The IMF report outlines the findings of the survey & other regional studies
Looking past the euphoria of 2018, we see Fintechs begin to mature & giving way to some powerful new trends, where the existing ecosystem is being reshaped into something which serves the needs of the new tech-conscious consumer. In essence, these Fintechs are not only expanding financial inclusion but also helping to boost economic growth in many countries.
This was deduced in a policy paper where the IMF and World Bank surveyed central banks, finance ministries, and other relevant agencies in 189 countries on a range of topics. The paper also identified areas of international cooperation, roles of IMF & World Bank and where further efforts are required by governments, organizations and regulatory & lawmaking bodies.
Following were the key takeaways gathered the responses in the report.
Cybersecurity & Data protection came out as the two biggest threats to the Fintech systems across the board with no boundary restrictions, and the spillover effects spread across different sectors & countries. Despite the high awareness of cyber risks in most countries and frameworks in place to protect the financial systems, 79% of the higher income jurisdictions identified cyber risks in Fintechs as a major problem for the financial sector.
The survey also suggested that only one-third of jurisdictions analyzed the concentration risks emanating from the technological interdependencies threatening the financial infrastructure. While a high proportion of rich countries (83%) reported some monitoring of such threats, only half of the low-income countries had any checks & balances in place.
Asia continues to be the hotbed of Fintech activity with China & India as the stark examples. A light regulatory regime in the former fuelled massive innovation in the area as the country emerged as the global leader in Fintech innovation, development & adoption.
India, on the other hand, shone through with the massive adoption of mobile payments with one of the biggest overseas money transfer base. The disparity between the rich & the poor, gender discrimination & rural-urban divide are some of the problems plaguing the Fintech revolution in these countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing the most growth in mobile money innovation, adoption, and usage. With a weak traditional banking infrastructure & a large rural population, the introduction of smartphones has enabled the region to become a global leader in mobile money accounts per capita, mobile money outlets, and volume of mobile money transactions.
Almost 10% of the GDP in financial transactions is occurring through mobile money — far ahead of the 7% in Asia & only 2% in other regions of the World. The adoption and use of technology in the financial services in the continent has enabled the companies to integrate the Fintech model seamlessly to deliver innovative products & services to their customers.
Europe is uniquely divergent when it comes to Fintech adoption. The continent has a high penetration of smartphone & internet access with a resilient data policy frameworks like GDPR & PSD2, which help define the rights and obligations of users & companies in the data economy.
However, regional differences exist in the adoption of digital finance with the prevalence of cash-based payments & varying savings and credit regimes in the region. The United Kingdom is way ahead of the rest of the region in terms of Fintech innovation and investment.
And finally, Central bank-backed digital currencies are increasingly becoming a reality. 20% of the respondents said they were exploring the possibility of issuing a CBDC (Central bank digital currency). China has been at the forefront of this endeavor with the latest report showing seven companies to receive its digital currency for use.
Most of these projects are in the early stage with only four pilots being reported. The main advantages of issuing digital currencies are seen as lower costs, increased efficiency of transactions & monetary policy implementation and most importantly to counter the competition from the mainstream Cryptos.