The rising popularity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin is “of
great concern” according to the Central Bank’s Derville Rowland.
“Crypto assets are quite a speculative, unregulated investment,” and people should be “really aware they could lose the whole of that investment,” the Central Bank’s Director General for Financial Conduct said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Derville Rowland joins a host of central bankers who have raised the alarm on crypto investments.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has warned cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic value and that people should only buy them if they’re prepared to lose their money.
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda added his voice to the chorus of concern, noting Bitcoin’s “extraordinarily high” volatility. Bitcoin has risen about 30% year to date.
In July, Ms Rowland will take over as chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA)’s investment management standing committee – the group which helps prepare regulations for the funds industry.
Her rise to prominence has been as the face of the Central Bank’s enforcement investigations.
The regulator has recently fined or is investigating most of Ireland’s retail banks for mortgage overcharging.
In March it fined Davy Stockbrokers for breaches that ultimately resulted in the resignations of the CEO and other executives.
That firm is now for sale as a result of the fallout.
Derville Rowland said at the time Davy “need only look in the mirror” when it “asks itself how things went so catastrophically wrong.”
Cryptocurrencies are not the only digital investments causing unease for regulators.
Attention is also focused on the so-called “gamification” of stock investing, which Rowland expects to become an issue for Europe soon.
Online brokerages such as Robinhood Markets have brought a slew of mom and pop investors into the US market and critics accuse them of turning trading into a social activity.
Readers of online platforms like Reddit have played havoc with shares of firms such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings and people could be exposed if they are effectively using message boards as a substitute for investment advice.
The European Securities and Markets Authority has held discussions on the issue, as well as the Central Bank, Rowland said.
While there is not yet a time-line for any new rules, regulations need to be “technology neutral,” she said, “so that you’re not getting better protections in older paper based processes then you are in more online processes”.
Derville Rowland has long been a champion of greater diversity in financial services, which she says could help improve regulation of the industry.
Decision making, risk control and performance are all improved with diversity, she told Bloomberg, adding that the industry has “has a very long way to travel.”
“The investment management sector is not diverse, and needs to work considerably harder on this topic. It’s something that we have brought to the attention of boards, and it’s something that is dear to my heart,” she added.