by George Nott

Call for less talk, more hacktion in Regtech

May 03, 2017

There’s been a lot of talk about regtech recently. Perhaps too much.

In February the Australian Securities and Investment Commission held roundtables in Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the topic. In March regulatory technology start-ups launched their own association. And in June a summit in Sydney will give players in the nascent industry a chance to meet and share their stories.

According to Chami Akmeemana, a regtech advisor to the Ontario Securities Commission in Canada, it’s now time for action.

“Regulation is a very archaic system,” he told CIO Australia. “And regtech on the other side of the world has been implemented or has been researched for a long time. Regtech seems to be a buzzword that people throw around here without any deep meaning of what they’re doing.”

Akmeemana is running a hackathon – #RegHackDownUnder – at RMIT in Melbourne next week, targeting regulatory issues in the financial services and the energy sector. A director at blockchain company Consensys, Akmeemana will be “taking off any corporate hat” so he can speak as an individual and “say what needs to be said,” he explained.

“Hence why I’m calling out the regulators, I’m calling out the corporates. You guys claim to be doing certain things; you claim to be doing blockchain,” he said.

“I want to get the message across and empower the market. I want to and I have to. This is the only way I can push it. We need to do something to jumpstart this. To me it’s about getting things done.”

Akmeemana’s no nonsense approach has won the support of AUSTRAC, ANZ Bank, ASIC and the Victorian State Government who are backing the hackathon, and putting forward problem statements and teams.

Judges include Data61 research director Dr. Liming Zhu, and CEO of Startup Victoria Georgia Beattie.

Oh, hackathon

The event will follow a similar model to one Akmeemana recently supported in Canada – #RegHackTO – the country’s first regulatory hackathon.

The November weekend proved enlightening for the Ontario Securities Commission who said in a report afterward: “As a securities regulator, we must be prepared to consider novel fintech ideas and business models in a nimble and flexible manner. While we must ensure essential investor protections are in place, we need to reconsider our rule framework in the light of rapid business change.”

Late last year, the Canadian province’s securities commission signed an agreement with ASIC to give fintech companies from Canada and Australia easier access to support “from the combined resources of their financial regulators as they seek to operate in the others’ market”.

ASIC launched an Innovation Hub in 2015 and towards the end of last year started offering informal assistance to a number of regtech businesses, and launched a regulatory sandbox framework.

The commission is trying to strike a balance between “our commitment to encouraging innovation…without compromising on the proper regulation”, ASIC Commissioner John Price said in a speech to a fintech meet-up in Perth last month.

“As technology changes over time, it is natural to experience disruptions that challenge the existing regulatory framework. And it is very important that ASIC does not stand in the way of technological change that may improve outcomes across the financial system. However, we also need to continue to target our strategic objectives to ensure good governance in the financial sector,” Price said.

#RegHackDownUnder takes place from May 12 to 14. For further details: