Digitalisation is transforming the European financial system and the provision of financial services to Europe’s businesses and citizens. In the past years, the EU and the Commission embraced digitalisation and innovation in the financial sector through a combination of horizontal policies mainly implemented under the umbrella of the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Cyber Strategy and the Data economy and sectoral initiatives such as the revised Payment Services Directive, the recent political agreement on the crowdfunding regulation and the FinTech Action Plan. The initiatives set out in the FinTech Action Plan aimed in particular at supporting the scaling up of innovative services and businesses across the EU, for example through enhanced supervisory convergence to promote the uptake of new technologies by the financial industry (e.g. cloud computing) but also to enhance the security and resilience of the financial sector. All actions in the Plan have been completed.
The financial ecosystem is continuously evolving, with technologies moving from experimentation to pilot testing and deployment stage (e.g. blockchain; artificial intelligence; Internet of Things) and new market players entering the financial sector either directly or through partnering with the incumbent financial institutions. In this fast-moving environment, the Commission should ensure that European consumers and the financial industry can reap the potential of the digital transformation while mitigating the new risks digital finance may bring. The expert group on Regulatory Obstacles to Financial Innovation, established under the 2018 FinTech Action Plan, highlight these challenges in its report published in December 2019.
The Commission’s immediate political focus is on the task of fighting the coronavirus health emergency, including its economic and social consequences. On the economic side, the European financial sector has to cope with this unprecedented crisis, providing liquidity to businesses, workers and consumers impacted by a sudden drop of activity and revenues. Banks must be able to reschedule credits rapidly, through rapid and effective processes carried out fully remotely. Other financial services providers will have to play their role in the same way in the coming weeks.
Digital finance can contribute in a number of ways to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences for citizens, businesses, and the economy at large. Indeed, digitalisation of the financial sector can be expected to accelerate as a consequence of the pandemic. The coronavirus emergency has underscored the importance of innovations in digital financial products services, including for those who are not digital native, as during the lockdown everybody is obliged to rely on remote services. At the same time, as people have access to their bank accounts and other financial services remotely, and as financial sector employees work remotely, the digital operational resilience of the financial sector has becoming even more important.
As set out in the Commission Work Programme, given the broad and fundamental nature of the challenges ahead for the financial sector, the Commission will propose in Q3 2020 a new Digital Finance Strategy/FinTech Action Plan that sets out a number of areas that public policy should focus on in the coming five years. It will also include policy measures organised under these priorities. The Commission may also add other measures in light of market developments and in coordination with other horizontal Commission initiatives already announced to further support the digital transformation of the European economy, including new policies and strategies on data, artificial intelligence, platforms and cybersecurity.