How to Make it as a Woman in FinTech: “Don’t Wait to Become a Leader”

This article was first published on FinTech Futures on May 18th 2017.

Adding to our stellar line up of leading women in FinTech, we speak to Alex Foster about how she has become Head of Insurance & Finance Sector & Post Trade Services at BT, and what she would suggest if you were just starting out as a woman in tech.

How did you start your career?

I always had a fascination by what makes the cogs turn in the financial markets world. I started my career on the trading floor — initially working in sales trading which was at that time more voice based.  Over time, the markets started to morph and automation and algorithms evolved.  With this ‘electronification’ of the markets came the need for more than just traditional trading skills.  The role started to require greater market understanding, as well as market structure and technology knowledge.

To have a true understanding of how things work, I developed an appreciation of the effect of technology, such as the impact of proximity and algorithms.

My current role is at BT, a move I made to get a better view as to what was ‘under the bonnet’ of the infrastructure underpinning the global financial markets. I’ve found this has made my skill set more rounded. I’ve been able to provide first-hand knowledge of customer requirements. This helps us to develop technology solutions that anticipate the needs, and support the aspirations of, the full spectrum of BT’s financial services customers.

What sparked your interest in FinTech?

I have always enjoyed the tech side of financial markets and have always strived to act as an agent of positive change. FinTech has so much potential to deliver new ways of working. The possibilities that can evolve from a perfect synergy of new technology, collaboration and regulation are incredibly exciting.

Consider the process – new regulation comes in, start-ups develop the necessary technology to manage it, and collaboration between firms sees the process through. Fintech is an integral tool for moving financial markets forward.

What was your light bulb moment?

My light bulb moment came about four to five years ago, when I began working with bankers, some who were friends, leaving their traditional roles on the trading floor to create new and exciting FinTech, RegTech, and InsurTech companies. As we know, these start-ups are a growing source of innovation in the financial markets industry.  But their small size can create challenges around market adoption, delivery and meeting the stringent contractual or compliance expectations of large financial institutions. We started to work with these companies to help them scale-up to obtain a global reach. I realised the monumental impact that these technologies and FinTech firms could achieve when the right partnerships are in place.

What inspires you?

I find the drive and nerve that start-ups have when they decide to give their idea a go very inspiring. That willingness to try something different is so exciting because you see human ingenuity, courage and hard work at its finest.

At BT, I see so much innovation first hand. I also get involved with this as a non-executive director or simply as a noisy advisor. From these positions, I get to see the talent that it takes to take an idea and make it grow. The absolute focus you need to achieve this is exemplary.

Why is the #WomenInFinTech movement important?

The digital age is here and with it we can already see that new technology will pervade every part of our global economy. STEM is a big part of this growing field and one where more top talent is needed, but where female representation is still too low.  It’s so important that we see more girls taking STEM subjects in their school years. And it’s equally important that we attract, retain, develop and progress female talent in these careers.

At a personal level, I have always loved tech – my school was one of the first that offered a Computer Studies O Level and it has been a huge part of my professional life. And I studied mathematics, statistics & computing at university. That’s why the movement is so important; it encourages women to take up the opportunities which have made such a difference to me.

I’m encouraged to see that this is actively promoted at BT through initiatives like ‘Step into Stem’ and ’BT TechWomen’ which aim to increase the presence of women in technology. Again, partnerships are essential – we are working with a number of our clients, start-up hubs, schools and business partners realise our ambitions together.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in fintech?

Make sure you have great mentors, both within your firm and externally. Never be afraid to ask questions, this will help you to continue to learn and flourish. Don’t wait to become a leader – start this at whatever stage of your career you are in. And finally, always aspire to be the leader that you yourself would want to follow.

We hope you enjoy our Women in Tech Series, where we celebrate the accomplishments of women in the technology industry, and learn more about what it takes to succeed. For more insightful stories from fintech’s leading women, check out our previous Women in Tech interviews.

Do you know a woman in fintech whose achievements we should know more about? Contact us at sophie.cater@knect365.com.

Webinar On-Demand: How Start-Ups Can Make it in the Fintech Industry

On May 17th, Finovate hosted its first-ever webinar: “How to Make it in the Fintech Industry: 3 Startup Success Stories.” On the panel was Moven CTO Kumar Ampani, Clinc founder and CEO Jason Mars, and Jeff Cain, Director of the Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator as they share insights on what fintech entrepreneurs what they need to know in order to turn their innovations into the solutions, apps, and services of tomorrow.

What does it take turn your fintech startup into one of the industry’s great success stories?

The growth of fintech worldwide is creating more opportunities than ever for entrepreneurs and startups. The same industry that is making it easier for the underbanked to build a financial future is also making cross-border payments cheaper, safer, and more transparent for the world’s largest financial institutions.

And from crowdfunding platforms to chatbots, fintech is the place where the social and the “artificially-intelligent” are partners in helping us save, spend, and invest.

How can startups harness this global opportunity in fintech and turn it into demand for their own innovations and solutions? What does it take to separate your fintech startup from the rest of the pack?

Watch on-demand >>

Webinar: How to Make it in the Fintech Industry – 3 Start-Up Success Stories

What does it take to turn your fintech startup into one of the industry’s great success stories?

The growth of fintech worldwide is creating more opportunities than ever for entrepreneurs and startups. The same industry that is making it easier for the underbanked to build a financial future is also making cross-border payments cheaper, safer, and more transparent for the world’s largest financial institutions.

And from crowdfunding platforms to chatbots, fintech is the place where the social and the “artificially-intelligent” are partners in helping us save, spend, and invest.

How can startups harness this global opportunity in fintech and turn it into demand for their own innovations and solutions? What does it take to separate your fintech startup from the rest of the pack?

On May 17th at 11am Eastern, Finovate will host its first-ever webinar: How to Make it in the Fintech Industry: 3 Startup Success Stories.” Join Moven CTO Kumar Ampani, Clinc founder and CEO Jason Mars, and Jeff Cain, Director of the Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator as they share insights on what fintech entrepreneurs need to know in order to turn their innovations into the solutions, apps, and services of tomorrow.

Register now for your place on the webinar >>

Meet your speakers

Panelist: Kumar Ampani

Chief Technology Officer

Moven

 

 

Panelist: Jeff Cain

Senior Director

Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator

 

 

Panelist: Dr. Jason Mars

Co-founder and CEO

Clinc

 

 

 

Moderator: David Penn

Research Analyst

Finovate

 

Blockchain – a Revolution for the Patient

Written by Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

The excitement surrounding blockchain or the somewhat less jazzy sounding Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT – in all its forms and incarnations) has been much discussed and taken up many column inches over the past few years. The conversations around the potential of the technology to upend entrenched processes has extended well beyond financial services and use cases have been explored across a broad range of industries – from music and entertainment copyrights to the provenance of organic coffee beans. And what has followed, more recently, is the almost inevitable questioning of whether it’s all been overly hyped. A recent estimate from Gartner indicates that 90% of enterprise blockchain projects launched in 2016 and the first half of 2017 will fail within two years.

“Most revolutions occur over time rather than in a high profile moment and whilst commentators may be impatient for results, there is a lot of activity going on,” Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

Operating from the assumption that the broad range of stakeholders involved haven’t collectively lost the plot or the ability to apply an economic calculus to an assessment of technology, interest is clearly being propelled by some powerful drivers. The potential to make significant cost savings, streamline processes and create more secure and, indeed, tamper proof systems, are powerful incentives to explore and invest in use cases and proof of concepts. High levels of failure are not therefore a signal that the technology has a weak use case but rather that interest remains high and the potential rewards considerable.

Given JP Morgan’s recent exit from R3, following other large players like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley last year, it is easy to yearn for the tangible and believe that the ‘trial’ stage will continue for the foreseeable future. Yet, we need to follow the practical implementations that are happening and there are a good many examples across financial services.

“Identity is an area where DLT is being explored by many financial institutions in partnership with start-ups,” Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

Ripple [FS13] has recently added 11 new banking members to its network and now has 75 bank customers using its Interledger protocol. Whilst still far off from overtaking Swift’s 11,000 member banks, it is creating the standards for financial institutions to follow and use DLT. Creating a new process in a new institution is likely to be far easier than attempting to get agreement on changing incumbent processes from 11,000 members. Enabling financial institutions to connect to payment networks and distributed ledger technology to send and settle international payments among one another in almost real time presents a powerful alternative to the current model.

Identity is also an area where DLT is being explored by many financial institutions in partnership with start-ups. SecureKey [FF12], for example, is creating an identity and authentication network underpinned by DLT. It has signed up a number of financial services institutions to its network and received grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security in the US. There are many start-ups operating in the Identity space and beyond (think KYC/AML), harnessing blockchain technology to provide RegTech solutions to the financial services industry where the opportunity to cut costs and provide more robust regulatory compliance is enormous. Regulators at the national, supranational and international levels have taken notice and are compounding interest rapidly.

“Central to the potentially transformative potential of DLT technology is not simply to replace old tech with new but to fundamentally change processes in ways that have not yet even been formulated,” Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

Looking at a newcomer, blockchain based start-up banki Humaniq, which is targeting the unbanked across emerging markets though a mobile app, recently received investment from Deloitte. It also raised funding through an Initial Coin Offering. Included in its ambitious objectives to harness the blockchain for good to meet the needs of unserved communities are to leverage biometric, voice and location technologies to overcome the hurdles of a customer base who often lack conventional identity proofs.

Big tech is also forging ahead with the creation of blockchain products and services and with both IBM and Microsoft creating blockchain-as-a-service applications for businesses, one can assume that DLT technologies are no flash in the pan. It takes time to work through both the use cases and practical implementation of new technologies; legacy technology cannot be simply replaced in short order. Central to the potentially transformative potential of DLT technology is not simply to replace old tech with new but to fundamentally change processes in ways that have not yet even been formulated. Most revolutions occur over time rather than in a high profile moment and whilst commentators may be impatient for results, there is a lot of activity going on.

“I have lightbulb moments all the time – doesn’t everyone?” The rise of women in Fintech

This article was first published on FinTech Futures on April 18th 2017.

Liz Maguire, Head of Digital & Transformation at ANZ reveals the secret to her success within fintech and #WomenInTech.

How did you start your career?

I started in a bank graduate programme straight out of university in a frontline role. I’ve since worked in lots of different departments and roles across several companies and time zones. I’ve held leadership roles in products, marketing, business support and channel management, and now lead a fantastic Digital and Transformation function at New Zealand’s largest (and best!) bank.  

What sparked your interest in fintech?

I’ve always worked in areas which are trying to do things differently and better – and this has really motivated me.

The Digital and Transformation area is a perfect fit for me – we’re part of an industry which is evolving around us and we’re using digital tools to drive the evolution.

I also love the people aspect of it. It all comes down to human behaviour – everything we do starts with people. We don’t just think up cool digital stuff and then try and get people to use it. We study the way people think, behave, work and live and design digital banking functions to make their lives easier – and that’s pretty satisfying.

What was your lightbulb moment?

I have lightbulb moments all the time – doesn’t everyone? For example, I had a real lightbulb moment about the so-called ‘disruptive FinTech companies’. The whole fintech industry is often positioned in quite a negative light for banks, but I think this ignores the fact that banks have a huge track record of digital transformation already.  There are fantastic examples of fintech enablers – those which help banks be better at a particular aspect of what they do. I see enormous opportunity in this.

What inspires you?

People with growth mind sets inspire me – those people who have the ability to take 1 plus 1 and create 3. I have tremendous respect for people who have overcome large obstacles to achieve their goals.

Also, on a daily basis I’m inspired by great customer experiences – whether that’s a story about how one of our bankers or digital tools have impressed a customer, or an experience I’ve had with a company that has blown me away.

Why is the #WomenInTech movement important?

It’s bringing together two important things. Women are half of the population and so we need to address the disparity in the industry. And it’s such an important industry – it’s a crucial part of society and the way we all progress. We need to get as many diverse brains as possible working on the opportunities that exist out there for technology.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?

As a whole, society has come a long way in the gender equality stakes. But we’re definitely not there yet, especially in this industry. I think it’s important to ensure young women are supported and can learn from the examples of others. This might be simple things like learning to speak up in meetings, how to ask for help and how to be more visible.

Throughout the year we will be profiling women in fintech, not simply to celebrate their success but also to hear what has worked for them during the course of their careers. Click here to read more inspirational stories from fintech’s leading women >>

Women in FinTech: “Be brave and dare and you will succeed.”

Woman run to new opportunities

FrancoiseThis article was first published on FinTech Futures. Françoise Lamotte, SVP, Head of Direct and Digital, MetLife EMEA, tells us about her path to becoming a distinguished leader within the FinTech industry and gives some invaluable advice for companies and women aiming to give rise to Women in Tech. Lamotte is on the Advisory Board for InsurTech Rising 2017, the leading InsurTech showcase for the future of insurance.

How did you start your career?

I started my career 25 years ago in Japan – I was absolutely fascinated by the country after spending 18 months there as a scholar funded by the Japanese government. At that time there was no internet, no mobile or smart phones; it sounds like pre-history!

What sparked your interest in FinTech?

In 2007, I became the first chief digital officer of AXA group. I realized the tremendous challenge for a large multinational company to digitally transform itself and bring innovation to the forefront. Large companies have assets like brand, customers, data, capital, but often lack the agility and the willingness to experiment. Fintech is the primary stimulus for more customer centricity. More importantly, smart partnering with startups is, for me, the best way to prepare the future when you are a large incumbent.

What was your lightbulb moment?

I had the opportunity to work at a very successful start-up of the sharing economy and experienced how company culture is critical for success: sharing the same vision, strong values, leadership and transparency, customer focus – these are key ingredients that need to be seeded from the very beginning to ensure success and growth.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by courage and determination – a mix of “anything is possible” and “I can do it”.

Why is the #WomenInFinTech movement important?

Diversity in the workspace is very important. Organizations perform better when they are inclusive and when women are strongly represented at all levels. However, when you add “tech” to the equation, it seems it raises an additional barrier.  Right from the source, the pool of female talents is currently more limited – fewer female engineers, fewer female studying computer science, etc. The #WomeninTech movement will help inspire female students and young professionals to choose careers in that space and create an inclusive environment where they can thrive and succeed.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in fintech?

Choose the right environment for you, meaning the project that inspires you and the colleagues and leaders who develop a great company culture. Get support and coaching from a mentor. Join Women’s network. Give visibility to your work and achievements – speak up, promote what you do, share your opinion, get on stage. Be brave and dare.. and you will succeed.

Throughout the year we will be profiling women in fintech, not simply to celebrate their success but also to hear what has worked for them during the course of their careers. Read more inspirational stories from fintech’s leading women >>

InsurTech: The future of insurance is in partnerships

#1 InsurTech Bytes_PARTNERSHIPS, ACQUISITIONS & INVESTMENTS Card

2016 was all about InsurTech: cash flowed in, the incumbents sat up and took notice, and a slew of start-ups arrived on the scene to grab the insurance industry by the shoulders and give it a good shake. Now, as the hype subsides, FinTech Futures have launched InsurTech Bytes podcast series, inviting John Egan, strategy practice lead at Anthemis, Dan Smith, Managing Partner at Exponential Ventures, and Jannat Shah, Associate at AXA Strategic Ventures to chew the fat on all things InsurTech: where’s the smart money heading? Why should the big players partner with start-ups? What effect is Brexit having on InsurTech VCs?

Investor Insights The State of InsurTech by InsurTech Bytes Free Listening on SoundCloud

 

Following on from the first serving of InsurTech Bytes, the podcast for the future of insurance, we take a look at the top 10 takeaways:

  1. Hype is settling into the practical implementation and the focus is on where in the value-chain Insurtech innovators will focus next.
  2. The customer needs to be queen/king.
  3. Partnership is the way forward. Enablers are leading disruptors across the Insurance sector, presenting an exciting opportunity for insurers to drive forward their digital transformation. InsurTech has developed (largely) with a view towards partnership rather than disruption; there are only 3 end-to-end insurance propositions globally.
  4. Legacy issues persist, innovation from within large institutions is tough and Brexit sucks.
  5. It’s hard to leapfrog in the insurance sector.
  6. Timing matters. It has been 10 years since the crisis and the insurance industry hasn’t been under the same pressure as banking. The nature and complexity of the sector has kept competitors at bay.
  7. InsurTech requires patient capital, so it doesn’t fit with the aspirations of all funders.
  8. The elephant in the room is that disruption may come from unexpected and well capitalized competitors, for example, InsurTechs partnered with Reinsurers looking for a route to go to direct to consumers.
  9. Incumbents need to “be able to partner with many businesses of any size, at speed, at scale and simultaneously,” according to John Egan, strategy practice lead at Anthemis.

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Rise of the Robots; Rise of RegTech

by Husayn Kassai, CEO and Co-Founder of Onfido Background Checks. First published on FinTech Futures.

Robo advisers are democratizing access to financial services by offering expert financial advice, and with it RegTech is growing. We have seen this trend start in the US, and spread to the rest of the world. With Wealthfront and Betterment already household names and companies like Scalable Capital launching in both the UK and Germany, the market for robo advice is growing, and growing fast.

In its simplest form, the technology essentially involves replacing traditional, face-to-face savings and investment advice with automated, online guidance. Its capabilities extend much further than simply offering advice however; based on complex sets of algorithms, robo advisers can also execute on instruction and even invest money on your behalf.

The advantages of the technology are many, not least its democratization of access to investment and subsequent opening up of wealth management to the masses.

In particular, the need for remote, robust identity verification – ensuring a person is who they claim to be – will be paramount. As access to investment advice becomes more widely available, with many more users looking to sign up in a frictionless way in the comfort of their own home, the challenge of identity verification and the risks that come with it increase, as there may be more bad actors entering the system. It’s reduction of this risk that Regtech like Onfido offers.

Unfortunately, there’s often a tension between necessary compliance and fraud measures and a seamless, easy on-boarding process. It’s a difficult issue to resolve – while rigorous KYC & AML processes might put off honest applicants, making the user experience easier could make it easier for fraudsters to cheat the system. At Onfido, we’re evolving with the needs of the FinTech community to increase conversion and reduce fraud at the same time. With our SDK, it’s as easy as holding your ID document up to your smartphone or computer and taking a selfie. You can do it in seconds, and from the comfort of your own home, avoiding the long, complicated and fallible process of going in branch or even sending documents by mail.

Robo advice is growing to rapid prominence, and recent acquisitions of robo advice platforms FutureAdvisor and AnlageFinger by global banking giants BlackRock and Deutsche Bank respectively shows how seriously the new tech is being taken.

There’s still a long way to go, however. Regtech like Onfido’s has gone from improving financial services to opening FinTech to thin-files. The next phase will be to push financial inclusion even further and tackle the world’s 2 billion currently unbanked individuals. The technology already exists to enable this companies like Payjoy, for instance, can safely and seamlessly on-board users within seconds and at just a fraction of the considerable time and cost it would previously have taken.

Beyond that, penetration into other verticals is inevitable. A handful of companies in the UK and the US are already taking aim at the mortgage market, and many more look set to follow suit. The Robo market is undoubtedly on the rise, and Regtech is coming with it.

Women in FinTech: An interview with Samina Rizwan

Samina Rizwan

This article was first published on FinTech Futures on 22 March 2017. 

Throughout the year we will be profiling women in FinTech, not simply to celebrate their success but also to hear what has worked for them during the course of their careers. This week, Samina Rizwan, Enterprise Architect, Habib Bank Ltd tells us about her path into FinTech and how she has become a distinguished leader within the industry, making a positive impact in the financial services industry. In 2016, Samina was shortlisted for the Woman In Technology (W.I.T) Award with Banking Technology.

How did you start your career?

I started my career 1995, as a Computer Systems Engineer working for a PCB manufacturing company in San Jose. Being a professional engineer, I was excited about the challenges I used to face each day when I routed and designed multi-layered circuit boards in those days where technology was in its midway especially in a country like mine. Yet it was far from sight as to when that type of technology would become common and a career path for engineers in Pakistan. I then switched to the software technology soon after realizing these facts and proceeded with software development further growing into the project management regime and remained as a vendor for another eight years.

I joined the financial industry after 10 years of my career where I started working as customer rather than a vendor and that really change the way I thought about technology, as I was the end user of it. Being a banking technology person, the need of satisfying the bank’s customers became a pressing need of the day. I was engaged in the IT Portfolio Management at the bank working with internal and external customer and also turned the technology back end to offer more innovative financial products.

“I always believe in ‘change for good’.”

What sparked your interest in FinTech?

The Fintech Rise. As the financial world is shrinking and becoming more personal to customers based on their requirements, lifestyle trends, socio-economical changes around the globe has limited the financial institutions to cover the demand and supply cycle of all the customers at an equal and consistent level. Hence the rise of FinTechs gaining momentum and disrupting the financial industry by their financial inclusion in everyone’s life.

What was your lightbulb moment?

In developing countries like mine, the FinTechs have played a vital role along with other service providers like TELCO companies that are providing simple means of payment services to the unbanked masses.

This disruption created a phenomenal change in the financial institution including my previous and current organization to startup banking for the unbanked. This has not only brought in competition to the local market, but is also now becoming popular in the international markets. The African region is offering similar financial products to their customers using technology.

“Women have proven to be an important and critical part of the technology.”

What inspires you?

After having said all about FinTechs, financial institutions, we all remain human at the end of the day and being a human gives us the leverage to bring change on a faster pace, thus driving the technology owners to bring corresponding changes in their technology stacks. I always believe in “change for good” and so I follow the FinTech models to bring changes in the financial institutions while crafting business and IT strategies, bringing in new technologies to the bank, creating room for innovation and new ideas like digital banking.

“Women are far stronger than they think and can carry on another mile to reach the pinnacle of their professional lives and pick themselves up and move on…”

Why is the #WomenInFinTech movement important?

The other half of the world has always been a part of almost every industry, technology included. We, as females have been consistently assisting, creating, developing, researching, innovating, working by all means in all areas of science, technology and engineering at superior levels rather than mediocre levels. The current C-levels in most technology giants currently are “females” and I am really proud to be a woman too. Women, being patient in nature and having the great capability of multi-tasking, have proven to be an important and critical part of the technology.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?

I still consider that many women are still far away from being a mid-level and leading positions, and the main reason for such exclusion might be due to mid-career exits from their professional life and entering into domestic lives. It is also due to upbringing of children most of the time in our part of the world. But I would suggest that they are far stronger than they think and can carry on another mile to reach the pinnacle of their professional lives and pick themselves up and move on…

RegTech: providing a step up the financial services pyramid

by Lisa Moyle, Brand Strategy Director, Fintech Futures. First published on FinTech Futures.


There was an interesting discussion at the recent Finance Disrupted event in London, organised by The Economist, that highlighted the opportunity for regtech to support financial inclusion.

Jo Hill, director of market intelligence, data and analysis/strategy and competition (whew…) at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), noted the potential for regtech to make day-to-day banking operations more efficient and effective, ultimately resulting in better experiences for consumers and enabling access to financial services more broadly.

Following an overview of the ways in which Tinkoff Bank and Kreditech were opening up both access and offering improved products and services across Russia and a range of developing markets, a key question was raised with regards to the ideal role of the regulator. Is innovation best supported by a helpful regulator or is the most helpful move they can make to simply stay out of the way? Hill noted the convening power of the regulator and the ways in which the FCA TechSprints, for example, enabled cross organisational teams to come together and create innovative ideas and ways of working.

The link between regtech and financial inclusion may not be as clear as providing a payments app where nothing existed previously. The barriers that regulatory compliance and risk management can throw up when trying to serve the non-textbook consumer, can result in financial institutions simply deeming some customer segments too costly or risky to serve.

Regtech, by driving down the cost of regulatory compliance – estimated to take $270 billion a year and around 10% of operating costs – creating stronger and more robust systems for identifying certain risks, can make more customers more economically feasible to serve and serve well.

As Bank of England Governor Mark Carney noted in his recent speech at the Deutsche Bundesbank G20 conference on digitising finance, financial inclusion and financial literacy, “the twin imperatives of greater inclusion and more competition point to the value of digital identities. Billions of people are still under- or unbanked across advanced and emerging economies”.

Regtech can underpin solutions not simply by creating innovative products but also by enabling financial services institutions to serve more customers without fear of falling foul of existing regulatory frameworks.