The International Monetary Fund has warned that the arrival of Big Tech firms in financial markets could lead to systemic challenges to financial stability and efficiency.
The spectre of companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google entering the banking industry, was raised by IMF chief Christine Lagarde in an address to the G20 at a summit in Tokyo.
She warned of a significant disruption to the financial landscape by Big Tech firms, who will likely use their enormous customer bases and deep pockets to offer financial products based on Big Data and artificial intelligence.
Says Lagarde: "These developments hold out the promise of accelerating inclusion and modernizing financial markets, but raise, in addition to privacy issues, competition and market concentration concerns, both of which could lead to vulnerabilities in the financial system."
She cites China's technology industry as a prime example of the trade-off between benefits and challenges.
"Over the last five years, technology growth in China has been extremely successful and allowed millions of new entrants to benefit from access to financial products and the creation of high-quality jobs. But it has also led to two firms controlling more than 90% of the mobile payments market. This presents a unique systemic challenge to financial stability and efficiency."
Lagarde says Asia, like the rest of the world, is facing a defining moment: "How to manage the risks of fintech without suffocating innovation; how to keep up with rapid fintech innovation, while making sure consumers and investors feel secure in their investments."
The IMF in co-operation with the World Bank last year published a 12-point policy agenda aimed at helping member countries to harness the benefits and opportunities of rapid advances in financial technology, while at the same time managing the inherent risks. Lagarde says the results of discussions with 96 member countries on the policy paper will be published later this month.