Regulators prioritising fintech initiatives to boost financial inclusion - study

Source: World Bank

Financial regulators around the world continue to recognize the importance of fintech business models for promoting financial inclusion as economies recover from the COVID-19 crisis, alongside utilising technology for managing evolving consumer risks associated with digital financial services, according to a new survey by The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and The World Bank.

The results of their 3rd Global Fintech Regulator Survey, which aims to provide information that regulators can use to benchmark, evaluate and prioritise policy responses to fintech developments, highlight that COVID-19 continues to be a catalysing force, particularly in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs), for financial authorities to prioritise fintech-related initiatives. This is illustrated by 56% or respondents from EMDEs increasing the priority of fintech, compared to 35% of respondents in advanced economies (AEs). This is most acutely observed in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 75% of respondents report an increase in fintech prioritization.

This study draws on findings from the survey responses of 128 financial authorities in 106 jurisdictions worldwide, with almost 70% of respondents overseeing fintech developments in EMDEs. The survey is one of the largest empirical studies to date on the regulation and supervision of fintech aimed at financial authorities.

However, the survey also reveals that whilst these fintech-related initiatives align with overarching objectives, financial authorities still have significant concerns about mitigating existing and emerging consumer risks – most notably cybersecurity (78% of respondents), fraud and scams (67% of respondents, up from 18% in the 2020 survey), and in the digital assets sector.

Further, the survey highlights that Digital Regulatory and Supervisory Infrastructure (DRSI) as well as supervisory technology (suptech) initiatives are playing increasingly prominent, important roles in supporting and enabling financial authorities on fintech, particularly with regard to consumer protection.

“This comprehensive dataset offers a unique view into the world of fintech regulators and their respective institutions at a time of rapid changes in digital financial services globally,” says Bryan Zhang, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the CCAF. “We hope that the data and insights generated from this global survey will inform the work and practice of fintech regulators, supervisors and policymakers, help them benchmark responses, frameworks and activities, and facilitate meaningful peer learning and knowledge exchange.”

“At the World Bank, we see a growing demand from client countries for data-driven assessment tools of risk in financial services,” says Jean Pesme, Global Director, Finance, Competition & Innovation, The World Bank Group. ”In addition to seeking insights into the management of persistent and emerging risks, the survey has also explored how and where regulatory authorities are using different types of digital infrastructures to enhance regulatory and supervisory functions. Understanding and mitigating risks is key – the survey and experience around the globe also demonstrate that this can be done while harnessing the tremendous potential of fintech for financial inclusion and access to finance.”

“The UK is proud to partner with CCAF and support its 3rd Global FinTech Regulator Survey, produced jointly with the World Bank,” says Sian Parkinson, Inclusive Digital Finance Lead, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. “The UK is committed to the development of FinTech domestically and internationally, supported by regulatory environments that enable innovation, as well as the protection of people and businesses. The report’s findings share valuable insights for the development of future policy and regulation, to ensure FinTech continues to increase its reach, safeguarding consumers, deepening domestic capital markets, and accelerating economic growth globally.”

The survey also reveals that financial authorities, particularly those in EMDEs, are seeking significant support to balance the benefits and risks of increased digitalisation of financial services.  

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