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

Prince Michael of Liechtenstein: Imagining Finance in 2030

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Prince Michael of Liechtenstein: Imagining Finance in 2030

Courtney Cole


Bill Gates famously said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

That gets quoted often these days, because it so well captures the times we live in.

In that vein, it was a special pleasure to be invited recently to a roundtable aimed at envisioning the financial system of 2030. The event was the second in a series hosted by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein, a three day conversation with incredibly thoughtful people drawn from banks, fintech companies, cryptocurrency, global NGOs, technologists, and regulators, from all over the world. It was organized by Dr. Thomas Puschmann, Director of the Swiss FinTech Innovation Lab at the University of Zurich.

We were in the historic and picturesque city of Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein. It was my first trip there, and a thrill to see the Alps and the Rhine Valley. We met in a graceful rustic building with a big fireplace and a balcony overlooking the snowy mountainside. It was there, during a lunch break, that I had a chance to sit down with Prince Michael, to talk about how he sees the future.

He shared insights across a wide range of topics, from macroeconomics to demographics to how aging populations will finance pensions and rising healthcare costs.  We talked about blockchains and cryptocurrency. We talked about privacy -- the new European Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, and what it will mean for financial innovation and consumer protection. And of course, we talked about the extraordinary challenge facing regulators, who will be expected to enable all the good innovation to flourish and to prevent all the possible harm -- a goal that Prince Michael notes is actually impossible. I especially appreciated his observation that when things go wrong, the regulators will get the blame and when things go right, they will not likely get any credit. It’s a tough job.

On Saturday evening, our little group climbed a steep path through the princely vineyard Herawingert to have dinner at the restaurant Torkel, which has been owned by the Liechtenstein family since 1712. The interior is dominated by an enormous old wooden wine press and one of the largest Torkel trees in Europe. As we enjoyed our first course, Prince Michael rose to share some of the long history of Liechtenstein. It’s a small country, strategically situated in the mountains between Austria and Germany to the north and east, and Italy to the south. Buffeted by shifting power alignments over the centuries, the country developed a close alignment with its western neighbor, Switzerland (we flew into Zurich), and built a diverse economy rooted in the ability to adapt to change. Our gathering was steeped in this rich history, and it proved to be a perfect backdrop to our efforts to envision the high-tech future of finance ten years out.

Prince Michael thinks this future will be a good one -- better than what we have today. I share his optimism, and more so after spending time with this remarkable group of leaders and thinkers.


Link to Full Transcription

More About Prince Michael

Prince Michael is an entrepreneur and financier. He is President of the European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation and President at Industrie- und Finanzkontor. He studied commerce at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

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We have great episodes coming up. We’ve talked with Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury, Craig Phillips; with the outgoing Chairman of the CFTC, Chris Giancarlo -- his second show with us; MIT’s David Shrier; and Gary Shiffman of Giant Oak. We’ll talk with Dale Nirvani Pfeifer of Goodworld; Vinny Lingham of Civic; Karen Mills with Harvard; as well as Ida Rademacher with Aspen Institute alongside Jamie Kalamarides with Prudential.  We also have a fascinating conversation that we recorded this month from the expo hall at LendIt, which erected a special stage for podcasters, and where I sat down to talk with the cofounders of Kabbage, Rob Frohwein and Kathryn Petralia. And there’s much more in the queue.

I also got the chance to be a podcast guest while at LendIt -- I was interviewed by Zach Pettet, VP of Fintech Strategy at NBKC Bank for his podcast For Fintech’s Sake. Check it out!

And guess what -- we’re coming up to our 100th episode. We’re planning something extra special for that milestone!

I’ll be speaking at quite a few private events this spring. If you’re interested in booking me, contact Some of the public places I’ll hope to see our listeners include:

The Innovate Finance Global Summit, April 29-20, London

Comply 2019, May 14-15, New York, NY

GAO/INTOSAI Annual Meeting on Financial Modernization and Regulatory Reform, May 16, Washington, DC

Bank Director's Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference, June 12, Chicago, IL

American Banker Association’s Regulatory Compliance Conference, June 9-12, New Orleans, LA

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The views and opinions expressed during the Barefoot Innovation podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Barefoot Innovation Group and its employees. Barefoot Innovation Group does not verify for accuracy the information contained in the podcast series. The primary purpose of this podcast series is to educate and inform.