Regulators keeping an eye on fintechs to avert potential financial crisis

By Susan Yellin | March 22 2018 09:45AM

Photo: Freepik

Regulators and financial institutions are keeping an eye on both smaller fintechs and large platforms like Google and Facebook in an effort to avert what could cause the next global financial crisis, a University of Toronto conference was told on Thursday.

Julie Dickson, former superintendent in the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), said of particular concern to her are financial technology companies involved in shadow banking – lending and other financial activities that do not follow regulatory rules and regulations.

“There’s a lot to watch in the shadow banking sector,” said Dickson. “These things are growing in leaps and bounds and it would be nice to have a little comfort around the risk management techniques they’re using …. Are they doing enough stress testing? What kind of impact do they have on the entire market?”

For his part, Brian Porter, president and CEO of Scotiabank, said he is more worried about the huge financial technology companies, especially following recent revelations about Facebook and how it mishandled the privacy information of millions of its users.

“I’m more concerned about the threat of the big platforms like Amazon and Google and what they’re intentions are,” said Porter. “We’ve all seen over the last 48 hours what’s happened with Facebook in terms of data, privacy and information. There’s going to be lessons to be learned by this for sure.”

Last December, Scotiabank announced partnerships with two Israeli technology companies to spur development of the bank’s technology capabilities and expertise in cyber security, partly in hopes of being able to act more quickly in case of a cyber threat.

Ten years after the 2008 global financial crisis, Richard Sylla, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at New York University Stern School of Business, said it’s not a matter of whether there will be another financial crisis, but when.

The world has had a series of financial crises since the Mississippi Bubble, a financial scheme in the early 1700s in France that triggered a speculative frenzy and ended in financial ruin, said Sylla. And there will inevitably be more, he said, as memories of crises past fade, those crying wolf on new worries are “shooed away” and people in general believe that “this time will be different.”

While many people are inevitably hurt by a financial crisis, Sylla said crises also have their advantages. While there are many people who lose money, there are also those who increase their wealth and new technologies are developed to prevent the next crisis.  

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