Guest Conference Coverage by Jon Ungerland, CIO, DaLand CUSO
Were you among the 20,000-plus participants at the Local Finance and Community Commerce Innovation summit in Miami, Fla., earlier this month? I was pleased to (virtually) attend the three-day event, which overflowed with promise and potential for product and service innovation in the community financial services industry. Highlights included:
New technologies for protecting and growing personal savings and local wealth.
Faster, safer, cheaper payment systems for consumers and commercial customers.
Exciting emerging data processing technologies for strengthening the business strategy and local relevance of community banks/credit unions.
Numerous panels and keynote speakers covering legislative and regulatory events likely to impact the future of local, democratic, decentralized access to financial services.
Given all these exciting and even urgent topics covered in one action-packed event, the virtual vacuum of panelists and speakers from the credit union and community banking industry was notable – awkward even.
In fact, having attended the last three years’ installments of this event, on day two of this year, which began with a keynote address on regulation and innovation from “Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary, I tried to summarize my immediate impressions to a colleague. I observed, “This year’s conference seems like an awkward mix of Wall Street banksters, multi-national corporate profiteers, and punk-rock technology innovators touting their visions for the future of local, decentralized, democratic financial services…but noble visions and valuable voices are being drowned out by an ear-piercing echo coming from a crucial chasm in the crowd – the total absence of local financial services leaders.”
So promising and important was the content of this event that prominent leaders and industrial innovators like Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal), Cathie Wood (founder/CEO of Ark Investment), Mike Novogratz (Fortress Investment & Galaxy Digital), Cynthia Lummis (U.S. Senator, Wyo.), and Michael Saylor (chairman/CEO of Microstrategies) were among the events attendees and contributors.
One session addressed current challenges to consumers and corporations like inflation, modern monetary policy, geopolitical turmoil, commodities prices and erosion of savings. “People have a God-given right, it should be a human right, to store up the fruits of their labor in something; and this is a really interesting way to store the fruits of your labor,” Novogratz asserted at the conclusion of a fireside chat concerning emerging and revolutionary savings technologies. It was as if this Wall Street, mega-corporate personality was speaking directly to the idea of serving undeserved and underbanked, promoting financial literacy, and defending financial flourishing in local communities around the globe – topics so important to credit unions.
Of Elections and Legislation
Talking about impending legislation and upcoming midterm elections amidst unparalleled threats to our economy, Ark Investement’s Woods observed, “It has become the single issue some people are voting on, and it’s bipartisan…someone is whispering in [Janet Yellen’s] ear, someone is whispering to politicians, ‘if you want to lose, if you want the U.S. to lose out on one of the most amazing innovation platforms of all times, keep talking like that [about this technology].”
It's All About Adoption
Discussing critical data represented in these new financial services networks and money processing technologies, Peter Thiel remarked, “It’s the most efficient market and it was the canary in the coal mine. It was telling us that the inflation was coming in the last two years…it is telling us that the central banks are bankrupt; that we are at the end of the fiat money regime.”
“You all know how quickly it’s changing, it’s just remarkable,” said Senator Lumis, commenting on the pace of development and adoption of these new and incredibly valuable platforms. She continued, “You’re innovating so fast, and we’re just trying to learn and not put up roadblocks to your ability to innovate and grow this industry in the United States.”
Such comments from a sitting U.S. legislator were warmly and enthusiastically received by conference participants, especially as many traditionalists and opponents of true digital transformation in our industry continue to speculate that government will intervene and prevent the obsolescence of older, more expensive, less efficient, less secure payments and money movement technologies.
Oh, dang it…I just realized I got my conference calendar and industry events mixed up. This exciting and engaging talk about local financial services, decentralized and democratic control of money, next-gen savings preservation and inflation fighting technology, emerging local wealth preservation innovation, and crucial banking legislation didn’t happen at the Local Finance and Community Commerce Innovation summit. These are actually my observations from the Bitcoin 2022 conference.
Here's hoping next year that echoing chasm in the audience, that hole which reverberated back awkward silences of missed opportunity and spotlighted the absence of apt voices, will be replaced by a sea of local financial services leaders and credit union collaborators seeking to catalyze a renaissance in community stewardship of wealth.
As an innovator within and proponent of local financial cooperatives for two-plus decades now, I’m sure the conference organizers of Bitcoin 2023 will wholeheartedly welcome enthusiastic involvement from an industry tailor-made to promote and protect the financial wealth and health of the underbanked and underserved using next generation wealth preservation and distribution technology. An army of local financial services leaders flooding next year’s event would go a long way to preventing the misappropriation of these uncannily timely, technologically significant, and profoundly philosophically compatible innovations.
Having reported on the arc and acceleration of these innovations since 2015, I’m confident that’s the optimal outcome and certainly preferential to the alternative.
See you at Bitcoin 2023. Or feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're looking for a list of other important events for ongoing education on digital assets, decentralized finance or crypto.