The EU’s FinTech strategy: Can Europe compete globally and help Start-Ups?

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Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to host a packed FinTech event in Brussels on behalf of my Company, Aviva. There were no shortage of hot topics: from Cyber Security to Big Data, Blockchain and Cloud Computing.  And as part of a diverse panel of experts, we tackled the question of ‘How can Europe compete in the global world of FinTech?’

It was a joint event between with Euractiv, a Brussels based news agency, and it gave me my first exposure to the world of European politics. In fact, the room was full of MEP’s, Policy Makers, Journalists and Lobby Groups.

We organised the event to make sure that we have a strong voice in Europe on Digital issues. As digital disruption gathers pace, the EU is set to launch a FinTech strategy later this year and the big question is, what will they propose? It’s vital for our Digital ambitions that we get our views across and influence this strategy.

As our big boss, Mark Wilson said “Aviva was born in an age of quills and parchment – 320 years ago. Now digital is fundamental to our future. The insurance industry is ripe for disruption and Aviva must become the world’s oldest digital disruptor.” And hence I talked about how we are collaborating with FinTech start-ups to help us deliver innovation at pace and how we focus on the need to put the Customer first. Our vision is for insurance to move from ‘protection’ to ‘prevention’ and Technology will be at the forefront of how we help our Customers to defy uncertainty.

We also debated how we could share information more effectively in order to create a more secure Europe, as Cyber-attacks become more frequent and sophisticated.

But the world of regulation moves slowly but more importantly it needs to be more flexible in order to respond to the lightening pace of Technological change. Also, in my opinion, we need to challenge regulations – particularly outmoded ones. I’m reminded of a conversation which I once had with the COO of a major airline. He said “One must comply with regulations that make sense and challenge those which do not”. I have now added to that comment which is that businesses also need to help shape regulations through early engagement with the policy makers.

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My key messages to the EU commission were:

1. Drive activity on an EU-wide solution to electronic identification:

Customers are frustrated by the continual need to complete identification and verification checks to access Financial services.

2. Encourage greater data sharing, collaboration and action to tackle cyber-crime:

The EU should consider a European legal framework to combat cybercrime and to foster incident data exchange between public and private institutions.

3. Taking action on FinTech Infrastructure:

To develop cohesively and avoid a fragmented approach, the EU should consider developing an action plan on Blockchain and Cyber infrastructures.

4. Future-proof digital regulation:

Financial technology is developing at an exponential speed, a principles based approach is required to avoid regulation being outdated and hampering innovation.

5. Create an open dialogue with industry:

Regulatory sandboxes in member states are creating a more open dialogue and best practice should be shared across regulators. An ‘Innovation Academy’ comprised of FinTech’s, established firms, Regulators and Consumer bodies should be set up to look at emerging trends; ensuring consumers are protected and innovation thrives.

 

Being able to shape policy is where we need to be but the consensus approach in Europe does mean that things move slowly. However, my suggestion to speed up regulation by using AI to replace policy makers was not a very popular idea!

If you want to find out more and listen to what yours truly and the other speakers had to say, here’s the link to the speakers’ video.

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