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众筹市场探究:监管何去何从?

近年来欧盟持续监控众筹发展,英法等国已开始落实相关法律以期未来能形成有效的政府管理。我们可以把这些发展现状都当做案例来分析,帮助我们抉择一下到底是要严格引导并放缓众筹融资进程,还是解除对一系列有潜在失误风险的众筹平台的束缚。英法两国采用了两种不同的政策(几乎完全相反),而这恰好给了我们一个机会,好好研究一下开放市场与封闭市场的利弊。

英国:监管从无到有

比起其他欧洲国家,英国的众筹融资市场相对开放,众筹总额(包括股权众筹和P2P借贷)累计上限为7600万英镑,约等于一亿两千七百万美元还多。如今,金融行为监管局(FCA)已采取措施进一步推动众筹发展,各方反响不一。众筹融资中心创始人Barry James在Startups.co.uk网站上表示,FCA此举“死板,固执又缺乏想象力”。而Crowdcube的联合创始人Luke Lang则相当欢迎新政策推行,认为“这些改变将会增强市场信心”。

新政策是什么?

新政的最大改变在于设定了无经验投资者的投资限额:不超过个人最大投资组合的10%。第二,股权众筹平台宣传受限,以避免影响那些无经验投资者。借贷平台上任意2万英镑(3.35万美元)至5万英镑(8.37万美元)的未偿贷款最低要有0.2%的财政来源。另外,据Out-Law.com报道,FCA还要求众筹平台要按照“公平、明确,不误导客户”的方式发布信息。

优势

这些法规对英国众筹发展来说意味着什么?尽管各方反响不一,但总体看来还是积极的:有些监管举措很受欢迎,甚至那条备受争论的10%新规也得到认可。随着众筹融资不断发展,投资者的投资额度也会越来越大,潜在的损失风险也会更大。而人们现在却有种错觉,认为没什么大错能动摇大家对众筹融资的信任。众筹融资现在被初创行业奉为金科玉律,所以现在是时候回归现实,冷静思考,保护投资者和创业者不在这方面走了弯路。

Symbid长期以来一直支持美国CAPS认证的项目,并希望加入到相关法规健全过程中来,而目前已经加入欧洲咨询委员会了。这些都是所有认真想做好这行的平台应该积极加入的活动。

Luke Lang已经意识到树立市场信心的重要性。我认为现在没必要再解释为何在金融危机之后要保持对银行和相关金融机构的监管。众筹融资远未及雷区,但是必须要有完善可靠的信息和安全措施,才能保证投资者不会因为过度乐观的投资预期而遭受可能的财产损失。

劣势

10%的新规太僵化了,此令一出就会减少10%非认证投资者的市场潜力。FCA的Chris Woolard 曾在BBC新闻表示:

“其实我们的想法是(针对那10%新规),如果你之前从未投资过,我们希望你能在进行大额投资前积累经验。”

但投资者的经验和投资额并不直接相关,这让“10%新规”显得有些处境尴尬,比如一个富人如果未接受良好教育,其损失也有可能会更多。

法国:监管从严变宽

尽管众筹融资是法国一大快速增长的市场,该行业的开放仍受各种严苛规定阻碍,比如针对借款人在财力上的五百万欧元(六百九十万美元)要求,或公司在同律师商定出招股书前要考虑149位投资者的最大投资限额等。众筹平台Anaxago的Joachim Dupont在The Local新闻上表示,同英国市场相反,法国市场更偏风险回避型。

新规是什么?

法国经济部副部长Fleur Pellerin日前公布了众筹融资新规,引得媒体争相报道。法国将首推众筹融资分层,具体分为CIP(股权投资咨询)和IFP(众筹融资媒介)两类。

另外,股权众筹的金额限制逐年由10万欧元(13.8万美元)增长到30万欧元(41.4万美元)。投资者每个项目最多可以投1,000欧元(1,400美元),以分摊风险。强制性招股说明书也由要求提供整个文件变为只需提供4-5页的手册,这为创业者节约了时间和法律成本。总之,Pellerin建议政府应发展一批质量可靠的众筹平台,并要求提供风险及投资相关的信息数据。

优势

当然,开放市场、放松监管也为法国多样化资本市场赢得了喘息时间。但对众筹融资业来说,最瞩目的发展应该是众筹融资分层。尽管大多数政府不知道如何处理众筹融资,法国政府已明确众筹融资定义并摆正了众筹融资在金融行业的位置。同英国市场相比,法国的众筹融资相关的法律及框架已没有那么模糊了。

众筹融资已明确定位,同现有资本供应商相比,当投资出错时,众筹融资就相对可控了。同时,它也为同类型的其他融资潜力(获得市场认可)增加了砝码。它向人们展示了开放市场并非仅仅是违规;更多情况下,一些监管措施实际上承认并支持着这类新市场的发展。它甚至可能让众筹平台同诸如银行的金融机构合作变得更容易,因为二者都在司法明确规定下运营。

劣势

目前法国市场已经落后与其他一些欧洲国家,比如德国、英国、芬兰和荷兰等。开放市场就能马上减缓这种时滞实际上是一种错觉。要达到其他国家已到达的那种水平需要多年时间,甚至可能会大规模延缓欧洲相关众筹法律发展。尽管目前的限制政策有可能继续扩大,但是其作用仍然无法与一个无限制的开放市场相匹敌。

总结

相关法规应该更好地推动市场健康发展,同时减少消极扩展和市场份额短期猛增。过去无限制的借贷和投资就曾让我们深陷麻烦,因此投资者和创业者必须要熟知个中风险。法规可以帮助我们合理管理预期,遴选投资选项,创造一个高质量融资和良好投资者二者间都能发展壮大并创造真正的经济价值的环境。

As the European Union continues to monitor crowdfunding developments, countries in Europe, like France and the U.K., are already developing legislation in an attempt to establish a cohesive government approach. These developments make an interesting case study that can help to decide whether or not to strictly guide and possibly slow down crowdfunding expansion, or to unleash a host of crowdfunding platforms that might leave investors disillusioned. France and the U.K. have taken two different approaches (almost opposites), which give us a great opportunity to study the pros and cons of open and closed markets.

UK: from unregulated to regulated

The UK has had a relatively open marked compared to other European countries, allowing the crowdfunding industry to raise £ 76 million or well over USD 127 million, (equity) crowdfunding and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending combined. Now, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has implemented rules that will regulate the crowdfunding industry to a great extent, evoking mixed reactions. On Startups.co.uk Barry James, founder of The Crowdfunding Centre, said that the FCA appears to be “inflexible, stubborn and unimaginative”. Others like Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube, welcomed the regulations: “these changes will help build market confidence”.

What are the new regulations?

The most important changes in regulations are a limit on the amount inexperienced investors can invest: a maximum of 10% of their portfolio has been introduced. Second, equity platforms are limited in their advertising opportunities as they’re no longer allowed to address inexperienced investors. Lending platforms must have a minimum of 0.2% in financial resources for any £ 50,000 (USD 83,700) of outstanding loans, with a minimum of £ 20,000 (USD 33,500). Further, the FCA requires platforms to present information in a “fair, clear and not misleading” way, reports Out-Law.com.

The good

What do these regulations mean for UK crowdfunding development? Though the responses have been mixed, the general tone of the discussion seems to be positive: some form of supervision is welcomed, even the much discussed 10% rule. As crowdfunding is growing, more people will make bigger investments, increasing the potential losses these investors might experience. It’s an illusion there won’t be a big mistake that blows a hole in the trust people currently have in crowdfunding. Being presented as the holy grail in startup funding, it’s time to get down to earth and protect both investors and entrepreneurs for funding gone awry.

At Symbid, we’ve been long supporting initiatives like the US CAPS accreditation program and we want to be involved in the development of legislation so we’re involved in the European Advisory Board. These are activities any serious platform should aim to conduct.

Luke Lang recognises the importance of market confidence. I don’t think I need to explain why banks and related financial institutions are being monitored after the financial crises. Crowdfunding is far from a minefield, but managing expectations and portfolios of people who have the ability to spend their money in ways they had not before, requires decent information and safety.

The bad

The 10% rule is too rigid as it declines the potential of non-accredited investors to one tenth of the entire potential market. Chris Woolard of the FCA on BBC News says that:

“What we are saying [with the 10% rule] is, if you have never had experience with this before, we want you to gain experience before you make a large investment.”

But investor experience is not directly related to the amount of money or income one has, making the 10% rule an awkward attempt to limit risk as an affluent person might loose more money or a larger percentage if he is not well educated.

France: from over-regulated to less regulated

Though crowdfunding is the fasted growing market in France, the unlocking of this industry has been hold back by stringent rules, like the requirement € 5 million (USD 6.9 million) in financial resources for lenders, or the maximum amount of 149 investors per offer before the company needs to create a rigid prospectus in cooperation with a lawyer. In contrary to the U.K. market, the French market is very risk averse, says Joachim Dupont of crowdfunding platform Anaxago on The Local.

What are the new regulations?

Fleur Pellerin, the French vice-minister of Economics, hit the French media headlines as she presented the new regulations applying to crowdfunding. France will be the first to develop a separate status for crowdfunding platforms across the country, CIP (conseiller en investissement participatif or “equity investment advisor”) and IFP (intermédiaire en financement participatif or “crowdfunding intermediary”) respectively.

In addition, the crowdfunding limit for equity has been expanded from € 100,000 (USD 138,000) to € 300.000 (USD 414,000) per year. Investors are allowed to fund up to € 1,000 (USD 1,400) per project in order to apply risk diversification. The obligatory prospectus has been reduced from an entire document to 4-5 page brochure, saving time and legal costs for entrepreneurs. In general, Pellerin suggested the government should develop a quality label for platforms and enforce information concerning the risk and related data about an investment.

The good

Of course, opening up the the markets and loosening the reins must be a breather for the French alternative capital market. But the most outstanding development for the crowdfunding industry is the separate status crowdfunding would get. Whereas most governments are not quite sure how to handle crowdfunding, the French government has clearly named and thus placed crowdfunding within the financial industry. Legislation and structure concerning crowdfunding in France a now much less fuzzy compared to the U.K. market.

Giving crowdfunding a well defined status allows it to be accountable when thing go awry compared to existing capital providers. At the same time it also adds weight to the potential of this type of funding. It shows that opening markets consists of more than simple deregulation and that some extent of supervision actually acknowledges and supports the sustainable growth of a new sector. It might even allow easier cooperation with “official” financial institutions like banks, as both operate within a clear area of jurisdiction.

The bad

The market in France has already been lagging in comparison to the other countries in Europe, such as Germany, the UK, Finland or the Netherlands. It’s an illusion that opening the markets will immediately decrease this lag. It might take years to reach the level some other countries have already acquired and it might even slow down European legislation on a larger scale. Though the current limits might be stretched further, even that will not have the impact an unlimited market might offer.

Conclusion

Regulation should aim to healthily let the industry grow, reducing both negative proliferation and the risk of choking prosperity. Investors and entrepreneurs should be both be well aware of the risks involved, and unlimited lending and investing has led us into trouble before. Regulation lets us manage expectations and cut out the bad weeds, creating an environment where quality funding and good investors relationships can thrive and create real, economic value.


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