Central Bank of Ireland to launch Innovation Hub

Maria Nikolova

The innovation hub will be established for firms to engage directly with the Central Bank on innovation and FinTech.

Ireland is warming up to novel financial technologies. In a speech at UCC’s Financial Services Innovation Centre this morning, Derville Rowland, Director General, Financial Conduct, announced that the Central Bank will launch an Innovation Hub and an industry engagement program in order to keep step with the evolving FinTech and regulatory landscapes. The innovation hub is set to enable firms to engage directly with the Central Bank on innovation and FinTech.

The absence of an accessible point of contact for FinTech firms is an issue that has come up repeatedly in the bank’s discussions with stakeholders, Ms Rowland said. It is also a common facility provided by other regulators.

A new Central Bank unit will focus on engagement, sharing and listening, and will be a two-way street. The regulator will have a direct contact point for new FinTech firms and existing firms that are becoming more innovative. Such firms will be able to contact the Central Bank at Email: [email protected] with questions. This is set to give firms a way to engage with the bank outside of more formal regulatory interactions, such as in the authorisations process. In so doing, the Central Bank will be able to learn from the firms about their ideas, the technologies they are developing, and have a view to where financial services are heading.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been marking progress in its regulatory sandbox initiative. The regulator received 61 applications for cohort 3 of the regulatory sandbox, with 18 firms accepted to develop towards testing.

The FCA continues to see successful sandbox applications from a diverse range of sectors, locations and firm size. Accepted propositions cover a range of areas including blockchain based payment services, RegTech propositions, general insurance, AML controls, biometric digital ID and Know Your Customer (KYC) verification.

FinTech divisions of regulators are facing an increased volume of enquiries about blockchain and cryptoassets. Various blockchain applications were the topics of the majority of enquiries received by the Fintech Desk of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) last year.

The Annual Report for 2017 published by the Swiss regulator shows that FINMA’s FinTech Desk handled 453 enquiries last year, a pronounced increase from the 270 enquiries received in 2016. Most queries in 2017 were about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings (ICOs) – topics which are also central to FINMA’s supervisory work. The digital asset enquiries accounted for 60% of the total in 2017.

Interestingly, in her speech today, Derville Rowland did not mention anything particular about the position of the Central Bank of Ireland towards cryptocurrencies. The term “virtual currency” was mentioned twice, in relation to initiatives taken by the European Banking Authority (EBA).

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