Many industries have been transformed by technological innovation in the past decade, though perhaps none more so than the financial services sector. More products, tools and services have been moved to digital channels, which now encompass everything from the internet, blockchain-based infrastructure like smart contracts and, of course, artificial intelligence and big data tools. The latest EY Global FinTech Adoption Index, a survey of 27,000 digitally active consumers in 27 markets, showed that global adoption of fintech services has moved upward from 16% in 2015 to 64% in 2019. And even in the wake of a recession, the overall trend promises to point to more, not less, digital transformation.
FinTech, notably, has gained significance beyond financial services, and touches industries as diverse as manufacturing, e-commerce, and real estate—particularly as these businesses aim to increase corporate productivity and efficiency while improving consumer experience. Yet, regulatory approaches remain largely siloed, with limited coordination across government agencies, and arguably even less with the private sector.
Finding “safe spaces,” to engage financial innovation can be hard, especially in today’s highly politicized landscape. And platforms that can do so are prized, especially in Washington, D.C. One such platform is D.C. Fintech Week, an event first launched on the campus Georgetown University’s Law Center, in 2017, but which now spans the city, and touches many, if not most of the regulatory and international agencies in the capital. The brainchild of the event, Georgetown law professor Chris Brummer, credits the annual event’s success to its modest objective: to democratize information and allow everyone–from non-profits and technologists to entrepreneurs and regulators–to engage one another, for free, in a meaningful dialogue about fintech and the future of finance.
Brummer has in the past credited the conference he had with former CFTC Chairman Chris Giancarlo, who advised him as to the necessity of cogent, apolitical conversations in the city. And he is both a technocrat and politically connected. Besides having assisted regulators internationally and domestically across various agencies, he also served on the Biden Transition team speaking on issues of racial equity, innovation and systemic risk. He has publicly noted that his views are informed by having grown up himself the son of law professor, Chauncey Brummer, a juvenile justice expert. He’s also, notably, married to the well respected securities layer Rachel Loko.
Still, there are things that make DC Fintech Week more unique than even its mission. For one, it’s in Washington—a city not known to welcome or even openly engage financial innovation. Second, being in the capitol, the conference is one of the few where top officers from the Bank for International Settlements, U.S. Treasury Department, and SEC engage with any year’s motley of stakeholders, from prize winning economists to Millennial law school students to Bitcoin billionaires.
And it’s entirely free to the public.
The 5th Annual iteration took place in Washington D.C. from October 18-21, 2021, and was hosted by the Institute of International Law, Georgetown University, The Institute for Financial Markets, and the Bank for International Settlements—otherwise known as the “central bank for central banks.” It gathered several distinguished individuals operating within the fintech ecosystem. The event inaugurated by Augustin Carstens, the GM for the Bank of International Settlements, held discussions on cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), stable coins, financial inclusion, and financial crimes.
Some of the most exciting discussions were led by IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, Reza Baqir and Timothy Antoine, the governors of the State Bank of Pakistan and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. They deliberated over the development and expansion of digital financial services through advanced technologies and how they are aiding in the creation of unlimited possibilities for growth. This growth is not restricted to fintech or economies, but also the quality of life for those who have been excluded from financial growth.
This year’s event is set to take place on October 11 and 12, 2022 in Washington D.C., and will be introducing many fresh faces to the annual conference. While again co-hosted by Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute of International Economic Law and the Institute for Financial Markets, Fannie Mae will take center stage as a co-host of the event. Not surprisingly, cryptocurrency will be a big focus. But the event is clearly setting its sites on larger issues as well, including housing finance, financial literacy and concrete use cases for the technology like decentralized identity.
Among other notable participants, Jeremy Allaire and Hyun Song Shin will be joining to examine the necessary building blocks for a crypto ecosystem. Allaire is Co-Founder and CEO of Circle, a global financial technology firm that enables businesses of all sizes to harness the power of stablecoins and public blockchains for payments and commerce, whereas Hyun Song Shin is the economic advisor and head of research of the Bank for International Settlements.
Other headliners include Esteban Castaño, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of TRM Labs, and Eun Young Choi, Director of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, who will be discussing the relationship between cryptocurrency and illicit finance. Patrick Collison, the CEO of Stripe will be speaking, along with FTX CEO Sam Bankman Fried.
Currently, registration for the DC Fintech Week, while open, spins would be participants to the wait list. While past events have been livestreamed, there’s at least a subtle expectation that the event’s homepage will feature a feed. Still, it’s a conference quite clearly aiming to disrupt the way fintech and crypto conferences are done, and possibly disintermediate them altogether. So we’ll have to wait and see what’s next.