require CSPs to comply with onerous obligations under the Markets in Financial Instruments package, some apply more lenient regimes, while others allow CSPs to benefit from exemptions and remain unregulated. The Commission's view is that this divergence hampers the potential scaling-up of crowdfunding activity, because CSPs need to comply with different legal and regulatory requirements and adjust their business models accordingly if they want to provide services in more than one EU Member State. The Commission is not proposing that current national frameworks be repealed. Instead, those frameworks can continue to exist, which will allow CSPs to choose to either provide or continue providing services on a domestic basis under national laws or to provide services under the proposed ECSP Regulation. However, the Commission is proposing that the MiFID II Directive be amended to exclude CSPs from its obligations.
European Commission Calls for Acceleration of Completion of the Capital Markets Union
The European Commission has published a Communication on completing the Capital Markets Union by 2019. The Communication confirms the Commissions commitment to completing the CMU by mid-2019 and announces the publication of the FinTech Action Plan, including a proposed Regulation on Crowdfunding, and the Sustainable Finance Action Plan. Legislative proposals on covered bonds, the cross-border distribution of collective investment funds and the law applicable to third-party effects of assignment are expected to be published on March 12, 2018. In May 2018, the Commission intends to publish a proposed Directive on credit servicers, credit purchasers and the recovery of collateral as well as impact assessments on the SME listing regime and the resolution of investment disputes.
The Commission states that completion of the CMU is more urgent due to the impending exit by the UK from the EU because the UK is currently the EUs largest financial centre. The Commission notes that an effective CMU will need to "open-up markets to give better access to finance for EU businesses and more and innovative investment opportunities for savers."
UK Parliament Launches Inquiry into Digital Currencies and Distributed Ledger Technology
The House of Commons Treasury Committee has launched an inquiry into digital currencies and distributed ledger technology in the U.K. The inquiry will consider the risks and opportunities of digital currencies for consumers, businesses and the Government as well as the impact of DLT on financial institutions, financial market infrastructure and the central bank. The regulatory response of the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority in relation to anti-money laundering legislation will also be assessed against the need to ensure the protection of consumers without repressing innovation.
View the announcement.
UK Financial Conduct Authority Consults on Machine Executable Regulatory Reporting
The Financial Conduct Authority is seeking input on using technology to assist firms to meet their regulatory reporting requirements. The FCA would like to improve regulatory reporting by firms so that it is more accurate, efficient and consistent, less reliant on human interpretation and quicker for firms to implement changes to the requirements.
As part of its RegTech strategy, the FCA holds regular TechSprint events which are attended by financial services providers, technology companies and financial regulation experts to develop solutions to regulatory challenges. The Call for Input explains the proof of concept for Model Driven Machine Executable Regulatory Reporting which emerged at the November 2017 TechSprint.
The proposed Model Driven Machine Executable Regulatory Reporting has the potential to make regulatory reporting requirements machine-readable and executable, enabling firms to use automated, straight-through processing of regulatory returns. The proof of concept successfully used rules from the FCA Handbook, the Prudential Regulation Authority's Rulebook and International Financial Reporting Standards, illustrating the possibility for firms to comply with multiple regulatory reporting requirements.
10 Key Implications and Considerations of FinTech for Banks and Bank Supervisors Published by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has published a report, "Sound Practices on Implications of FinTech developments for banks and bank supervisors." The report is a result of the analysis by the Basel Committee-mandated taskforce of financial technology innovations and emerging business models in the banking industry, including the consultation that was run last year. The report sets out the final 10 key implications and considerations for banks and banking systems and for bank supervisors and regulatory frameworks. The report also provides an overview of the current state of play in the industry.
The Basel Committee has decided not to determine whether there is a need to stipulate specific requirements at this stage. It will continue to monitor FinTech developments and assess whether any updates to the implications and considerations are warranted.
View the report.
US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and UK Financial Conduct Authority Agree to Collaborate on Regulating FinTech Innovation
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority have signed a Cooperation Arrangement on Financial Technology Innovation, an arrangement that commits both regulators to collaborating and fostering innovation through their respective FinTech initiatives, LabCFTC and FCA Innovate. This is the CFTC's first agreement of its kind with a non-U.S. counterpart and the FCA's first such agreement with a U.S. regulator. The arrangement will focus on information-sharing based on FinTech market trends and developments in each jurisdiction, simplify the referral process for FinTech companies interested in entering the other's market and facilitate sharing insight gained from each regulator's relevant sandbox, proof of concept or innovation competitions.
CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo in a statement said he believes this collaboration will allow the CFTC to contribute to the growing role of regulators in new technology markets, and FCA Chairman Andrew Bailey argued that international borders should not inhibit global technological innovation. Chairman Bailey also announced an upcoming joint event between the CFTC and FCA in London to demonstrate how firms can work and engage with both regulators in the FinTech space.
View the joint press release.
View the Cooperation Arrangement.
US Commodity Futures Trading Commission Issues First Customer Advisory on Virtual Currency Pump-and-Dump Schemes
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has issued its first customer advisory regarding pump-and-dump schemes in virtual currency markets. The CFTC warned customers to exercise extreme caution when investing in virtual currency listings promoted on social media, reportedly backed by famous high-tech business leaders and investors or accompanied by posts creating false urgency or telling investors to purchase right away.
The CFTC noted particular concern with the anonymous nature of virtual currencies, which makes enforcement actions against pump-and-dump schemes difficult. These schemes may occur in the largely unregulated virtual currency cash markets, over which the CFTC only has anti-fraud and anti-manipulation enforcement authority.
Additionally, the CFTC stated it has received multiple complaints from customers who have suffered losses due to virtual currency pump-and-dump schemes. The CFTC warned that virtual currencies should only be purchased after they have been thoroughly researched and that customers should avoid purchasing virtual currencies based on sudden price spikes.
The CFTC also encouraged market participants to come forward with any information that could lead to an enforcement action against a virtual currency pump-and-dump scheme.
View the CFTC’s customer advisory.
View the CFTC’s press release.
UK Financial Conduct Authority Moots Global Sandbox
The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a questionnaire on whether a global regulatory sandbox for fintech and other innovative businesses would be beneficial and how it would operate. The FCA set up the United Kingdom's Regulatory Sandbox in 2016 to provide a controlled environment for firms looking to develop and launch innovative businesses models. Similar sandboxes have been introduced in other countries as diverse as the United States, Australia, Bahrain, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada and Singapore. Other countries have officially announced the establishment of a sandbox or are in the process of setting up their sandbox.
The FCA considers that a global sandbox could allow firms to conduct tests in different jurisdictions at the same time. It could also bring regulators together to identify and work on solutions to common cross-border regulatory issues. Recognizing that establishing a global sandbox would be an enormous task, the FCA also suggests, as an interim measure, the establishment of an international college of regulators with innovation or sandbox models, so that firms could access multiple regulators simultaneously. This approach would also allow the regulators to share and learn from each other about new innovative business models.
The FCA requests feedback on the ideas by March 2, 2018. The FCA expects to provide an update on the global sandbox proposition later in March 2018.
View the FCA webpage.
View the questionnaire.
European Securities and Markets Authority Outlines 2018 Plans for EU Supervisory Convergence
In addition to the key priorities, the 2018 programme also sets out ESMA key objectives and main planned outputs in relation to a number of thematic and cross-cutting issues, including: investor protection and intermediaries; secondary markets; investment management; market integrity (including market abuse and benchmarks); post-trading (including CCPs, securities financing and settlement); corporate finance (in particular the new prospectus regime); corporate reporting; market data; financial innovation; IT infrastructure; and peer reviews.
The European Securities and Markets Authority has published its Supervisory Convergence Work Programme for 2018. It highlights a total of five key priorities for its work on supervisory convergence in 2018, comprised of three ongoing priorities (application of the revised Markets in Financial Instruments framework, data quality and investor protection) and two new priorities (Brexit and financial innovation).
EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum Launched
The European Commission has announced the launch of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum. The Commission intends the new Forum to build on existing initiatives and to ensure the feasibility of Blockchain use cross-border. It is also expected to assist in tackling difficulties arising from the use of Blockchain, such as disintermediation, trust, security and traceability. Furthermore, the Blockchain Observatory and Forum will support cross-border cooperation on practical use cases and be an open forum for discussing and developing new ideas.
The Commission's FinTech Action Plan is expected to be issued in Spring.
View the press release.
European Commission Hints at Future Changes to the Second Electronic Money Directive
The European Commission has published a report to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on the implementation and impact of the second Electronic Money Directive, known as 2EMD. 2EMD establishes a legal framework for the issuance and redemption of e-money and covers the rights and obligations linked to the redemption of funds by consumers, the licensing of e-money institutions and the prudential requirements applicable to e-money institutions, which updates the regime under the first Electronic Money Directive to align it with requirements on payment institutions under the revised Payment Services Directive. It applies to e-money service providers in the EEA. The regime has been sparsely used in practice, with few firms operating under its auspices.
2EMD requires the Commission to assess its implementation and impact and to propose legislative changes, if appropriate. The report was due on November 1, 2012, however, the Commission delayed its publication because a majority of member states had failed to transpose 2EMD into their national laws by the transposition date of April 2011. The Commission also wanted to take into account the impact of PSD2, which includes numerous cross-references to 2EMD.
European Supervisory Authorities Deliver Opinion on Benefits, Risks and Challenges of Innovative Customer Due Diligence Solutions
The Joint Committee of European Supervisory Authorities has published an Opinion addressed to EU national regulators to develop a common understanding of the appropriate use, by credit and financial institutions, of innovative methods to meet Customer Due Diligence obligations.
All firms that are subject to the Fourth Money Laundering Directive must put in place effective policies and procedures, including effective CDD procedures, to address the risk that their businesses may be used for money laundering or for terrorist financing purposes. 4MLD is "technology neutral" and does not set out specific steps or procedures that must be followed for CDD. There is scope, therefore, for new ways to verify customers' identity, for example non-face-to-face verification using traditional identity documents (such as passports) through portable devices or verification via centralized databases. Innovative means such as artificial intelligence are also increasingly used for monitoring customer relationships, for risk assessment and in decision-making processes.
The ESAs recognize that innovative solutions can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of AML/CFT controls and firms often use innovative solutions to meet demand for improved customer experience and costs savings. The ESAs believe that firms should not be prevented from using such solutions, provided that proper safeguards have been put in place to mitigate the ML/TF risk associated with the firm's business relationships and risk profile. The ESAs' Opinion highlights additional factors that national regulators can take into account when assessing the adequacy of any proposed use of innovative CDD solutions. These include: oversight and control mechanisms; the quality and adequacy of CDD measures; the reliability of CDD measures; delivery channel risk; and geographical risks.
View the Opinion.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission Discusses Approach to Virtual Currency Futures Markets
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has released a backgrounder on the federal oversight of virtual currencies and its approach to regulating the virtual currency derivatives markets. Because virtual currencies have been deemed a commodity, certain derivative and other transactions in virtual currencies may be subject to CFTC oversight under the Commodity Exchange Act.
The CFTC outlined its 5-pronged approach to the regulation of derivatives involving virtual currencies, which will focus on (1) consumer education; (2) asserting legal authority; (3) market intelligence; (4) robust enforcement; and (5) government-wide coordination.
Draft UK Legislation Confirms Regulatory Position of Borrowers on Peer-to-Peer Lending Platforms
HM Treasury has published draft legislation to amend the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Carrying on Regulated Activities By Way of Business) Order 2001 (S.I. 2001/1177), to clarify the position of borrowers who raise funds through peer-to-peer lending platforms.
The draft Order will, once it is approved by Parliament, clarify that only firms whose core business involves borrowing through a peer-to-peer platform would need to obtain a banking license and be regulated as a "deposit taker". The draft legislation has been laid before Parliament to address uncertainty for businesses borrowing via peer-to-peer platforms (and for the platforms themselves) as there is a risk that those borrowers might in certain circumstances be carrying on the regulated activity of accepting deposits.
European Banking Authority Publishes Recommendations on Outsourcing by Financial Institutions to Cloud Service Providers
The European Banking Authority has published its final report on Recommendations on outsourcing by financial institutions to cloud service providers. The EBA has developed the Recommendations on its own initiative as part of its broader work on FinTech, given the increasing importance and popularity of cloud services as an enabling technology used by financial institutions.
The Recommendations are designed to complement the guidelines on outsourcing issued by the EBA's predecessor, the Committee of European Banking Supervisors on December 14, 2006. The Recommendations further specify the CEBS guidelines in five key areas: the security of data and systems; the location of data and data processing; access and audit rights; chain outsourcing; and contingency plans and exit strategies.
The Recommendations are addressed to credit institutions, investment firms and national regulators and will apply from July 1, 2018.
View the EBA Final Report.