FinTech in Focus
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What’s Going On Down Under
Last week, the Australian government responded to the Financial System Inquiry final report (also referred to as the Murray Report) published back in December. A more thorough analysis of the government’s views on crowdfunding, digital identity, cybersecurity, access to government data, and public-private sector collaboration can be seen here. Separately, the Australian Securities Exchange is reportedly looking into blockchain’s potential for its clearing and settlement system.
P2P Expands (Further)
Recently, Kabbage and ING announced a partnership to provide small business loans in Spain; Bondora opened its European platform to U.S. accredited investors, along with accredited investors from nine other countries; and OnDeck announced an expansion of certain products to meet small business financing demand. Separately, UK P2PFA, the leading voice for the UK peer-to-peer lending market, announced new transparency standards for its members that “supplement and reinforce the [Financial Conduct Authority’s] formal regulatory regime.” The standards come at a time when the FCA has publicly indicated that P2P lenders, as they grow, may come under bank regulation.
U.S., FATF Probes Suspicious Activities, Terrorist Use of New Finance
The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network released a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) bulletin focused in particular on rewards-based crowdfunding (pp. 7-10). Since 2013, Suspicious Activity Report filings referring to crowdfunding have increased 171 percent, with money laundering, fraud, or “other suspicious activities” the top SAR categories. Separately, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released a report on emerging terrorist financing risks, which covered threats linked to new payment products and services, including virtual currencies, prepaid cards, and Internet-based payment services (pp. 35-39). Of note, the FATF admits that the extent of the use and exploitation of these technologies remains unknown.
In an effort to change the perception of digital currencies as the currency of criminals, Coin Center and the Chamber of Digital Commerce launched the Blockchain Alliance to educate and inform U.S. federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Secret Service. Separately, the World Wide Web Consortium launched a working group to explore ways to boost bitcoin adoption. The efforts come around the same time that the European Court of Justice ruled that bitcoin exchanges are exempt from value-added taxation and as the government of the Island of Jersey said it would introduce digital currency legislation in 2016.
Is the Mobile Payments Revolution Real?
A new report from Accenture finds that while U.S. and Canadian smartphone users are aware of mobile payment capability on their device, actual usage remains very low. According to the report, fewer than 20 percent of smartphone users make at least one mobile payment a week, with cash and credit/debit cards remaining the preferred options. The survey follows recent reports covering the underwhelming statistics on Apple Pay usage during its first year.
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