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EBA chair unconvinced on cryptocurrency regulation; talks up 'fintech roadmap'

09 March 2018  |  12846 views  |  0 EU flag

The head of the European Banking Authority says that he has "yet to be convinced" that cryptocurrencies should come under the full scope of regulation.

Central bankers, including the Bank of England's Mark Carney, have recently voiced their concerns about the lack of regulation surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

But, EBA chairperson Andrea Enria has poured cold water on calls for new rules, using a speech to reiterate his organisation's 2014 opinion on the issue, which called for a more "nuanced" approach.

Under this, cryptocurrencies should be subject to full AML rules, consumers should be warned about the risks involved in investing in bitcoin and others, and financial institutions should be barred from buying, selling and holding them.

"This strategy would avoid granting any official recognition to a sector that is still very heterogeneous, changing fast and, as such, difficult to regulate and supervise," Enria told his audience.

Enria's speech comes a week before the EBA publishes its fintech roadmap, which, he says, will work towards making sure that similar services are regulated in a consistent way across the EU.

While ensuring that fintech firms and the services that they are offer are properly governed, Enria was keen to stress that these companies should not be treated the same as banks, which provide liquidity, debit and credit.

Says the chairperson: "An excessive extension of the regulatory perimeter, attracting most fintech firms under the scope of bank-like supervision just because they compete with banks in some market segment, is likely to be a sub-optimal solution.

"It would risk excessively constraining financial innovation, as the compliance burden placed on banks is not sustainable for small innovative start-ups. Importantly, it would also risk lending credibility via regulation to firms that do not deserve it, legitimising activities that could carry high risk and generating an expectation of public protection in case something goes wrong."

One way to help fintech firms innovate is through sandboxes, and Enria says that the EBA will look into setting best practice guidelines to ensure consistency in how these work across the EU. The EBA will also set up a fintech knowledge hub, to facilitate information exchange between different authorities and market participants.

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