DC FinTech Week 2021: Here’s What You Missed Last Year
A Free Look into an Ever-Changing World
The world is changing beneath our feet, within our financial institutions, and before our very eyes. Subjects that were once niche like blockchain, bitcoin, and KYC compliance are growing increasingly relevant institutionally, politically, and personally. Chances are, even if you’re not a financial regulator, you have family or friends who’ve developed an interest or a deep obsession with cryptocurrency. The institutions you bank with and your access to goods abroad can all be changed by the advancement of fintech, which affects our everyday lives in ways that cannot be understated. What once was a technical term meant to apply to systems created to assist in the backend of our financial institutions, is now a part of our everyday lives. Mobile banking apps, robo advisors, and cryptocurrency exchange platforms are all examples of fintech made accessible and popular in the public sphere. Knowing what comes next is as important for the average adult as it is for financial regulators, venture capitalists, diplomats, academics, and technologists. As with all of these different fields, fintech meets at an intersection in so many ways of modern life. The District of Columbia has hosted a conference specifically for fintech for five years now.
Since 2017, DC Fintech Week has brought together a wide audience – from non-profits and technologists to entrepreneurs and regulators – to engage one another in a meaningful dialogue about fintech and the future of finance. The conference brings the best and the brightest to Washington, DC for discussions spanning the fintech ecosystem: crowdfunding, online lending, cryptocurrencies, cybersecurity, AI, open banking and more. The founder of the conference, Dr. Chris Brummer, has dedicated his career to keeping up with the forefront of financial technology. With a keen eye for the intersection between finance and politics, Dr. Brummer knows full-well the barriers for entry that come with studying fintech. As a result, DC Fintech Week is free and open to the public and, as of last year, completely remote. This makes the conference a golden opportunity for anyone, from academic to a personal investor, to learn more about the ever-changing fintech landscape without taking a course or paying an entry fee. The fifth annual DC Fintech Week should not be missed, and to showcase why we’ll recap the best panels from last year’s conference. Coming just on the heels of the first summer of our global pandemic, DC Fintech Week 2020 tackled some extremely prescient subjects, from the summer of protests over the death of George Floyd to the relationship between state governments and cryptocurrency. But before we go over the highlights of the conference, just who is Dr. Chris Brummer?
About Founder Dr. Chris Brummer
It’s no mistake that Dr. Chris Brummer wound up one of the nation’s most prominent fintech experts. The husband of securities law expert Rachel Loko, Dr. Brummer is a professor and faculty director of Georgetown’s Institute of International Economic Law, where for over a decade he’s been involved in issues relating to new frontiers in fintech and financial regulation on Capital Hill and in Europe. More recently, he’s founded the Fintech Beat podcast where he interviews top experts and insiders in financial technology to explore “the intersection of policy, finance, and tech” for the benefit of potential investors and enthusiasts alike. And he’s been willing to tackle hard issues too. His paper, “What Do the Data Reveal About (the absence of Black) Financial Regulators?” was published by Brookings last year and is a testament to his intersectional approach to financial technology and regulation; incorporating race, class, and demographics, and concerns about representation into his body of work. He has had the distinction of serving on the transition team for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and was just added to Fannie Mae’s board of directors in February of 2021. With a career dedicated to connecting financial regulation, financial inclusion, and new technology, the variety and scope of DC Fintech Week is self-evident and 2020 was no exception.
The State and Crypto
As in every DC Fintech Week since its inception, cryptocurrency always plays a large part in the conference. The uphill battle of crypto, especially as it relates to the general public, is educating the average citizen on what exactly cryptocurrency is. To that effect, Lee Reiners, Executive Director of the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke Law, gave a concise and informative definition as well as a contextualization of crypto within the framework of how states empower currency. The state, Reiners reasons, has always had a say in centralizing tokens and creating currency, usually much more successfully than privately minted tokens. Crypto allows for a community to build around a token without being geographically connected, thus creating unprecedented new markets. Such currencies aren’t fiat yet, but the professor proposes a reality in which just as the US dollar eventually decoupled from the gold standard, so too could a digital currency one day decouple from the dollar.
Where the politics of the day and fintech met both in the summer of 2020 and in the Fintech Week Conference that October, were in Coinbase’s reaction to political activism from its employees responding in solidarity to the protests against police violence. In perhaps the most fascinating conversation of an entire week of conversations on central bank digital currencies, big data and cybersecurity, Dr. Chris Brummer gathered together a panel of financial technology experts to discuss what the changing political climate meant for financial technology as well as expectations of accountability from corporations. The discussion that followed wasn’t what one normally hears at technology conferences—and Dr. Brummer dove headfirst into what it meant for cryptocurrencies to scale, and seek acceptance, in a world of diverse stakeholders and participants. When corporations make decisions internally to demotivate employees from expressing their political views, the result can spiral far beyond that internal environment. Coinbase’s early problems offered a prime example of the ways in which newer generations of investors are paying attention to the ethics of a company, how they treat their workers, and how they respond to current events. The conversation was not only insightful, but surprisingly optimistic. As Chris Brummer noted in his closing statements, the issue holds relevance for not people in the United States, but also globally as very diverse audiences and customers scrutinize the behavior of corporations.
Looking at 2021
This year’s DC Fintech Week Conference will be held October 18th to the 21st, 2021. Just as in the year prior, the conference will be entirely remote. As many cryptocurrency aficionados would say, information deserves to be free. You can avail yourself of resources and conversations from panels of experts speaking on matters that may seem niche today, but just like crypto, gameified investing platforms, and mobile banking apps will eventually be at the forefront of American life and conversations. Staying informed and up-to-date on the latest fintech innovations and conversations is becoming as crucial as keeping updated on American politics and foreign policy. Our relationship with the United States dollar may be very different in the next few decades, and as conversations around social justice and police reform continue, the corporations we support will come to their own moral crossroads just as Coinbase did. One thing’s for certain: if you want to be prepared for the conversations your neighbors are having in 2022, tune in to DC Fintech Week 2021.