Québec watchdog opens fintech lab and joins R3

Québec watchdog opens fintech lab and joins R3

The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Québec's financial services regulator, has joined the R3 consortium and set up a fintech lab to help it study new technologies, such as blockchain.

The lab's mandate is to study new technologies rather than the business models that are based on them, serving as a think tank that will work to provide the AMF with the knowledge it needs to carry out its role as a regulator in the digital age.

This includes developing advice and insight with respect to regulatory sandbox initiatives being implemented by the Canadian Securities Administrators.

The watchdog also wants its new venture to act as a talent incubator and will invite university students in engineering and technology to work as interns on lab projects, under the supervision of its fintech working group members.

Meanwhile, the AMF says that by joining R3 it will gain access to relevant information about projects undertaken by other regulators, be able to enter into partnerships and develop its own initiatives.

News of the lab comes as Canada's financial regulators and industry players agree that they need to work together to get policy and regulation right in order for fintech innovation to flourish.

At a recent workshop put together by the country's Competition Bureau, start-ups, banks, regulators, experts and members of the academic and legal communities gave their fintech views.

Participants agreed that fintech is not realising its potential in Canada, in part because of a lack of trust in alternatives to the big banks and also because startups have problems growing to a global scale.

Also cited were the restrictions on access to data and infrastructure, and a regulatory framework that is often complex, fragmented, prescriptive and does not sufficiently account for changing technologies.

John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition, says: "The right regulatory approach is about striking a balance between innovation, resilience and consumer protection. It is about getting the principles right. We saw at the FinTech workshop that Canadian regulators are paying attention: they are engaged and ready to collaborate."

The Bureau will publish a full fintech study in late 2017.

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