“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”
Commissioner Kelvin Lee of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Lee strongly warns the general public to be very wary of financial offers, whether through online apps or offline transactions, that make unbelievable promises and have incredibly easy requirements and terms. “The general idea is, if an app makes glowing promises about benefits that seem too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true,” he said at a recent media huddle.
“For example, if a lending app asks for little to no background checks and documentation, promises 0% interest and other unrealistic benefits, then you should pause and do more due diligence. Check if the app provider is registered with the SEC and do other relevant research on it first.”
Thanks to advances in technology, checking with the SEC about companies and other businesses entities is now easy with the SEC CheckApp 2.0. “The app and our website, www.sec.gov.ph, gives users access to the SEC’s company database,” Lee noted.
Concurrently sitting as Supervising Commissioner of the Markets and Securities Regulation Department and as head of the Information & Communications Technology Department, Lee is one of the champions of financial technology or fintech in the country, spearheading groundbreaking initiatives here and abroad. His noteworthy accomplishments include his involvement as a pioneer cohort of the University of Cambridge’s Fintech and Regulatory Innovation Programme, which significantly influenced his drive for a meticulous and balanced policy approach to fintech regulation.
One of Lee’s most notable recognitions came from this year’s Asia Pacific Stevies Awards, one of the most prestigious business awards in the world, where he won the Gold Prize in the “Thought Leader of the Year” category. He triumphed over other awardees from the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, and India.
According to the Stevies jurors, Lee’s accomplishments stand as a testament to his dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to advancing fintech and promoting a secure and investor-friendly environment.
Lee played a pivotal role in the establishment of the SEC’s PhiliFintech Innovation Office in 2021. This office, working under the Commission En Banc’s guidance, focuses on fintech regulation and policy recommendations, positioning the Philippines as a frontrunner in embracing technological advancements while prioritizing investor protection. He also crafted the SEC’s “delicate balancing act” policy, which enables the Commission to foster an environment conducive to fintech growth while upholding its responsibility as a financial regulator to safeguard the interests of investors.
One area of fintech Lee is most supportive of is its role in the growth and development of the sector of micro small & medium enterprises or MSMEs. “Fintech is a faster and more convenient source of capital for MSMEs,” he says. “Thanks to fintech, MSMEs can now access funding that would have been difficult to secure through traditional banking methods. Online lending platforms and crowdfunding portals provide alternative sources of capital for small business and entrepreneurs alike.”
Fintech also makes it easier for individual investors to start investing with small amounts of money through apps and platforms. Lee says these provide the benefits of potentially increased savings and even wealth accumulation.
But as with any other type and use of technology, fintech is highly vulnerable to security threats for all stakeholders. This is why, according to Lee, the SEC ensures that its officers and staff are kept trained and up-to-date with the latest technology trends. “Technological innovations do tend to move faster than our laws and regulations can be updated. Still, we do our best to catch up and make the needed revisions to existing rules and policies; after all, that is part of our mandate to protect consumers, businesses, and investors and make sure they benefit from these innovations.”
Lee notes that, as part of the SEC’s role as financial regulator, the Commission will soon be issuing Memorandum Circular for all publicly listed companies to submit reports to the agency regarding the cybersecurity plans, frameworks, and infrastructure that they have in place. “We will likely start out by asking PLCs to do this on a comply or explain basis, perhaps as part of a transition phase,” he says. “Following that, the SEC will likely be making the submission of such reports mandatory. This is necessary to protect all stakeholders including consumers, businesses, investors, and even the government against cybersecurity threats.”
Aside from his work in the Philippines, Lee’s dedication to advancing fintech has taken him to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Cambridge, where he has shared his expertise and contributed to shaping the global fintech landscape. The noteworthy platforms where he has shared his knowledge include events organized by the University of Cambridge, the Asian Institute of Management, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia, the Fintech Alliance, and the World Economic Forum.