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Keeping the Crowd – UKCFA Conference

On Wednesday 25th September the Autumn conference of the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA) took place at the London Offices of Ernst and Young or E&Y as I suppose I should call them.

A substantial crowd turned up for the event which was opened by Julia Groves of UKCFA and keynoted by Barry Sheerman MP who has taken a close interest in the development of crowdfunding and championed its presence at Westminster.

It was particularly good to see two Scottish platforms represented in Jude Cook of ShareIn and Derek Bond of Squareknot and I was pleased to catch up with a number of people like Luke Lang of Crowdcube who will be coming to Rome in October to speak at the Crowdfuture conference.

For those of us engaged in the day to day research and consulting on crowdfunding it can be easy to forget that what we take as common knowledge is often not so for the wider business world. Barry Sheerman recounted that when he first asked the House of Commons Library for information on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding they admitted to knowing and finding nothing about it, the first time that had happened in his long parliamentary career. Things may well have improved since then but it is a useful reminder to us all that there is still a pretty low level of understanding of crowdfunding even if more people have heard of it.

The event had two panel sessions each of which was interesting. It was particularly good to hear Nicola Horlick, with such a strong career in the established financial markets, relate her conversion to and excitement about the possibilities of crowdfunding. I was particularly pleased to hear her tacitly endorse two ideas we have put forward by raising the possibilities of institutional investors creating financial products that wrap up a portfolio of P2P debt investments. She was also suggesting that a secondary market for un-tradeable equities and securities from equity platforms might be a good idea to increase liquidity, an idea we suggested at a conference in Vienna some months back.

The second session focused more on regulation and David Blair of Osborne Clarke – another participant at Crowdfuture in October, presents a sound and balanced legal take on things and David Geale of the FCA gave the regulators view, and Ian Livingston was simply entertaining. As you might expect this was a more feisty set of exchanges and my concern continues that a set of regulations specifically for crowdfunding will constrain and decrease innovation in the sector to its detriment. By having a common law structure that does not currently specifically legislate for crowdfunding it permits novel approaches to satisfying the regulatory requirements. As soon as those parameters are specifically laid out for, crowdfunding innovation will, I believe, be constrained, and the art of the possible will be determined by the vision of the regulators which, I fear, is much too limited and informed by “traditional” thinking.

Nevertheless one of the abiding impressions of the event was the general air of collaboration and support from the participants, and the openness of the conversations at the networking was a reminder, if any were, needed as to how collaborative, innovative and open this sector is, and long may it remain so.

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