Fintech wrap: Finfluencers warned, Russian fintechs sanctioned, SEPA regs present challenges

We look at the latest big stories in fintech.

The FCA has issued renewed warnings to finfluencers – social media influencers who promote financial products on their accounts – issuing guidance on memes, reels and gaming streams.

Last year the FCA removed over 10,000 misleading adverts in the UK, up from around 8,500 in 2022. 

The regulator says adverts across social media channels must be fair, clear and not misleading, meaning they must have balance and carry the right risk warnings so people can make well-informed financial decisions.  

The rules apply to individuals as well as firms, with influencers reminded that promoting a financial product without the right approval from an FCA-authorized person could be a criminal offence.

The FCA stresses that the onus is on influencers and not consumers, although the latter should stay alert to dubious adverts and scams online.

13 Russian fintechs sanctioned

The US Treasury said this week it has sanctioned 13 entities and two individuals for operating in the financial services and technology sectors of the Russian economy, including in a way that enabled the evasion of US sanctions.

All property or entities involving these activities based in the US or involving US-based persons need to report to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50% or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. 

“Russia is increasingly turning to alternative payment mechanisms to circumvent US sanctions and continue to fund its war against Ukraine,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E Nelson.

“As the Kremlin seeks to leverage entities in the financial technology space, Treasury will continue to expose and disrupt the companies that seek to help sanctioned Russian financial institutions reconnect to the global financial system.”

The Treasury added that foreign financial institutions that conduct or facilitate transactions, or provide services to Russia’s “military-industrial base”, risk being sanctioned.

European countries uncertain of preparedness for SEPA regulations

A report from RedCompass Labs looked at companies’ preparedness for Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) instant payments, in anticipation of upcoming EU regulations.

An agreement was reached in 2023 to update the SEPA legislation. It would also apply to member states whose currency is not the euro. The regulation means that banks and payment service providers (PSPs) will soon have to send and receive instant payments in euros at no extra charge within 10 seconds.

Overall, 89% of respondents across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain see a growing demand for instant payments products and services from customers. And 67.5% are confident about being able to receive instant payments by the end of 2024. But 58% think rollout timelines imposed by regulation are unrealistic.

The biggest challenges were estimated to be adaptations to customer channels, including verification of payee services, and implementing KYC and sanctions screening.