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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Money 20/20


Money 20/20

Mallory Kwiatkowski

This year’s Money 2020 was spectacular -- about 11,000 people packed into the huge Venetian conference venue in Las Vegas, teeming with energy and ideas. As I said last month, financial people should attend Money 2020 just to absorb the enormity of the change happening where finance meets technology.

The organizers innovated this year by adding emcees for the thematic tracks, including me for the regulatory afternoon (take note for next year: this is always on the first day --  Sunday!).  To my eye, our audience seemed double the size of last year’s. It seems regulation is becoming central to innovation, and vice versa! We had brilliant speakers on all the hot topics. (Watch for upcoming podcasts with three panelists -- Financial Services Roundtable CEO Tim Pawlenty, NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen, and Chris Woolard, who leads strategy for the UK Financial Conduct Authority and shared the first set of results from their famous Regulatory Sandbox.)

The best moment came at day’s end. Past attendees had asked for more interaction with regulators, so Money 2020 set up a town hall. They invited all the current regulators who spoke at the conference, plus several key past ones. I think it was a bit of a surprise, but...everyone said yes.

As a result, we had nine -- count them! --  current and former regulators on the stage for the final session. I was out in the audience playing the Oprah role, so I never got a photo, but it was a powerful visual image. The stage crew had to do a quick makeover to squeeze in smaller stools that could fit everyone in. We had two former Comptrollers of the Currency -- Eugene Ludwig and Thomas Curry. We had the heads of innovation for the CFPB (Dan Quan), the SEC (Ryan Van Grack), and the CFTC (Dan Gorfine). We had senior innovation leaders from the OCC (Amy Friend) and the FTC (Duane Pozza). We had the former financial commissioner of the state of New York (Benjamin Lawsky). And we had Christopher Woolard from the UK -- representing the rest of the world.

Something that struck me, and others who commented later, was how candid they all were, and also how collegial.  It was clear, watching them, that some of these people know each other well and that the conversation on stage mirrored a larger one they’re already having. I doubt this chemistry was there, so strongly, a year ago. The change bodes well for regulatory collaboration -- which is essential for faster, smarter, and of course, more consistent policy-making as these agencies grapple with the novelty and breathtaking speed of technology change. I finished the day feeling hopeful.

My other Money 2020 highlight was that Hummingbird Regtech, of which I’m cofounder, was selected to pitch in the startup contest. We didn’t win -- the winner was Steady -- but we generated tremendous interest. CEO Matt Van Buskirk and COO Joe Robinson made a powerful presentation on the harm caused by financial crime, the inadequacy of today’s tools for catching it, and the opportunity to transform the whole space with new technology. We were flooded with inquiries and are excited about next steps.

I’m writing this post (a bit late) from Heathrow Airport in London, after the first stop in a seven-country world tour I’m doing on fintech and regtech between November 1 and December 21. Coming off Money 2020 last week and a Ripple blockchain conference for central banks in New York on Monday, I’ll be speaking at three events in Europe, three in Asia and one in Africa (plus three in Washington and New York), over seven weeks. About half of these events are on regtech or for regulator audiences -- a cross-section of the global scene on  innovation.

I’ll share a few highlights as I go -- I’m trying to post quick video clips from each spot on Twitter and LinkedIn. Plus, I’m getting some amazing podcasts.

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Be sure to follow me on twitter and facebook.  As always, check the website for more updates. Most importantly, keep innovating!

Jo Ann