There was an interesting discussion at the recent Finance Disrupted event in London, organised by The Economist, that highlighted the opportunity for regtech to support financial inclusion.
Jo Hill, director of market intelligence, data and analysis/strategy and competition (whew…) at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), noted the potential for regtech to make day-to-day banking operations more efficient and effective, ultimately resulting in better experiences for consumers and enabling access to financial services more broadly.
Following an overview of the ways in which Tinkoff Bank and Kreditech were opening up both access and offering improved products and services across Russia and a range of developing markets, a key question was raised with regards to the ideal role of the regulator. Is innovation best supported by a helpful regulator or is the most helpful move they can make to simply stay out of the way? Hill noted the convening power of the regulator and the ways in which the FCA TechSprints, for example, enabled cross organisational teams to come together and create innovative ideas and ways of working.
The link between regtech and financial inclusion may not be as clear as providing a payments app where nothing existed previously. The barriers that regulatory compliance and risk management can throw up when trying to serve the non-textbook consumer, can result in financial institutions simply deeming some customer segments too costly or risky to serve.
Regtech, by driving down the cost of regulatory compliance – estimated to take $270 billion a year and around 10% of operating costs – creating stronger and more robust systems for identifying certain risks, can make more customers more economically feasible to serve and serve well.
As Bank of England Governor Mark Carney noted in his recent speech at the Deutsche Bundesbank G20 conference on digitising finance, financial inclusion and financial literacy, “the twin imperatives of greater inclusion and more competition point to the value of digital identities. Billions of people are still under- or unbanked across advanced and emerging economies”.
Regtech can underpin solutions not simply by creating innovative products but also by enabling financial services institutions to serve more customers without fear of falling foul of existing regulatory frameworks.