Ripple, cLabs, and the ETN-Network agreed that financial watchdogs worldwide must focus on developing balanced cryptocurrency regulations that allow innovation to flourish while protecting crypto enthusiasts from fraud, scams, and market manipulation.
"Regulators have just got to get their heads around the fact that this (crypto-blockchain) is the future," said ETN-Network CEO and Founder Richard Ells. He said he'd like to see a "bit more understanding from the regulators of where the unbanked really genuinely sit" so they can implement a system that helps foster financial inclusion without stifling innovation.
Ripple Head of Public Policy Susan Friedman said she believes "regulators are correct to focus on consumer protection and making sure that they are not subject to fraud and manipulation in the crypto markets. But that has to be balanced with creating frameworks that allow innovators to grow products, to develop them to be able to reach the populations that they're looking to benefit."
The panel moderator, Anca Bogdana Rusu, cLabs Head of Partnerships, Policy, and Advocacy, asked regulators worldwide to do their best to ensure they are not blocking innovation or social impact. "Whenever the social impact blockchain concept" comes up, "hold a mirror and ask if you've done everything in your power to promote regulation, both for innovation as well as real impact."
The joint call for sound and compatible crypto regulatory frameworks by financial authorities from around the globe was made during the Blockchain for Europe Summit 2021 panel debate entitled "Social Impact via blockchain on a global scale - how the technology is affecting humanity."
Founded in late 2018, Blockchain for Europe is a non-profit organization representing international blockchain industry players at the EU level. The group proactively contributes to the regulatory debate by supporting European decision-makers to make blockchain technology a success.
High-level EU officials also participated in the Blockchain for Europe Summit 2021 this week. Among them was the former Lichtenstein Prime Minster Adrian Hasler; European Central Bank Advisor Jurgen Schaaf; Ion Isaksen and MEP Stefan Berger of the European Parliament; Ireland Department of Finance Advisor Mai Santamaria; European Commission Economist Joachim Schwerin, and former Polish Minister for Digitisation and former Member of European Parliament, Michal Boni.
Smartphones ubiquity, key in financial inclusion
Mastercard recently said that their 42-page study entitled 'Unravelling the web of inclusion' "confirms the power of mobile technology to improve financial inclusion." They add that mobile phones could bring an additional 607 million into the financial mainstream" by providing them with "immediate access to the benefits of financial inclusion."
Mr. Ells agreed with Mastercard, saying that smartphones give people universal access to data and services they did not have previously.
However, he said, that while the internet and smartphones are critical in financial inclusion as it gives them access to cutting edge financial services powered by FinTech and blockchain, the real issue today is regulation.
READ: Can blockchain and crypto help eradicate financial exclusion? The IMF, World Bank, and UN say they think so
"The biggest thing holding people back is not technology, in my opinion," he said. "The thing holding people back is the regulatory environment. Regulators have just got to get their heads around the fact that this is the future, embrace it, and make it accessible for unbanked people."
Ms. Friedman said she "agrees with Richard. We can educate people, and we can give them access to smartphones and smart wallets. Still, if the regulatory environment doesn't actually enable them to utilize those, if they're not permitted to utilize crypto, then we've halted progress before we'd even be done."
Embracing innovation for financial inclusion
Mr. Ells said he would like to "see the regulators embrace this (innovation in crypto and blockchain)." He also noted that financial officials, governmental economists as well as governments worldwide "are making lots of noise about how they're going to help financial inclusion and how financial inclusion is so important to them. And they say that on the one hand, and then, on the other hand, they come out with these laws" that could be viewed as incompatible with their stated aims.
READ: ETN-Network CEO and Founder invited to panel on blockchain for social impact at Blockchain for Europe Summit 2021
Both Richard Ells and Susan Friedman agreed that financial inclusion starts with intelligent regulation and regulation that is rationalised globally to enable all financial systems to be interlinked so that people can work together towards ending financial exclusion.