Previously published on www.rebuildingsociety.com
The European Commission has unveiled an Action Plan on how to harness the opportunities presented by fintech, including the crowdfunding and peer to business lending sectors.
According to the EU commission Europe should become a global hub for Fintech, with EU businesses and investors able to make most of the advantages offered by the Single Market in this fast-moving sector. As a first major deliverable, the Commission is also putting forward new rules that will help crowdfunding platforms to grow across the EU’s single market. In addition, the Commission is proposing a pan-European label for platforms, so that a platform licensed in one country can operate across the EU.
This certainly seems like common sense, indeed, something that should have been implemented some years ago. As is frequently the case with orchestrating multiple governmental and regulatory bodies, the greater the need, the greater the difficulty in actually doing it. North America being a classic example, with 52 states requiring 52 regulatory licences, making the EU look half as complex by comparison.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “To compete globally, Europe’s innovative companies need access to capital, space to experiment and scale to grow. This is the premise for our FinTech Action Plan. An EU crowdfunding licence would help crowdfunding platforms scale up in Europe. It will help them match investors and companies from all over the EU, giving more opportunities for firms and entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to a wider base of funders.”
The opportunity becomes apparent once one considers the varying degree of affluence within the EU, and how interconnectedness through technology and singular regulation could flatten the somewhat bumpy ground. When investors in Germany can back small businesses in Bulgaria, either through loans or equity, it changes the market dramatically, potentially leading to high growth in some states and high returns for investors in others.
It is currently difficult for many platforms to expand into other EU countries. This is why crowdfunding in the EU is underdeveloped as compared to other major world economies, and the EU market is fragmented. One of the biggest hurdles is the lack of common rules across the EU. This considerably raises compliance and operational costs and prevents crowdfunding platforms from expanding across borders.
Today’s proposal will make it easier for these platforms to offer their services EU-wide and improve access to this innovative form of finance for businesses in need of funding. Once adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, the proposed Regulation will allow platforms to apply for an EU label based on a single set of rules. This will enable them to offer their services across the EU. Investors on crowdfunding platforms will be protected by clear rules on information disclosures, rules on governance and risk management and a coherent approach to supervision.
Oliver Gajda, Exec director European Crowdfunding Network was interviewed at Fintech North, viewable here. “Without that kind of interchange it must be very hard to achieve any kind of standardisation across the industry… It’s basically impossible …so what we have done in the crowdfunding and peer to peer lending space is to have a soft discourse and distribute knowledge on the market…we’ve also done research on platform operators and their operational challengers when they go cross border… in some instances, every member state, every regulatory body, have completely different views to others.”
And therein the problem. How long it will take to establish a cohesive EU wide regulatory framework for crowdfunding? That remains to be seen. And of course, the Brexit question hovers in the background, although in this instance a regulatory compatibility will undoubtably benefit all.
Daniel Rajkumar from Whitelabel Crowdfunding had this to say “While we have had the cooperation of BaFin and other regulators, each regulator has nuanced differences. A single regulatory framework will reduce complexity and encourage rapid expansion throughout Europe. WLCF customers using our peer to peer lending platform can benefit from our experience as well as relationship with rebuildingsociety.com (for compliance expertise and the appointed representative offering) and also Web-Translations for their professional translation services.”
Helene Panzarino, Managing Director at Rainmaking Colab had this to say.
In my capacity as a representative for a UK FinTech Standards Advisory Board, I’ve noticed the desire for crowdfunding platforms and associations to welcome standards and regulation in order to build trust and rigour in governance and practice, comes up when considering the pan-European landscape. The UK has led the way in championing crowdfunding and a number of our higher profile platforms have begun entry into other jurisdictions. Passporting, particularly in the light of Brexit, off the back of a nascent export scene seems a very logical route to examine and assess. Revolut, who raised on both Crowdcube and Seedrs, is now officially a Unicorn (on paper), and this could have significant impact for the industry.