December 11, 2023

Technology Development

Technology Development, TheBest You Can Get!

Fintechs: Negotiating Service Contracts With Financial Institutions – Fin Tech

“Fintech” refers to new technology aimed at improving
the delivery of financial products or services, either by
complementing or competing with those products or services provided
by traditional financial institutions (FIs). This broad category
results in a wide variety of business models and contracting
approaches. Many fintechs contract with existing FIs and, in our
experience, this type of contracting can result in mutually
beneficial business relationships. It is also our experience that
the negotiation phase of the relationships can present real
challenges. The good news is that deal friction can be reduced by
acknowledging the differing business models and concerns of
fintechs and FIs, and by coming well prepared to engage with

Commercial contracts

FIs pursue agreements with fintechs for a number of reasons,
including accessing novel technology capabilities with a nimble
development team, collaborating on new product offerings, and
accessing potential new, under-tapped customer

Because of the wide variety of potential commercial
arrangements, there is no single type of agreement that is typical
between fintechs and FIs. In our practice, we frequently see a wide
variety of agreements, including outsourcing and complex services
agreements, collaboration agreements, cloud services agreements,
reseller agreements, marketing agreements and  technology
development and licensing agreements. There are common negotiation
challenges and solutions, however, that are worth considering.

Understanding financial technology companies and financial

Fintechs and FIs have differences in structure, history,
philosophy, regulatory requirements and stakeholders.

Fintechs offering technology to FIs are usually not directly
heavily regulated and must grow at a high velocity with limited
resources. Revenue acquisition is essential for early stage
fintechs, and budgets for complex and protracted legal negotiations
are limited; speed to a deal is an important consideration.
Solutions (including all important security-related functionality)
may be works in progress. Decision-making is usually centered on a
few individual stakeholders.  

FIs, on the other hand, are heavily regulated; their regulators
prescribe onerous requirements and standards that the FIs must
meet, expect the FIs to comply, and have little tolerance for
non-compliance. Service continuity, data access and security,
regulatory compliance, reputational risk and customer retention are
always top of mind for FIs.

The regulatory environment is complex and constantly changing
and includes some or all of:

  • the Bank Act  or other applicable statutory

  • supervisory requirements, including from the Office of the
    Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) and the Financial
    Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC)

  • codes of conduct

  • privacy legislation

  • anti-money laundering legislation

  • securities legislation

  • investment dealer rules and regulations

  • payment rules and regulations, and

  • insurance legislation and guidance.

Regulatory compliance within the FI’s environment requires a
robust risk management framework, consisting of a complex and often
decentralized array of policies, processes and approvals that must
be followed when contracting with third party suppliers. Commercial
service contracts typically require review from a wide range of key
stakeholders, in addition to the deal team with whom the fintech is
negotiating business terms (e.g., cybersecurity, audit and
accounting, risk management, legal, etc.). Approvals for
negotiation concessions and final execution can be rigorous and

These differences can be jarring for both fintechs and FIs when
sitting down to negotiate and when faced with the often complex
agreements that include complex and detailed regulatory and risk
management requirements that the fintech must meet.

Material outsourcing and third party risk

Currently with respect to the types of commercial arrangements
considered here, OSFI is the principal federal government agency
that regulates FIs. The OSFI guideline B-10 — Outsourcing of
Business Activities, Functions and Processes — sets out broad
guidance, expectations and best practices for FIs to manage risks
related to material outsourcing. B-10 is fairly generally worded,
so FIs typically have their own criteria and internal departments
that assess whether a particular service arrangement constitutes a
material outsourcing. Under B-10, it is critical that a fintech
entering into an arrangement with an FI knows whether the FI is
treating the arrangement as a  material outsourcing, as this
will import a number of onerous terms into the contract (e.g.,
subcontractor terms, audit terms, security terms, service location
requirements, business continuity plans, etc.) and reduce the
flexibility open to the FI with respect to negotiating or conceding
on those terms. The determination of whether an arrangement is a
material outsourcing, however, has never been entirely clear or
consistent. OSFI B-10 applies to — but is not necessarily
well suited for — cloud computing arrangements, with certain
provisions requiring careful consideration for such hosted

On April 27, 2022, OSFI released a new Draft Guideline B-10 -
Third Party Risk Management. Although currently in the consultation
phase and so subject to change, the new Guideline B-10 expands
coverage from material outsourcing to third-party arrangements
generally. The proposed new B-10 includes increased emphasis on FI
governance and due diligence for third party arrangements. The new
B-10, among other things, emphasises risk assessments, due
diligence, and consideration of concentration risk (i.e., potential
over reliance on a supplier, geography or subcontractor). It also
includes (in Annex 2) a list of minimum provisions for third party
agreements, although these clauses describe topics which should be
covered rather than specific clauses.  The full impact of the
new B-10 will become more apparent as the consultation period is
completed. What is clear is that the exercise of determining
whether an arrangement is a material outsourcing no longer will be
a distinguishing factor in determining how a third party
arrangement is treated. This will broaden the types of fintech
arrangements affected by OSFI requirements.

In addition to OSFI B-10 revision, OSFI has increasingly focused
on cybersecurity risk, including the Technology and Cyber Security
Incident Reporting Advisory, as well as circulating a proposed
Guideline B-13: Technology and Cyber Risk Management. The advisory
and proposed guideline directly impact service providers and FIs

Before entering negotiations

Generally, fintechs must consider the regulatory environment of
their business and design systems and policies from an early stage
in their development. Fintechs planning on providing services to
FIs must also consider the regulatory constraints likely to apply
to the proposed arrangement with the FI and anticipate how these
will be satisfied in the contracting process.

In conjunction with preliminary business discussions, a fintech
should also ask the FI about its stakeholder review process (e.g.,
whose approval is required and how long the approval process is
expected to take) at the outset of negotiations and raise any
relevant key issues for clarification and expectation alignment.
Key issues and points of alignment may include:

  • the overall nature of the services

  • the objective of the arrangement

  • subcontracting considerations

  • cloud computing and SaaS arrangements

  • security terms

  • data flows, ownership and use, and

  • audit rights.

Fintechs should consult advisors in advance to get a sense of
what contracting terms can be anticipated from the FI, given the
context of the services, the types of cybersecurity requirements
that will be expected, and whether the arrangement is likely to be
viewed as material outsourcing or otherwise high risk.

Form of service contract

FIs often wish to work from their own form of template
agreements that are typically comprehensive, lengthy and designed
to address stakeholders’ interpretation of regulatory
requirements. These forms of agreements are not always right-sized
to the deal, which can result in protracted negotiations. Early on
in the discussions, it is important to determine whether the use of
such an agreement is understandable and reasonable under the
circumstances or whether a more streamlined agreement could be
used. To satisfy the need for quick assessment of a fintech’s
offering, it is worth considering whether a pilot program agreement
or other short-form agreement might achieve the immediate goals of
both developing the fintech’s solution and affording the FI an
opportunity to assess the value of the service in its business more

During negotiations

During negotiations, fintechs should seek to understand where
the FI has limited flexibility (e.g., regulatory requirements and
the comprehensive nature of security requirements). Fintechs should
focus their time and energy on addressing potential dealbreakers
and items of business importance, rather than negotiating areas
where FIs will not have flexibility.

Audit and security terms

Consider the FI’s security requirements and aim to have all
necessary security and plans for audit (e.g., SOC audits, if
appropriate) in place prior to commencing negotiations. At a
minimum, fintechs should be prepared to tell their security story
and explain how it will mitigate risks, even if its arrangements
are not in full alignment with the FI’s requirements.
Typically, a fintech that has a sophisticated security team can
come to terms on details that fulfill the intent of the FI’s
security requirements, if not initially the same in every detail.
Speak to counsel about potential alternative arrangements that FIs
may be able to live with and that work with the fintech’s
technical abilities and resources. If the fintech is unable to
absorb the high cost of implementing the FI’s critical audit
and security requirements until it has a guaranteed revenue stream,
the fintech should consider proposing a staggered audit and
security implementation plan.


Data use and ownership raises complex issues for both FIs and
fintechs, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Both parties
should be prepared to spend a significant portion of the
negotiations on this topic, and the fintech should be able to
explain the value that the FI will receive in exchange for sharing
its valuable data (e.g., lower costs or improved services). As part
of the initial business discussion, fintechs should have a general
conversation about value and the ways that it will be permitted to
use the data, other than for the purpose of providing the services
set out in the contract. Fintechs should be prepared to answer the
FI’s questions about data location, data use and data flows, as
well as data security; if possible, create a data flow diagram that
can be proactively provided to the FI to address these inevitable

Consider the aspects of data use and ownership that will be
important to the fintech during the course of the service
arrangement, and whether it would be appropriate to have the FI
provide a licence to use the data rather than ownership rights over
the data. In most cases, licensing is an appropriate approach, as
fintechs generally do not need to own the data to achieve their
objectives, and the parties have the ability to draft the licence
rights broadly or narrowly based on their preferences and

Fintechs should also consider the regulatory frameworks that may
apply to certain types of data, and that will impose obligations on
the fintech or the FI (e.g., required safeguards for and
restrictions on the collection, use, disclosure or transfer of
personal information of customers or employees; financial and
trading data reporting requirements; and other requirements related
to data loss detection and prevention and cyber incidents). It is
critical for a fintech to design its policies and services with
data management best practices in mind; for example, only collect
and use the data that is needed and for which it has all required
consents, use aggregation and anonymization, limit data retention,
and have data destruction and disposal plans in place.


FIs are continuing to show interest in acquiring technology
innovations, and the sector has gained experience and comfort in
this space. FI teams are now more familiar with the risks and
rewards of undertaking service arrangements with fintechs and are
showing greater flexibility and openness to deviating from
traditional arrangements by using short-form agreements, pilot
programs and sandboxes. Many FIs now have special affiliates or
divisions dedicated to agile technology projects and are coming to
terms with cloud computing. Meanwhile, the open-banking movement,
greater adoption of artificial intelligence and payment reform are
all on the horizon. By understanding the interests of their two
(often vastly) differing businesses, cultures and requirements,
fintechs and FIs can conduct smoother negotiations and achieve
mutually beneficial business collaborations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.