From left: Michelle Caruso-Cabrera; William J. Burns; Sandra Ro; Adam J. Szubin; J. Andrew Spindler; New York, October 30, 2018.
On October 30, FSVC hosted a panel discussion in New York City on the opportunities and challenges posed by new financial technologies for emerging market countries. The discussion was moderated by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera of CNBC, and featured William J. Burns, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Sandra Ro, CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council; Adam J. Szubin, Of Counsel for Sullivan & Cromwell and former Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury; and J. Andrew Spindler, FSVC President & CEO. Approximately 150 members of the New York financial community attended and took part.
At a time when globalization is being challenged, the linkages that connect emerging market countries to the global economy are breaking down. Panelists discussed the considerable pressure facing these countries, and why they might be turning to Fintech for possible solutions. Fintech has the potential to offer tremendous opportunities to countries in areas such as cross-border payments, remittances, agricultural supply chains and crowdfunding. This technology can be used to bring access to financial services for the nearly two billion people currently excluded from the formal economy.
There are potential downsides, however, to rushing into Fintech. For example, instantaneous payments may seem appealing, but in the absence of a centralized authority, there is diminished protection against fraud or theft. There is also the risk that Fintech will be used for illicit purposes, such as money laundering or the financing of terrorism, as beneficial ownership of accounts can be obscured.
Representing a diverse set of perspectives, panelists raised a number of key issues. First, countries like the U.S. should use caution when deploying economic sanctions against targeted nations, as sanctions overuse can contribute to the hasty adoption of alternative currencies and payment systems. Moreover, countries should seek guidance from international standard-setting bodies when developing Fintech solutions. Additionally, while regulations vary across countries, there should be a set of standardized principles governing use of Fintech products such as digital assets. Regulatory “sandboxes” could play a key role in informing such principles. Finally, there was consensus that Fintech platforms should be viewed as complementary to existing financial products and services, and are not likely to replace traditional currencies and payment systems in the foreseeable future.
New financial technologies constitute an area of growing importance in FSVC’s work, and the organization has been advising emerging market countries on mobile payments, digital assets, crowdfunding and other areas of Fintech. A key challenge facing many countries is ensuring that they have the capacity to assess the opportunities and risks inherent in specific Fintech products and platforms. FSVC is committed to helping countries strengthen their preparedness to make needed assessments, and the New York panel discussion helped to highlight the importance of these issues.
Permanent staff of the Angolan Parliament participate in a workshop on budget oversight; Luanda, October 24, 2018.
FSVC continues to make progress in its program to support public financial management in Angola. An oil-rich nation, Angola is seeking to diversify its revenue sources and improve management of its public resources. Most recently, FSVC volunteer experts worked with permanent staff of the Angolan Parliament to strengthen their capacity to oversee and monitor the budget process. The FSVC volunteer experts highlighted the importance of reliable data and indicators to evaluate past fiscal performance and inform budget planning, and ensure independent oversight of the process. Workshop participants also discussed the need for a budget bureau within Parliament.
As a result of FSVC’s efforts, permanent Parliamentary staff are now equipped with better revenue and expenditure indicators that can be implemented immediately, and they have also adopted the longer-term goal of creating a budget bureau. These solutions will help promote budget transparency and awareness in Parliament, and a more secure economic future for Angola.
As part of its program “Gazelles al Mahgrib,” FSVC works with business incubators in Morocco to assist early-stage start-ups with high-growth potential (gazelles) in moving to the next critical business stage. One of the major areas of focus is enabling gazelles to gain access to financing opportunities.
In October, FSVC volunteer experts helped a local business incubator identify and establish banking relationships to provide financing options for its start-ups. The volunteer experts helped the business incubator design a strategy for bank partnerships, develop materials to reach out to banks, and prepare a communications strategy to establish effective and operational partnerships with banks. As a result, the local business incubator will be able to provide better financing support to start-ups, and there is now greater cooperation across the different business ecosystem stakeholders in Morocco.
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