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Does FinTech worry policymakers?

Not sure if anyone noticed that the Financial Stability Board – the world’s central banks tasked with maintaining financial stability – produced a white paper on FinTech last month. It was published on Valentines Day, so you were probably busy, and I only just stumbled across it. Here’s the Executive Summary.

FinTech and market structure in financial services: Market developments and potential financial stability implications

Technological innovation holds great promise for the provision of financial services, with the potential to increase market access, the range of product offerings, and convenience while also lowering costs to clients. At the same time, new entrants into the financial services space, including FinTech firms and large, established technology companies (‘BigTech’), could materially alter the universe of financial services providers. This could in turn affect the degree of concentration and contestability in financial services, with both potential benefits and risks for financial stability.

Greater competition and diversity in lending, payments, insurance, trading, and other areas of financial services can create a more efficient and resilient financial system. Notwithstanding these clear benefits to financial stability, heightened competition could also put pressure on financial institutions’ profitability. This could lead to additional risk taking among incumbents in order to maintain margins. Moreover, there could be new implications for financial stability from BigTech in finance and greater third-party dependencies.

While markets have developed differently across jurisdictions, there are commonalities that warrant international discussion. While these commonalities may be global in scope, their impact on each jurisdiction depends on the state of development of the financial services industry and the regulatory environment. Some key considerations from the FSB’s analysis of the link between technological innovation and market structure are the following:

 

  • To date, the relationship between incumbent financial institutions and FinTech firms appears to be largely complementary and cooperative in nature. FinTech firms have generally not had sufficient access to the low-cost funding or the customer base necessary to pose a serious competitive threat to established financial institutions in mature financial market segments. Partnering allows FinTech firms to viably operate while still being relatively small and, depending on the jurisdiction and the business model, unburdened by some financial regulation while still benefitting from access to incumbents’ client base. At the same time, incumbents benefit from access to innovative technologies that provide a competitive edge.

 

  • Yet there are exceptions to this trend, as some FinTech firms have established inroads in credit provision and payments. FinTech credit is growing rapidly, but is still small as a proportion of overall credit in most jurisdictions. To the extent that technology permits a further unbundling of profitable services traditionally offered by banks and other institutions, the profitability of such institutions may be negatively affected in the future.

 

  • The competitive impact of BigTech may be greater than that of FinTech firms. BigTech firms typically have large, established customer networks and enjoy name recognition and trust. In many cases, these companies could also use proprietary customer data generated through other services such as social media to help tailor their offerings to individual customers’ preferences. Combined with strong financial positions and access to low-cost capital, BigTech firms could achieve scale very quickly in financial services. This would be particularly true where network effects are present, such as in payments and settlements, lending, and potentially in insurance. Cross-subsidisation could allow BigTech firms to operate with lower margins and gain greater market share. Hence, while BigTech firms could represent a source of increased competition for incumbent financial institutions, in some scenarios, their participation may not result in a more competitive market over the longer term. A greater market share of BigTech may be associated with unchanged or higher concentration, along with a change in composition away from traditional players. A striking example is the mobile payments market in China, where two firms account for 94% of the overall market.

 

  • Reliance by financial institutions on third-party data service providers (e.g. data provision, cloud storage and analytics, and physical connectivity) for core operations is currently estimated to be low. However, following the trend in other industries, some analysts predict that reliance will increase going forward. If high reliance were to emerge, along with a high degree of concentration among service providers, then an operational failure, cyber incident, or insolvency could disrupt the activities of multiple financial institutions. Thus, while increased reliance on third-party providers specialising in cloud services may reduce operational risk at the individual firm level (idiosyncratic risk), it could also pose new risks and challenges for the financial system as a whole, particularly if risks are not appropriately managed at the firm level, and if the complexities and interconnectedness of third parties and their usage continue to grow. This was noted in the conclusions of the FSB’s 2017 report on FinTech to the G20, and remains an issue for authorities to consider.

 

As FinTech firms, BigTech firms, and the markets for third-party services continue to develop, it will be important to continue monitoring these developments and their financial stability implications. Further efforts on third-party dependencies are ongoing in the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). The FSB Financial Innovation Network (FIN) is further exploring the market for third-party services for financial institutions, including how they manage lock-in risk and crossborder issues. Moreover, FIN is looking into the activities of BigTech in finance, including cross-border activities.

You can read the whole 37-page piece over here.

 

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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