“Our voice has not been heard enough" argues new European Fintech Association boss

By Oliver Smith on Thursday 25 June 2020

FeaturesAlternative LendingDigital BankingSavings and Investment

EFA President Marc Roberts on the newly-formed fintech association's aims and objectives.

“Our voice has not been heard enough
Image source: Marc Roberts/European Fintech Association.

Last week a new pan-European fintech group sprung into existence

I say sprung, in fact the European Fintech Association (EFA) quietly launched at the end of 2019 with a pitch to present a unified front over key European fintech issues.

Its ‘official’ unveiling was further delayed by coronavirus, but the group finally emerged from stealth last week.

Curious to find out what the EFA was looking to bring to the table, AltFi caught up with the Association’s president and general counsel for Raisin, Marc Roberts, to find out more.

Fintech’s European angle

“There are topics are being discussed at a European level, and we think our voice has not been heard enough…we want to rectify that,” Roberts told AltFi.

So what kind of topics? Well, lots, but the crux is that it’s anywhere where financial services regulation remains geared towards an analogue way of doing things.

Think about cross-border financial services, said Roberts, these currently might have to run local KYC and AML checks as there’s no concept of a digital identity.

Or consumer protection laws, which are gold-plated at a national level, so then require fintechs to launch different platforms for every country they operate in to abide by each of them.

“Plus there are specific issues like the incentivisation of employees across Europe, we need a system where employee stock options allow staff to move around across Europe,” he said.

So far the Association has published two position papers on European anti-money laundering regulations and the MiFID II/MiFIR review consultation.

“Overall we really want to advocate that digital products are a benefit for the customer,” said Roberts.

And while there are already national fintech associations lobbying for these things, like Innovate Finance in the UK, Roberts is clear that the European policy scene is different from what’s happening at a local level and needs a more specific focus with a Brussels-based Association.

A new membership

So far the EFA has drafted in 21 members from across the European fintech spectrum, including alternative lenders like Mintos, digital banks like Kontist, and digital wealth providers like Scalable Capital.

For now the Association is managed by a board of six, with representatives from Moneyfarm, N26, Funding Circle, Finleap, TransferWise and Roberts from Raisin.

Roberts is clear that the organisation wants to grow its membership to include “a broad membership representing fintechs that have a strong European base and want to influence policy here.”

To that end EFA will remain open to UK fintechs even after Brexit, and Roberts even extended the invite to US and non-European fintechs as long as they’re active in Europe.

“We want to represent all European fintechs, even if we don’t have a member in a particular area.”

In order to achieve that the EFA has a staggered membership fee structure, depending on the size of the fintech, however Roberts declined to reveal what that was.

In conclusion

Whether the EFA can break through the noise and become the “one voice” of European fintech we’ll have to wait and see.

Enough industry groups have been launched with a trumpet of excitement, only to find themselves torn apart (or worse, paralysed) by diverging members’ interests.

There’s also a question around bundling so many fintech verticals (banking, lending, savings and investment) together in one Association, when each vertical already has a European equivalent representing the traditional players in those areas.

Regardless, the launch of the EFA can certainly do no harm, and might even do some good if Roberts and his colleagues manage to push some of these fintech issues a little higher up certain policy makers’ agendas.

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