What’s cooking with the Dutch FinTech action plan?
Ronald te Velde
Connective Payments, September 2022
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The Dutch Fintech action plan revisited
Nearly two and a half years ago, the Dutch Minister of Finance launched the so called FinTech action plan. The aim was to let FinTech companies grow faster and give opportunities to new companies (1). According to the plan, The Netherlands´ strong points are its digital infrastructure, attractive culture, English language, central location and high quality of supervision. The so-called FinTech census showed that supervision in the Netherlands is perceived as relatively strict compared to other countries. As a consequence, a Dutch license is also seen as a stamp of quality. However, there is also room for improvement.
Let’s take a look how things have turned out since the plan was published.
Three main pillars of the Dutch Fintech action plan
In a previous Insights article, we highlighted three pillars of the plan, to further promote innovation:
- Putting the Dutch FinTech climate and sector on the map both nationally and internationally
- Good access to knowledge, capital and talent
- Regulation that is ready for the future and offers room for innovation
The pandemic has made things worse, and some things better
Since July 2020, FinTech companies have benefited from the financial and fiscal support measures that were introduced by the Dutch government due to the Covid-19 outbreak. At the same time, the corona crisis has been a major stimulus for the further digitization of payments and other financial services, which gave companies a favorable climate for investment opportunities.
Has there also been ample progress on the specific areas of improvement, mentioned in the plan?
The last progress report to the House of Representatives was dated 13 October 2021 (2).
We were curious how the business climate for Dutch Fintech companies has improved since the Dutch Fintech action plan was conceived. After all, as John Lennon once said, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans (even without a pandemic).
A new FinTech census is in the pipeline
Well, first of all, the government shares our curiosity. In a written consultation on 8 April 2022 about the AFM and DNB framework law evaluations, the Minister of Finance stated that the FinTech action plan will continue to require efforts to ensure that the Netherlands continues to be a growth base for financial services and a flourishing financial and FinTech sector. Therefore, a new FinTech census will be conducted in 2022. Based on this, and discussions with the regulators and the financial sector itself, work is then underway on a possible recalibration of the FinTech action plan. Attention will also be paid to what is needed to continue to promote innovation and competitiveness in the financial sector. However, there are also risks to further innovation in the financial sector. That is why, in addition to the growth opportunities, attention is also paid to possible risks such as privacy and cybersecurity. The tender for this census will start in 2022. The Minister expects that the results can be shared with the House in early 2023.
1. Promoting the Dutch FinTech sector
A number of initiatives have been taken, mainly in the form of consultations, to realize the ambition to make the Netherlands an international guide country in the field of FinTech, and to enable Dutch FinTechs to grow at home and abroad. For example, a “round table” consultation has been started and an “international working group” has been set up. Relevant developments and new technologies in payments, including risks and opportunities, were discussed via the MOB (Maatschappelijk Overleg Betalingsverkeer) working groups and the Innovation Forum of the Dutch Central Bank. We do not know whether these forms of consultation have actually yielded anything concrete to date.
2. Good access to knowledge, capital and talent
Access to knowledge
A website has been launched to inform FinTech companies clearly and simply about the rules they must comply with.
Access to capital
According to research by PwC, ordered by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate in July 2022, about 10-20% of Dutch startups manage to grow. Despite the existing incentive schemes, the financing gap for start-ups in the preparation and start-up phase is growing. The report suggests a number of improvements for SME startups and business angels.
Furthermore, as a concrete result, FinTech companies have been actively drawn to the possibilities of raising capital in the context of the MKB!dee arrangement.
Access to talent
In the start-up and scale-up sector in particular, stock option rights are a tool to attract and retain staff. As part of the Tax Plan 2022, the Dutch tax authorities will make it more attractive to provide stock option rights as wages. This concerns the separate bill “Adjustment of the tax scheme for stock option rights”.
Under current legislation, stock option rights are taxed when these option rights are exercised, in other words, when the option rights are converted into shares. However, at the current tax date when an option right is exercised, there are not always (sufficient) liquid assets available to pay the tax due. This makes it less attractive to use stock option rights as wages. With the measure included in this bill, the moment at which the tax is levied is shifted to the moment at which the shares acquired when the share option right is exercised can be traded. After all, at that moment, part of the share option rights can be sold, if necessary, and the taxpayer can thus have liquid assets at his disposal to pay his tax due. Since not all cases involve a lack of liquidity, the bill also provides for an option scheme for the employee. Subject to conditions and at the discretion of the employee, levy will then take place on exercise, as is now the case.
3. Regulation that is future proof and fosters innovation
This spearhead mentions a patchwork of many ongoing actions, such as stimulating European harmonization of regulations, cooperation between supervisors and more direct supervision at EU level where this has added value. The progress report also mentions the PSD2 review process at EU level, the digital euro program and a proposal by the Commission for a regulation on AI, which also addresses lending and scoring. In other words, this spearhead functions as a repository for initiatives by others, in which the Dutch government is involved as one of the stakeholders, respectively the party that ultimately has to translate the (European) initiatives and guidelines into Dutch law.
The Dutch government has taken many initiatives to make life more pleasant for start-up FinTech companies. Some of these initiatives originate from the EU (such as the EU crowdfunding framework, implemented in 2020), with the Dutch government participating at European level as one of the stakeholders. Some require extensive discussion in all kinds of social consultation circuits, a typical Dutch phenomenon. Many of these initiatives are therefore still ongoing. Moreover, many improvements will still sound somewhat abstract to the FinTech companies involved. However, the radar work continues, and real, concrete improvements can gradually be expected for the entrepreneurial climate of Dutch FinTechs.
This article was based on desk research of public information. We thank Martijn Schukkink, acting registrar of the Dutch Finance Committee for his substantive input.