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THE EMERGING PAYMENTS ASSOCIATION’S REACTION TO THE EU REFERENDUM RESULT

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THE EMERGING PAYMENTS ASSOCIATION’S REACTION TO THE EU REFERENDUM RESULT

EPA Advisory Board launches Project Europe to bring the FinTech community together, working as a powerful force that can impact policy, regulation and legislation post Brexit

Tony Craddock, Director General of the EPA comments;

‘New strategies and modes of working will need to be adopted to cope with the uncertainty of the transition period as we make our exit from the EU. The EPA is already putting in place support and advisory groups that will work with members, plan for change and seize new opportunities.’

London – In response to the decision made by the British public to leave the EU, the Emerging Payments Association (EPA), the representative trade body advancing payments innovation, has today announced an important new project. Project Europe aims to navigate some of the uncertainties now facing the industry, focusing on new models and strategies that will allow the UK PayTech sector to retain its reputation as the world’s hotspot for payments innovation.

Project Europe is set to tackle a wide range of issues including; regulatory inclusion in EU payments directives, the retention of highly skilled FinTech talent in the UK’s thriving financial services economy and a continued push for access to the single market and passporting.

The EPA Advisory Board is represented by some of the most influential leaders in the sector and is urging businesses to put their best foot forward. Regardless of what their personal vote was, it is time to innovate and continue to drive the UK FinTech industry.

Since its formation, the EPA has been instrumental in lobbying financial services bodies, setting the global standard for best practice and providing clarity on two critical aspects of FinTech – regulation and legislation. Post referendum, it will continue to help establish the UK as the global hub at the forefront of payments technology innovation. It will also set out to ensure that payments are a central part of the UK’s negotiation with the EU. This will avoid loss of momentum for a more innovative and customer-focussed marketplace and ensure the good work that has come out of the EU, such as PSD2, is not lost.

Andrea Dunlop, CEO of Card Solutions and Acquiring at Paysafe, and member of the EPA Advisory Board says, ‘The UK is well known for having one of the most business-friendly regulators in the FCA and PSR, organisations which enable growth across Europe and the world. This well-earned reputation won’t change as a result of Brexit.  However, as part of the EPA, we will begin searching for Plan B options outside the UK well in advance of any impacts that will cause serious detriments to our industry members.’
Consistent with its members’ responsive, innovative and flexible approach, the EPA and its Advisory Board will aim to:

PRESERVE THE UK’S EU PASSPORTING AND OTHER INTERESTS
As part of Project Europe involving nine member volunteers, the EPA is formulating a plan to help preserve our passporting rights post-exit. The project will explore whether to create a legal template for all EPA members, allowing them to reduce duplication and multiple legal fees. As part of this initiative, the group will also explore how to ensure the implementation of plans to allow direct access to settlement accounts at the Bank of England. The group will also look at how UK businesses might establish a presence in friendly jurisdictions that will allow access to the EU if passporting or an equivalent is not possible, such as Ireland, Malta, Luxemburg and Cyprus.

REDUCE UNCERTAINTY NOW
The EPA has also launched a legal advice helpline. PayTech companies can send questions, to be answered free of charge, to LegalQ&[email protected]. This will help the PayTech industry get valuable legal advice and clarity during this temporary period of flux while the UK takes steps to come out of the EC. Top lawyers will be on hand to give practical advice to businesses grappling with legislation, directives, regulations and compliance in the PayTech eco system.

BUILD CONFIDENCE IN THE UK AS THE WORLD’S LEADING HUB FOR PAYMENTS INNOVATION
The EPA’s PR and social media activity is being cranked up to reinforce and educate users of UK PayTech companies that the UK is firmly open for business.

HELP MEMBERS SELL TO EMERGING MARKETS
With a new EPA Initiative involving ten member volunteers, the EPA is exploring how to build corridors to enable exports of UK business with non-EU European countries.

Ian Clowes, CEO of PCT, and member of the EPA Advisory Board says, ‘The good news is that we now operate in a global world and many leading Fintech and PayTech businesses will have no need to move operations from the UK when we leave the EU and are less concerned about the effects of Brexit.’

David Hunter, Chairman of W2 Global, and member of the EPA Advisory Board, says, ‘The value of internal communication, with staff and clients, couldn’t be higher than at this moment in time. Many things are still unclear and will continue to develop in coming months, for example, Passporting is a key factor.’ Hunter continues, ‘If agreements can be preserved in one sector, they are likely to remain across others. How the banks respond will have significant impact on the rest of the industry as they are notoriously slow and bureaucratic. We also have to answer the question, will the UK remain part of the single market?’

Tony Craddock, Director General of the EPA states; ‘The main message being sent by the EPA’s leadership to EPA members is, let’s unite to look for the opportunities, prepare quickly for change and innovate to preserve our reputation and world leading economy. The PayTech industry is more powerful and bolder working together.’

Finance

Bitcoin slumps 6%, heads for worst week since March

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Bitcoin slumps 6%, heads for worst week since March 1

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin fell over 6% on Friday to its lowest in two weeks as a rout in global bond markets sent yields flying and sparked a sell-off in riskier assets.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency slumped as low as $44,451 before recovering most of its losses. It was last trading down 1.2% at $46,525, on course for a drop of almost 20% this week, which would be its heaviest weekly loss since March last year.

The sell-off echoed that in equity markets, where European stocks tumbled as much as 1.5%, with concerns over lofty valuations also hammering demand. Asian stocks fell by the most in nine months.

“When flight to safety mode is on, it is the riskier investments that get pulled first,” Denis Vinokourov of London-based cryptocurrency exchange BeQuant wrote in a note.

Bitcoin has risen about 60% from the start of the year, hitting an all-time high of $58,354 this month as mainstream companies such as Tesla Inc and Mastercard Inc embraced cryptocurrencies.

Its stunning gains in recent months have led to concerns from investment banks over sky-high valuations and calls from governments and financial regulators for tighter regulation.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Tom Wilson; editing by Dhara Ranasinghe, Karin Strohecker, William Maclean)

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Britain sets out blueprint to keep fintech ‘crown’ after Brexit

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Britain sets out blueprint to keep fintech 'crown' after Brexit 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Brexit, COVID-19 and overseas competition are challenging fintech’s future, and Britain should act to stay competitive for the sector, a government-backed review said on Friday.

Britain’s departure from the European Union has cut the sector’s access to the world’s biggest single market, making the UK less attractive for fintechs wanting to expand cross-border.

The review headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, sets out a “strategy and delivery model” that includes a new billion pound start-up fund and fast-tracking work visas for hiring the best talent globally.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

“This review will make an important contribution to our plan to retain the UK’s fintech crown,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said, adding the government will respond in due course.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

Britain increasingly needs to represent itself as a strong fintech scale-up destination as well as one for start-ups, it added.

The review recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” Swinburne said.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Hugh Lawson and Jason Neely)

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Finance

Enhancing efficiency in international trade – the time is now

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Enhancing efficiency in international trade – the time is now 3

By Carl Wegner, CEO of Contour

Despite significant advances in digital enterprise technology in recent years, international trade remains overwhelmingly manual and fraught with inefficiency.

Financial market participants spend millions of dollars to save fractions of seconds. Central banks are rushing to offer “fast” domestic payments in under three seconds. But cross-border trade relies on payments involving more than one country and bank, with no common central bank to provide cover and currency conversion. It takes at least a day or, in most cases, two – and that’s not even the most inefficient part of cross-border trade.

These processes are lightning quick compared to trade-related finance and risk mitigation products such as Letters of Credit (LCs), which can take over a week to settle. These involve more parties, more complexity, more paper and less trust.

In global trade finance, a bank will agree to pay an overseas seller after receiving proof that the seller has met their obligations. There is no common network for the seller to provide this proof, and no global database of shipments. Sellers rely on the gold standard of banking communication: wet ink-signed paper documents. Collecting, presenting and checking these documents can take days, if not weeks, stalling payments and leaving goods sitting on the dock rather than working through the economy.

The perceived credibility of “wet ink” signatures on documents is holding the industry back even as other areas are embracing new technologies. Unfortunately, it is all the industry has and the highest common denominator of communication. Bringing trade finance into the twenty-first century will need the development of a new gold standard – a common and trusted digital infrastructure. Luckily, the technology to ease this change and inject massive efficiency gains into the industry is now available.

More than a few small tweaks

Banks, buyers, sellers, shipping companies, ports, customs, and so on; the number of parties involved in international trade and the relative lack of trust among them makes any change a significant challenge.

Even before paper documents are involved for proof of shipment, there are trust challenges in communication for trade finance. While banks have a trusted form of communication among themselves, this does not extend to corporates or other parties. These groups are left with paper communication, email and fax – hardly efficient methods of communication. The industry needs a network,  a common identity, and a way to share data securely and privately with all participants. This is the first step and can lead to significant increases in efficiency, especially if communication between participants can be synced in real-time.

Building the network

The future of global trade communication is decentralised. With today’s technologies, it is no longer feasible to have the world’s sensitive trade data sitting in one place susceptible to attack or commercial manipulation.

Every bank and corporate must own their own data and share it only with their trading partners where necessary. Decentralised technologies go further than this, allowing data to be synchronised with trading partners, enabling a new level of trust between parties through the deceptively complicated concept of ”what I see, you see”.

The practicalities of title transfer

The problem of paper and wet-ink signatures seems simple to solve once the network is in place. Remove the couriers, upload PDFs of all that paper onto the decentralised and synchronised network built to authenticate the sender, and trade is digitised. However, while this process is easy in theory, the variety of documents involved in a single transaction complicates matters – especially when it comes to the transfer of title.

The bill of lading is a key example of this – issued in triplicate on original letterhead and signed by an authorised party on behalf of the ship’s captain. They represent title to the documents and can be used as a negotiable document much like a bank cheque.

Digitising these documents has come a long way in the last few years, with specialised platforms and digital registries created and new legal standards drafted to allow electronic bills of lading (eBLs) to be used instead. But adoption still lags behind, and for their efficiency to be realised across the majority of global trade, the concept of digital documents such as eBLs needs to be married to decentralised networks for trade finance.

The security issue

For documents not related to title transfer, the long-held argument that an original signed document is more secure than a digital version is extremely outdated. With the right protocols in place, a digital document can present a more private and secure option than its physical counterpart.

Even an uploaded PDF can be a “digital document” with the right controls in place. Using a decentralised network every member will have an immutable audit log for every transaction, with the uploading party taking responsibility for the documents they introduce to the network in the same way a sender can take responsibility through their signature. These security protocols will also enhance the time it takes to manage trade documents, allowing parties to track and match items to real-time data.

Scaling

There has already been phenomenal success in combining a decentralised network with electronic bill of lading solutions. Rather than seven days, the time from presentation to payment instruction can be reduced to 24 hours. However, for any of this to be achieved at scale, we need coordinated collaboration to ensure a new global digital standard can emerge, rather than a series of disconnected digital islands.

Fortunately, the industry is well on its way. The Asian Development Bank recently reported that 85% of banks are gearing up to serve the trade finance needs of more businesses through technology, addressing concerns such as inefficiencies and KYC, showing a clear demand for more efficient processes to be established in the sector.

While removing a few hours from overseas payments is a worthwhile goal, reducing a week from trade finance processes can have an even greater impact on businesses’ working capital efficiency and accelerating growth in the wider global economy.

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