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Fintech Trending: RegTech Reality Check, Blockchain Bandwagon, and IBM’s New Wallet

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Hat, courtesy of Alloy, a customer-onboarding specialist that debuted at FinDEVr in October.

The dream of RegTech is alive at Finovate

Deloitte recently asked what we should make of regtech in a new report titled, “RegTech is the new FinTech: How agile regulatory technology is helping firms better understand and manage their risks.” To the extent that regtech represents technologies, strategies, and solutions designed to help firms better meet regulatory obligations, remain compliant, and/or secure their processes, there may be less new here than meets the eye. Compared to insurtech, regtech firms have been prominent players in the fintech firmament for years.

To its credit, Deloitte is aware of the “old-is-new-again” aspect of regtech. The report notes that “while the name is new, the marriage of technology and regulation to address regulatory challenges has existed for some time with varying degrees of success.”

Indeed. Consider companies like Gremln (F14), which demonstrated a social media platform specifically for regulated industries, and Finect (F13), which unveiled a compliant communication platform for financial professionals. Qumram (F16) provides software that helps ensure complaint communication by recording digital interactions from web, social, and mobile channels.

My Virtual Strongbox (F14) introduced the kind of secure document-storage technology that can help FIs better manage customer documentation. Global Debt Registry, another F14 presenter, provides compliance and risk-management solutions to the account-management industry. OutsideIQ (F16) enables FIs to uncover regulatory risk using a combination of machine learning and human analysis. FundAmerica (F15), arguably one of the most explicitly regtech companies to demo at Finovate, provides crowdfunding platforms with APIs for a wide variety of “mission-critical, back-end regulatory requirements.”

Additionally, there are a sizeable number of credit risk analysis innovators such as QCR (F15), CreditHQ (F16), and FICO (FD16); companies like Avalara (FD15) that help merchants recognize and satisfy sales-tax requirements (or by that token, even a VATBox (F15) that helps recover VAT fees for international travelers); and cloud-based auditing technologies like those available from Auvenir (F16), whose identity as a fintech company was a topic of our deliberations.

And all of this is to say nothing of the even larger number of security and authentication specialists whose technologies—at least by Deloitte’s definition—can be considered regtech. Note that Deloitte’s Ireland-based rundown of regtech companies includes Finovate alum Trustev (F14), whose online ID-verification technology is very much in the same category as dozens of other security, authentication, verification, anti-fraud innovators.

The question as to whether regtech as a “thing” (as the millennials say) can be separated from the broader fintech discussion is likely more of a marketing decision than anything else. Clearly regtech has the ranks; the issue is to what degree does distinguishing them as a type of innovator apart from the larger fintech world make it easier for these companies to attract top talent, develop necessary solutions, and raise the capital to drive and grow their businesses. From the perspective of fintech in general—and Finovate/FinDEVr in specific—we’re happier having regtech innovating from “inside the tent,” as opposed to being outside the tent trying to find a way in.

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Blockchain bandwagon

Two more major players jumped on the blockchain bandwagon. IBM (FD16) showed its Hyperledger at FinDEVr last week and Visa (FD14) announced its cross-border payment system built on blockchain-like distributed ledgers, an apparent challenge to Swift. The technology is powered by Chain (FD15) which counts Visa, Capital One (FD15) and Citibank as investors. According to Javelin Strategy, banks will invest $1 billion this year in blockchain initiatives.

Mobile payments gets another huge player

Speaking of IBM, one of the more surprising announcements at Money2020 was the launch of IBM Pay, a private-label mobile payments and POS system. Details are sketchy, but in the IBM video below, it appears to be a Starbucks-like QR code system. It’s part of IBM’s Watson Commerce initiative.