Powering on through UK Fintech Week, Navigating the Regulatory Maze was a whistle-stop webinar on Thursday 23rd April through today’s regulatory challenges, presented by Simmons Wavelength on behalf of the City of London Corporation.
Regulation might seem like a scary word to some, but these expert legal minds were able to distill the current challenges Fintech’s may be facing into a neat, 90-minute session that also included some breakout time.
It was hosted by the bubbly Erika Pagano, Wavelength’s Head of Legal Innovation and Design, who kept speakers to time with aplomb as they ran through the urgent requirements of tax and force majeure that have been raised by COVID-19.
While essentials such as e-signatures and director duties were covered, there was also an interesting session from Penny Miller on conduct and governance, highlighting that these are two core elements that regulatory bodies look for in companies. Whether an organisation works with a regulator or not, it’s likely that customers or suppliers will – and so adhering to conduct and governance regulations can be a powerful tool, regardless of set up. Penny is a partner and Head of Financial Services Regulatory Practice at Simmons and Simmons and advises a range of financial institutions on product regulation. For a bit of further reading, she recently authored a chapter on The Prospectus Directive Regime of debt, asset backed and derivative securities in “A Practitioner’s Guide to the Regulation of Investment Banking” which has been published in The City Library.
Another stand-out five-minutes came from Robert Allen, partner in the financial markets litigation group, on navigating reputation management. He was keen to highlight the choppy waters that firms may find themselves catapulted into if they mishandle the current lockdown situation. From media outlets ‘Covid shaming’ companies who may or may not choose to furlough, to others who see opportunity in a time of national crisis or who could be struggling themselves. He warned that there are three ways for reputations to be called in to question right now, they are fund management, mishandling of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), and false rumours of insolvency.
Finally, towards the end of the session came a stimulating discussion on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, essentially how a business treats its people. Sophia Adams Bhati, the Head of Strategy and Policy at Simmons Wavelength, brought in some interesting points about data ethics when operating data pools and how to utilise them for good. With this topic can introduce a diverse field of criteria, Sophia’s advice is to screen potential investors to ensure for a smooth path in the future, and to double-check that they adhere to any ESG guidance you are following. If in doubt, follow the motto “profit with a purpose” which should guide any fintech through regulatory and governance issues.
Once the session was over Erika invited participants to discuss their triumphs, trembles, and trends in Zoom breakout rooms where issues such as cybersecurity and difficulty collaborating and working across jurisdictions were broached.
The webinar ended with a summary Q&A session, and participants seemed to leave with a good grounding in current regulatory issues. Although as Catherine McGuiness, the Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee at the City of London, pointed out in her introduction, “Only around one in 10 businesses currently consult a legal advisor when they find themselves with a problem”. She went on to say that around £250m of losses to small businesses a year stem from such legal issues. With more education on constantly shifting regulation for fintech businesses, this could certainly make a difference.