FinTech Firms Courted Abroad, Legal Spat Marks US Bank Charters

From Abu Dhabi to Singapore, government efforts are underway to court FI/FinTech collaborations. In NY, salvos of lawsuits are being lobbed over FinTech banking charters. Also, Open Banking via API makes inroads in the U.K.

Singapore Signs On With FinTech Firms

In Singapore, news came this week that the country will open up its real-time payment system to FinTech firms. The system is known as FAST, and Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung said part of the impetus is to let non-bank firms have access, while launching a unified payment code known as SGQR that is focused on ePayments. The movement to open that FinTech access, said the minister, brings “greater convenience to consumers” as those individuals use their eWallets.

The nation is forming a Direct FAST industry group, where the members will include traditional financial institutions (FIs), FinTech firms and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

According to reports, Ong stated, “As we enable more non-bank players to connect to FAST, MAS expects them to adopt a mindset of open accessibility and good customer service. They have to provide two-way payments between eWallets and bank accounts.”

In The Middle East

In the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is also bringing FinTech to its purview, with a range of funding and regulatory initiatives that The National said are aimed at growing domestic digital efforts. Announcements came Monday (Sept. 17) that the city financial center, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), has debuted a “sandbox” for digital offerings in tandem with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development.

In the last three years, ADGM has been building a globally connected platform to support financial intermediation and facilitate capital flows for all companies, including startups and [small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)],” ADGM Chairman Ahmed Al Sayegh said.

Startup accelerators are in place. In addition, the “digital sandbox” will, in part, focus on regulatory compliance and  as is typical of such testing environments  allow an operating license to be granted in the wake of a proven business model.

ADGM said, too, that it became part of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN), which fosters collaboration between FinTech firms and FIs, as well as investments between the two nations. It should be noted that Dubai Financial Services Authority had, as of last month, signed an agreement with MAS, through which collaboration will be promoted as it pertains to FinTech projects.

While In New York, New York…

Such large-scale efforts may not be in the offing here in the States, at least as presaged by a legal tangle. As noted in this space in recent days, the key banking regulator in New York has filed suit against the federal government, specifically the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)  alleging that the OCC’s move toward national bank charters for FinTech firms is akin to “folly” that “should be stopped.”

The suit alleges that such charters would create “too big to fail” enterprises engaged in banking. As noted, too, the Department of Financial Services study that debuted over the summer shows that, in terms of online lending, the overwhelming majority of customers in New York state are individuals, not businesses.

Open Banking, APIs In The UK

In the United Kingdom and in individual company initiatives, Yolt, which bills itself as the “smart-thinking money app,” said this past week that it has become the first third-party provider to connect — via API — with nine of the biggest banks (known as “high-street banks”) in the U.K. The company said that, in combination with challenger banks Monzo and Starling, there are 18 banks connected across APIs, which means that through Open Banking, users have access to roughly three dozen banks and cards.