Fintech (financial technology) is a thriving and diverse sector covering a range of areas such as online or neobanks, payment systems, payment gateways / application programming interfaces (APIs), investment banking back-end infrastructure, insurtech, wealthtech and regtech. It also covers more cutting edge areas like central bank digital currencies, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens.
However, the report, Fintech state-of-play: opportunities for finance professionals, also reveals challenges around cyber security risks, emerging standards and regulations around this new frontier, and provides recommendations to address them.
ACCA and CA ANZ polled some 5,700 of their members, with 50% seeing career opportunities for themselves in fintech, while 14% do not. The remainder either don’t know (10%) or are undecided (26%), perhaps keeping future possibilities open.
When asked about cyber security risks linked to fintech adoption, 83% say they are concerned given the data driven nature of fintech and the need for it to gain the trust of governments, businesses, and the public.
Respondents are also keen to see government interventions to support fintech adoption, including building links internationally to learn best practice (86%) and working with education partners to improve skills and training in fintech (85%).
The report reveals ten different job roles for accountancy and finance professionals within fintech and illustrates how their contributions and skillsets add value to the organisations that they work with or represent. The case studies span a rich seam of experience from CFOs and auditors to digital transformation experts and entrepreneurs.
Helen Brand OBE, chief executive, ACCA comments: ‘There’s a diverse range of fintech activity already out there with more being developed. And accountancy and finance professionals can be a part of the fintech world, if they are not already. In fact, they are needed more than ever in this still relatively nascent industry – their expertise, knowledge and ethical lens are invaluable.’
Ainslie van Onselen, chief executive officer at CA ANZ says: ‘We see tremendous opportunities ahead for accountancy and finance professionals in fintech – particularly in driving trust through assurance and clarity of financial information with emerging norms in corporate reporting. It’s an unfolding landscape to be explored.’
To help them do this, the report recommends that accountancy and finance professionals:
- Build awareness of the products and services within the fintech landscape globally and the competitive dynamics that will shape it looking ahead. This is a multi-dimensional sector with both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) propositions.
- Understand the regulatory considerations pertinent to the areas of fintech they’re exploring. In many instances (particularly for emerging areas like cryptocurrencies) there is a need for those who can help to shape the standards and regulatory treatment.
- Reinforce an innovation and purpose-driven mindset. Fintech is extremely fast paced and dynamic, and benefits from individuals who are excited about new ideas that can drive sustainable value; and who can pivot fast to changing business requirements.
To provide an enabling environment for this to happen, the report further recommends the following to governments and regulators:
- Collaborate and explore opportunities for common principles to underpin a multi-jurisdiction approach to fintech regulation. There are precedents, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) covering all EU member states. An international regulatory sandbox should be considered to explore minimum global standards for Fintech regulation. Developing labs/sandboxes to support innovation was supported by three-quarters of the accountancy and finance professionals globally who fed into this research.
- Prioritise secure data management and cybersecurity at the heart of frameworks for government and regulatory approval given the concerns highlighted. There could be various ways to drive public confidence in this regard such as government backed certification schemes for fintech services and products – particularly those that are B2C to protect end users.
- Governments should also incentivise fintech innovation and growth. Fintech is an industry which attracts talented people and helps to develop high-skill jobs. It aligns with government and privately funded research programmes, such as those led by major universities. And technology developed for Fintech can catalyse other sectors, such as health.
Helen Brand and Ainslie van Onselen jointly conclude: ‘We therefore call for governments and regulators to consider these approaches, to prioritise these areas identified by accountancy and finance professionals globally. It’s clear from our research that a massive collaborative effort is needed here. It’s also clear that professional accountants and finance professionals can and do have a valuable part to play in the fintech world.’