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

Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury, Craig Phillips

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury, Craig Phillips

Courtney Cole


Our conversations on Barefoot Innovation always grapple with the regulatory challenges arising as technology transforms finance. Most of our guests have good ideas about this, but very few are in a position to make things happen. Today’s guest is different.

He is Craig Phillips, who is the Counselor to the US Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin. The Counselor role spans everything from fiscal operations to America’s debt management, but for our audience he is best-known for leading the office that issued last year’s landmark Treasury report on fintech.

The fintech report was part of the Trump Administration’s larger review of the US financial regulatory framework, which in turn ties into the Counselor’s remit in aligning innovation and technology with a pro-growth economic policy. The financial review project has also produced three other papers: Banks and Credit Unions, Capital Markets, and Asset Management.

The reports have all been excellent, and the fintech one, in particular, has been very widely acclaimed for its comprehensive scope, thoughtful analysis, and concrete recommendations. If you haven’t read it, I strongly commend it to you. If you have, you will find this discussion really interesting not only in hearing Counselor Phillips’ thoughts on the key issues, but also in updating us on progress and plans since the report came out last year.

As he notes, the US has the world’s largest economy, is growing rapidly, and has enviable strengths in technology innovation, and yet, we face real challenges in financial innovation. These trace directly to our uniquely complex regulatory framework, which has multiple federal regulatory agencies in addition to those in the 50 states.

Among other things, this complexity makes it difficult to move quickly, which is exactly what regulators will increasingly need to be able to do as technology-driven change continues to accelerate, leaving policymakers and regulators ever-more challenged to keep up.

Much of the solution on regulatory velocity centers on making the system more nimble and efficient. In our conversation, we talk about methods for doing that. One is the Comptroller of the Currency’s proposal to create a special national bank charter for those fintechs that would prefer a national charter over state-by-state licencing. Another strategy aims to increase interagency coordination and rationalizing and dovetailing of roles. And another is Treasury’s strong support for agencies using so-called “sandboxes,” or labs or pilots, that enable them to accelerate their own learning curves and industry feedback loops by creating controlled, contained testing environments, much as the private sector does when it undertakes innovation.

(In that vein, between the time we recorded this discussion and the time we are posting it, the OCC released its request for public comment on its approach to this testing objective, which is to create a program that will run pilot projects. They are hoping for extensive input. Here is that link.)

Beyond the regulatory agility issues, today’s conversation covers a lot of ground, from digital identity to data aggregation, to use of artificial intelligence, APIs and cloud computing, to regulation of credit reporting, to data vulnerability and the possibility of federal legislation requiring consumer notification on data breaches.

We also spoke about blockchains and distributed ledger technology. These were not included in Treasury’s fintech report, and in our conversation, Counselor Phillips shares updated information on how the Administration is viewing regulation of these emerging products and markets, including through coordination of the SEC and CFTC.


Link to Full Transcription

Treasury Releases Report on Nonbank Financials, Fintech, and Innovation

Barefoot Innovation Podcast: Banks and Community: CSBS President John Ryan CSBS

Barefoot Innovation Podcast: From Analog to Digital Regulation - CFTC Acting Chairman Christopher Giancarlo

More on Craig Phillips

Mr. Phillips joined the Treasury in January 2017 and serves as Counselor to the Secretary. He assists the Secretary in a range of matters including domestic finance, domestic financial institution policy and housing finance policy and regulatory reform.

Since 2008 Mr. Phillips served as a Managing Director and Member of the Global Operating Committee of BlackRock, Inc. Mr. Phillips was the global head of the Financial Markets Advisory Group in BlackRock Solutions, which provided analytical and risk consulting services to a wide range of private and public sector organizations globally. Clients included central banks, banking supervisors and multilateral organizations around the world.

Mr. Phillips previously held leadership positions at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston, where he managed global securitized product platforms.

Mr. Phillips holds a BA in Economics and Business Administration from Vanderbilt University.

More for Our Listeners

I hope you enjoyed today’s show. Remember to leave us a five-star rating on your podcast platform so we can help more listeners find the show. Also come to our website to subscribe to Barefoot Innovation -- the newsletter, podcast and updates, and please follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

We have great episodes coming up. We’ve talked with the outgoing Chairman of the CFTC, Chris Giancarlo -- his second show with us and one of the most thought-provoking we’ve ever done on the future of financial regulation. We have shows coming up with MIT’s David Shrier; Gary Shiffman of Giant Oak; and Karen Mills of Harvard Business School, who has a new book out on fintech and small business. We’ll also talk with Dale Nirvani Pfeifer of Goodworld; Vinny Lingham of Civic; and Ida Rademacher of the Aspen Institute alongside Jamie Kalamarides of Prudential.  And in London last month, I recorded a wonderful conversation with thought-leader and uber-blogger, with the great Chris Skinner.

In addition, we’ll have a fascinating conversation we recorded in April from the floor of 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.

I also had the pleasure of being a podcast guest while at LendIt -- I was interviewed by Zach Pettet, VP of Fintech Strategy at NBKC Bank for his new podcast For Fintech’s Sake, which I must say is a great format. Zach asked me many questions that have never come up in interviews before, and the conversation was tremendous fun. Everyone should subscribe to the show.

Finally, guess what -- we’re coming up to our 100th episode on Barefoot Innovation. We’re planning something extra special for that milestone!

Some of the forums where I’ll be speaking this year include:

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

International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, 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

And I’m pleased to say I’ll be chairing the regulatory track again this year at Money 2020, in October in Las Vegas. I’m also very pleased to say they have moved it from Sunday, as in the past, to Tuesday. It’s not too early to make plans to come.

I’ll also be speaking at quite a few private events this spring. If you’re interested in booking me, you can contact

I’ll hope to see you soon!

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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.