A question most frequently asked by Fintech segment clients is “In which region and country can one obtain a license?”
To answer this question, one will find it useful to look into 2020 statistics in terms of the most Fintech friendly countries and their regulators. The number of licenses issued last year is the essential criterion in this case.
So, the British were the most prolific in 2020: a total of 82 payment licenses issued, including 47 Payment Institution (PI) licenses and 35 Electronic Money Institution (EMI) licenses. Lithuania found itself far behind – 10 licenses (2 PI and 8 EMI licenses), although it is not altogether justified to compare these countries, considering both the Fintech industry scale in the United Kingdom and the countries’ size. Ranking third is Spain with its 8 licenses (6 PI and 2 EMI licenses). Germany came forth, its regulator issuing only 8 PI licenses and not a single EMI permit. The top 5 is rounded out by Sweden with its 7 PI licenses (no EMI) in 2020.
In addition to the traditional top 5, I think that such European countries with good Fintech potential as Belgium (4 PI licenses), Ireland (1 PI and 4 EMI licenses), and Poland (2 PIs and 1 EMI) are also of interest.
Issuing only 1 license in 2020, Malta did not achieve its ambition to become the most advanced Fintech country in the world. As for Asia, Singapore and Hong Kong are the unconditional leaders. The former issued 4 PLI licenses, the latter – 3 MSO licenses. Other countries issued a dismally few licenses or none at all.
Getting back on the topic of choosing the license, my recommendation besides deciding on the jurisdiction is to consider several other factors in addition to the number of permits issued:
- Geography of your future operations. If your target market is financial services in Asia, there is no point in obtaining a Lithuanian or British license
- Regulator’s friendliness and issue process
- Language in the regulator’s country and scope of documents required to apply for the license
- Stability of currency and banking system of the country selected, macro-and microeconomic indicators
So what are the Fintech prospects this year?
According to my observations, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, and Lithuania will keep the lead, chiefly because these states have been investing resources into the Fintech sector for quite a long time and have progressed substantially in comparison with those just starting. But we will also continue observing closely the development of the above-mentioned promising countries.