Anti money-laundering watchdog assessing vulnerability of fintech startups

BNN | Alexandra Posadzki |The Canadian Press

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TORONTO -- The director of Canada's anti-money laundering watchdog says the agency is studying how vulnerable certain emerging technologies, such as those being pioneered by so-called fintech startups, are to financial crime.

Gerald Cossette says it's important for the federal government to encourage innovation by emerging financial technology companies.

But, he adds, Ottawa must balance that with the need to protect the integrity and stability of the financial system.

Cossette says many fintech startups -- for example those that deal with currency exchange or sending cash -- may not realize that they are required to register with Fintrac, the anti money-laundering agency, as money services businesses.

The definition of a money services business was expanded in 2014 to include companies that deal with virtual currencies, and the Finance Department is working on regulations to specify which virtual currency activities will be covered.

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While some innovations are actually new takes on existing technologies and business models, others have been "more revolutionary in nature," says Cossette.

"In these cases there are some concerns that new entrants and technologies are disrupting traditional trusted intermediaries and existing business models, ultimately challenging Canada's existing regulatory paradigm," he says.

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