FinTech: Evolution and Regulation
Prof Douglas Arner
Abstract: “FinTech”, a contraction of “Financial technology”, refers to technology enabled financial solutions. It is often seen today as the new marriage of financial services and information technology. However, the interlinkage of finance and technology has a long history and has evolved over three distinct eras, during which finance and technology have evolved together: first in the analogue context then with a process of digitalization of finance from the late twentieth century onwards. Since 2008, a new era of FinTech has emerged in both the developed and developing world. This era is defined not by the financial products or services delivered but by who delivers them and the application of rapidly developing technology at the retail and wholesale levels. This latest evolution of FinTech, led by start-ups, poses challenges for regulators and market participants alike, particularly in balancing the potential benefits of innovation with the possible risks of new approaches. We analyse the evolution of FinTech over the past 150 years, and on the basis of this analysis, argue against its too-early or rigid regulation at this juncture.
Douglas W. Arner is a Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong and Project Coordinator of a major five-year project funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council Theme-based Research Scheme on “Enhancing Hong Kong’s Future as a Leading International Financial Centre”. In addition, he is Co-Director of the Duke University-HKU Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law, and a Senior Visiting Fellow of Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne. Douglas served as Head of the HKU Department of Law from 2011 to 2014 and from 2006 to 2011 he was the Director of HKU’s Asian Institute of International Financial Law, which he co-founded in 1999 along with the LLM in Corporate and Financial Law (of which he serves as Director). He has published fifteen books and more than 100 articles, chapters and reports on international financial law and regulation, including most recently Reconceptualising Global Finance and its Regulation (Cambridge 2016) (with Ross Buckley and Emilios Avgouleas). Douglas is a member of the Hong Kong Financial Services Development Council and of the International Advisory Board of the Australian Centre for International Finance and Regulation. He has served as a consultant with, among others, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, APEC and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and has lectured, co-organised conferences and seminars and been involved with financial sector reform projects in over 20 economies in Africa, Asia and Europe. He has been a visiting professor or fellow at the Universities of London, McGill, Melbourne, New South Wales, Singapore and Zurich, as well as the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.