The financial services industry is in transition. Traditionally, financial services have been structured into four broad industry sectors: banking, insurance, equities/stock brokerage, and transaction services. The recent confluence of three trends---deregulation, globalization, and spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs)---has created new business opportunities. Deregulation has made it possible for financial service providers to expand their portfolio of services beyond their traditional sectorial offerings, while also allowing a variety of non-traditional participants to enter the financial services market. Concurrently, international and global trade agreements, for example, within the European Union, World Trade Organization, and the United Nations are attempting to harmonize regulations and standards across nations. Specification of international bank account formats, standardization of transaction interfaces for cross-bank and cross-national payments, security, and common customer-data privacy regulations are examples of such attempts at harmonization.
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