One size doesn’t fit all: Strict regulations meant for big banks holding back fintech in Canada

Financial Post | Darren Gill | Aug 26, 2019

financial district toronto - One size doesn’t fit all: Strict regulations meant for big banks holding back fintech in CanadaOpinion: Governments need to modernize our financial regulations to better encourage innovation in the Canadian marketplace

Imagine the owner of a small but successful café in Prince George. She is seeking capital to finance a second location but is unable to access a loan from a bank. She is not sufficiently well-connected to seek out her own investors and doesn’t have a wealthy family to lend her the money. How can she access the capital she needs to open that second location?

Now imagine there was a safe online service for finding would-be capital investors. Our café owner could connect with a private individual who holds investable capital. The two parties could enter into a contract on their own terms, mediated by the service provider. This peer-to-peer (P2P) approach to lending would match ventures with investors who might not meet each other but for the online platform.  This is the emerging future of financial services delivered through financial technology (fintech). Sadly for our theoretical café owner, the current regulatory environment does not allow for this sort of open exchange.

Given current regulations, P2P loans qualify as securities and therefore require regulators’ approval of detailed informational prospectuses. This means the small café owner must hire lawyers and specialists to draft documents and disclosures even when simply seeking a loan — something she wouldn’t have to do had she gone to one of the banks. But if the banks won’t take her, what is she supposed to do?

Hurdles like this that lock small players out of capital markets are entirely unnecessary. The fintech service provider to our industrious Prince George café owner and her investor would manage risk on its platform to ensure that neither party ends up being short-changed.

See:  Peer to Peer Lending: The Future of Fintech is Now

P2P lending is just one example among many of strict regulation holding back the creative disruption of financial services. Fintech companies are subjected to the same strict regulations that apply to traditional financial service providers. They must also adhere to comprehensive regulations covering consumer protection, privacy, anti-money laundering, data security, and more. Financial regulations are clearly in the public interest, including with fintech. But governments need to modernize our financial regulations to better encourage innovation in the Canadian marketplace.

Government initiatives such as the 2019 modernization attempts to the Bank Act and Canadian Payments Act have been widely applauded by industry but these initiatives largely aim to increase the flexibility of established financial institutions. One size — the quadruple XL that suits our biggest financial institutions — doesn’t fit all. There is considerable room for innovative policy reforms for fintech, such as employing opportunity zones or creating regulatory exemptions for P2P lending involving small businesses, like our café owner in Prince George.

With artificial intelligence, new forms of competition, and greater efficiency, fintech could revolutionize how financial services are delivered, especially for Canadians under-serviced by the traditional financial services industry.

Take Toronto-based WealthSimple, for example. It already provides high-quality investment advice and robo-advising via an online platform. Such services, traditionally available only to the economically privileged, are now being offered to the masses and at a fraction of the cost. Fintech also holds the promise of giving rural, remote, northern and Indigenous communities banking services similar to those of urban Canadians, and at reduced costs.

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Less burdened by regulation, P2P lenders in the U.S. have been facilitating loans between investors and entrepreneurs since 2005. Capital-seekers can now look beyond the big banks for more competitive rates and more convenient procedures for getting a loan.

Payments, money transfers, insurance, and other types of financial services are ripe for modernization and disruption. Even amongst the big banks, there is a push towards digitizing services and incorporating new technologies. The fintech revolution benefits players of all sizes.

While Canada’s fintech environment has been recognized as a leading global hub, fintech adoption rates lag behind much of the world. According to the EY Fintech Adoption Index 2019, Canada’s adoption rate is at 50 per cent, versus 64 per cent globally. Part of the reason has to be restrictive regulation.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - One size doesn’t fit all: Strict regulations meant for big banks holding back fintech in Canada The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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