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Hayward hails fintech as ‘economic development tool’

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Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, at the recent Fintech Islands Experience 2024 conference (Photograph supplied)

Financial technology must move from society’s fringes to the mainstream, according to the Minister of Economy and Labour.

Jason Hayward attended the inaugural Fintech Islands Experience 2024, or FiX24 conference, which took place from January 24 to 26 in Barbados.

He took part in a panel discussion on “Advancing Blockchain as the New Technology of Trust: Navigating the Law and Finding the Right Regulatory Balance” alongside co-panellists Nicky Gomez, senior partner at XReg Consulting, Aaron Grinhaus, founder of Grinhaus Law Firm, Ronan Kuczaj, founder at DLT Solutions, and moderator Tara Frater, founder at FT Legal.

The panel discussion focused on the need for regulation to support new industries and emerging financial services underpinned by technology.

During the discussion, Mr Hayward highlighted Bermuda’s “value proposition as a sophisticated jurisdiction for businesses to thrive”, adding: “Collaboration between government, financial services regulators and industry is the cornerstone of effective regulation.”

He added: “Bermuda distinguishes itself as a leading jurisdiction due to its regulatory clarity and effectiveness, strong legal system and solid reputation.

“Its well-defined regulations reduce compliance risks and provide a growth-friendly environment.

“The Bermuda Monetary Authority's effective team of regulators ensures consumer protection and provides clear guidance. Furthermore, its compliance with international standards and recognition as a thriving financial services centre enhance its reputation.”

He said Bermuda would continue to foster a regulatory framework that promoted innovation, financial stability, consumer protection and overall better economic health within the ever-evolving financial services landscape.

What is fintech?

Wikipedia has this definition:

Fintech, a clipped compound of “financial technology”, refers to firms using new technology to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services.

Artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and big data are regarded as the “ABCD”, or four key areas, of fintech.

The use of smartphones for mobile banking, investing, borrowing services and cryptocurrency are examples of technologies designed to make financial services more accessible to the general public.

Fintech companies consist of both start-ups and established financial institutions and technology companies trying to replace or enhance the usage of financial services provided by existing financial companies.

According to a statement from FiX24, Mr Hayward said it was essential that regional governments supported the evolution of fintech, describing it as an economic development tool that leads to business creation, employment opportunities and improvements in business operations.

“We must ensure that fintech moves from the fringes of our societies to the mainstream use of our societies,” Mr Hayward said.

“Fintech is an important tool; it is a way in which we connect individuals to financial services that they may have had barriers or impediments of accessing in the past,” he added.

During a session on Day 1 on the topic “Banking on a Sustainable Path: Accountability, Transparency and Commitment to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation”, Chad Blackman, Barbados’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment, said it was important that the international financial community understood that it could not be business as usual.

The Fintech Islands Experience

The Fintech Islands Experience is the only global fintech conference in the Caribbean.

According to a statement, it was specially designed for finance professionals and advisers, fintech and tech start-ups, asset managers, investors, government regulators and policymakers, and anyone looking to engage with fintech industry leaders.

The statement said: “The inaugural Fintech Islands event attracted more than 350 attendees from 25 countries and received exponential global attention with more than 170 million traditional media impressions and over 1.4 million social media impressions.”

For more information, visit the Fintech Islands 2024 official conference website, www.fintechislands.com

Mr Blackman added: “Given governments’ limited fiscal space, but yet the high demand to spend on priority areas, I think it presents a unique opportunity for the private sector to be able to offset some of the needs that governments would have.

Chad Blackman, Barbados’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment (Photograph supplied)

“Of course, governments will raise revenue through taxes and traditional areas, but I think there is a role that the private sector has to play.

“It has to be a whole of society approach; it cannot be government alone. Government has to act as the regulator, offering an environment that allows the private sector to play its part.”

Meanwhile, E. Jay Saunders, the Turks & Caicos Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Investment and Trade, said that through fintech, the unbanked and underbanked people across the region could be included in the banking sector.

The Turks & Caicos Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Investment and Trade, E. Jay Saunders (Photograph supplied)

He added that the countries across the region faced regulatory, technological and financial hurdles that must be addressed to advance fintech.

“I’ve been looking at angel financing and venture capital financing in the Caribbean. I think that once we get over those hurdles and Caribbean entrepreneurs start to change from the early growth stage to mature companies, then we can own the full eco-chain in the Caribbean.

“I don’t think that it will make for a good ecosystem if we have foreign companies outside of the Caribbean just coming in and dominating. We want it to be a more Caribbean product for Caribbean people,” he said.

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Published January 30, 2024 at 8:02 am (Updated January 31, 2024 at 8:21 am)

Hayward hails fintech as ‘economic development tool’

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