Several recent developments (notably, the breakdown of traditional distinctions between different types of financial activity, the globalisation of financial markets and increasing emphasis on systemic stability as a regulatory objective) have prompted policy‐makers to search for an ‘optimum’ regulatory structure that is adapted to the new market environment. Further impetus has been given to this debate by the radical overhaul of regulatory structures, along quite different lines in Australia, the UK and Japan, and the ongoing deliberations within the US Congress over structured financial reform. This paper examines alternative ways of organising the regulatory function in the context of the new financial market environment. The first section reviews the objectives, targets and techniques of regulation. The second section describes the new market environment and the restructuring of the financial services industry. The third section assesses the implications of this new environment for the structure of regulation. The fourth section addresses the international dimension. The final section provides a summary and conclusion. The paper is based on a presentation made at the World Bank Conference, El Salvador, June 1998.
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