A minster's look at regulation and innovation: A necessity to strike a balance

Repeatedly, proponents of disruptive technologies have proven that regulation and innovation have an immense potential to actualize a mutually beneficial existence. The often delicate relationship between innovators and regulators — which may be mired by antagonism — is fundamental to the functioning of the global economy, especially at times as challenging as we are facing now. 

The fuel that keeps the fire of the important relationship between regulators and businesses alight — like any — is communication and collaboration. This could not be more apt when it comes to the innovators behind distributed ledger technology and the regulators in overseeing the space.

Ideas surrounding DLT first arose in the early 90s, however, it was not until 2009 that the first block of what we now know as blockchain was mined. In 11 short years, blockchain and DLT more generally have had tremendous success in garnering attention from the financial community and the wider public. Just this year, Big Four audit firm Deloitte’s 2020 Global Blockchain Survey found that business leaders now see blockchain as “integral to organisational innovation,” while analytics agency Gartner has forecasted that blockchain technology will have generated $3.1 trillion of value-add to companies around the world by 2030.

Related: A minister’s look at healthcare: Providing fertile ground for blockchain innovation

The regulation necessity

While mainstream adoption of the blockchain industry is gathering pace, I believe it will not succeed without regulation; in fact, it needs it to survive and, indeed, to thrive. It is incumbent on regulators to strike a balance and allow companies operating in this industry with the space to continue operating at the cutting edge of innovation in a sensible and safe manner. Finding this balance and the future success of decentralized finance is inexorably linked. It will take a whole-of-industry approach where all stakeholders uphold a commitment of communication and collaboration with the regulators to ensure the harmony that the industry needs.

However, the burden of finding this balance is not just on the industry itself but on regulators and policymakers, too. Standards are commonplace across every industry, and this one is no different if it is to thrive and succeed in the main street of finance.

Meanwhile, overregulation could stifle crypto markets that are based on distributed ledger technology. Of course, it is possible to find the equilibrium point that allows the realization of the full potential of this technology within the boundaries of the regulations that govern traditional markets.

Some governments are working closely with key players in the field. In January 2018, Gibraltar became among the first jurisdictions to introduce a regulatory framework for DLT providers. Since then, the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission has awarded multiple licenses to global industry leaders, with a number of active applications currently under review. This measured regulatory response was only possible through open communication between the regulators and the innovators.

Similarly in Switzerland, its remarkably progressive stance toward cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technologies has propelled the country ahead of the pack and closer to its aim of becoming the first “crypto nation.”

In short, there are at least 45 central banks around the world that have publicly expressed their efforts to develop central bank digital currencies by utilizing DLT. This proves that the appetite to embrace these technologies not only exists among business leaders, it is burgeoning among legislators.

There is little doubt that regulators will follow suit by working with the private industry to achieve the desired equilibrium but in order to achieve this, much more needs to be done when it comes to communication and collaboration.

The establishment of working groups between DLT companies and regulators, and government bodies and watchdogs should become commonplace.

DLT will not reach its full potential if there is still a semblance of distrust among the general public. Through open dialogue, we can work together to ensure that the market is regulated and trustworthy and that regulators have faith in the technology, while those involved in the creation and use of the technology can enjoy the immense benefits it brings.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Albert Isola is Gibraltar’s minister for digital and financial services with the primary responsibility of raising Gibraltar’s profile as a well-regulated financial services center, leading the way in DLT and online gaming regulation. Minister Isola previously served as Gibraltar’s minister for commerce where he played a central role in spearheading Gibraltar’s purpose-built DLT regulatory framework, which was introduced in January 2018 for firms using blockchain to store or transfer value.

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