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Appetite for Disruption: The Business and Regulation of FinTech

Many opportunities and challenges are at the intersection of technology and financial services. And FinTech itself is rapidly evolving as businesses continuously innovate and new ideas come from unexpected places. At the same time, government regulators are trying to keep pace. Troy A. Paredes and Lee A. Schneider explore this disruption by engaging the leaders who are changing what FinTech is and how we think about it. In this biweekly podcast, Troy, former SEC Commissioner and founder of Paredes Strategies LLC, and Lee, general counsel at Block.one and co-founder of Genesis Block, LLC, discuss today’s –and tomorrow’s – exciting and impactful FinTech topics. With their guests, they explore business and regulatory developments and technology trends, giving listeners new perspectives to take back to Main Street, the Hill, Wall Street, and the boardroom.
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Appetite for Disruption: The Business and Regulation of FinTech
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Apr 6, 2020

Who are the policy makers of the internet?  Clara Tsao, an expert on content moderation and trust and safety on the internet, says that the people establishing the rules for what is (and is not) allowable content on a platform and the protocols for enforcing those rules are the policy makers.  Given the breadth of what’s on the internet (almost limitless content, potentially), the “line drawing” to decide what’s ok and what’s not ok is very difficult with lots of room for second-guessing.  Figuring out a policy about when it’s permissible to show something that might be risqué or how to balance free speech with protecting society from information that could incite terrorism or other physical threats presents key questions that Clara mentions.  Actually applying the rules once they are in place to particular situations is an especially difficult task.  Clara wakes us up to the complexity of trust and safety on the internet.

Mar 23, 2020

We delve further into the world of data and the integrity of information with Adaptive Management CEO, Brad Schneider (no relation).  More data is often better because you can look for agreement among the data and the difference observations that diverse data provide.  This can help cancel out some of the bias that can affect an individual data source.  All three of us speculate about how choosing a restaurant based on reviews might involve data analysis and thinking about what question is relevant (no statement or viewpoint about any restaurant review provider is intended).  The granularity of data matters too, as more granular data can illuminate more granular insights.  Listen in to our thoughts at the end after Brad took off.   

Since we recorded with Brad, Adaptive was acquired by Knoema, a knowledge management company.  Brad has started NoMad Data, which focuses on helping investment firms and corporations find and use novel sources of data to improve their visibility and efficiency.

Visit afdfintech.com for more information.  You can follow us on Twitter at @AfDfintech.

 

Mar 9, 2020

Alternative data can help us answer questions.  The world of data is a lot larger – and a lot more powerful – than many suspect.  As Adaptive Management’s CEO and a longtime data junkie, Brad Schneider (no relation) spends his time thinking about sources and uses of data so Adaptive can provide useful datasets and analytical tools for its financial services and other clients.  Adaptive’s clients can access and piece together all sorts of novel data to better understand what’s happening.  The expectation is that better data will result in better decisions.  The normalization and standardization of data is key so that the data can be easily read, compared, and integrated – in other words, so that the data can be used effectively. 

Since we recorded with Brad, Adaptive was acquired by Knoema, a knowledge management company.  Brad has started NoMad Data, which focuses on helping investment firms and corporations find and use novel sources of data to improve their visibility and efficiency.

 Visit afdfintech.com for more information.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @AfDfintech.

Feb 24, 2020

Bringing blockchain to securities settlement isn’t easy.  As we discuss with John, a couple of years ago, it felt like everything would move to blockchain in the near future.  As Bond.one realized it would take some time, the business has shifted focus to doing the hard work of education and learning how to integrate with legacy technology systems.  The combination of legacy systems and heavy regulation have led Bond.one to focus on developing centralized blockchain solutions, although John likes to follow the DeFi movement for its innovations.  John also talks about other industries where he sees the potential for blockchain.  Troy and Lee chat at the end about some ideas from John’s remarks.  AfD Conference!  Troy and Lee are going to host a conference in late April or early May!  Details to come, so please check afdfintech.com regularly.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @AfDfintech.

Feb 10, 2020

John Mizzi is the Chief Strategy Officer at Bond.one, a technology company helping to revolutionize settlement of debt securities using blockchain.  And it’s not easy!  John explains how their original vision became more realistic to incorporate blockchain and smart contracting where they decided it was most practical and sensible given many pragmatic issues.  John sees blockchain as the future of back-office infrastructure, although it will take time to get there.  To move things along, they are focused on education and taking concrete steps to improve things but without trying to do everything all at once.  It’s an interesting take on how to think about real-world applications of distributed-ledger technology.  AfD Conference!  Troy and Lee are going to host a conference in late April or early May!  Details to come, so please check afdfintech.com regularly.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @AfDfintech.

Jan 27, 2020

We continue unpacking with Dr. Mitchell the concept of intelligence and the importance of justice and ethics, including when it comes to computers.  In working on her book, Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, Professor Mitchell had a few surprises about both the successes and limits of AI, and offers some cautionary notes as we increasingly look to machines for answers and to do things for us.  Computers do things by brute force computation whereas humans use analogies, that is, drawing from prior experience to inform other judgments in different contexts.  One way to think about this is that hard computations are easy for computers; but easy things for a person, like describing what’s going on outside your window, is very difficult for a computer.  Plus, just because a computer does one thing exceptionally well, it may do other things poorly.  Troy and Lee share some of their own thoughts at the end.  AfD Conference!  Troy and Lee are going to host a conference in late April or early May!  Details to come, so please check afdfintech.com regularly.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @AfDfintech.

Jan 13, 2020

 Maybe humans do too sometimes, but we are still way better than computers at common sense.  Dr. Mitchell, a computer scientist at Portland State University and the Santa Fe Institute, defines common sense as understanding the world around you by drawing inferences and making associations from other experiences.  Common sense, in other words, is associated with the ability to analogize – something humans do all the time but that computers aren’t particularly adept at ... yet.  Professor Mitchell’s new book, Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, helps the world grasp the current state of AI and what machines are (and not) good at.  AfD Conference!  Troy and Lee are going to host a conference in late April or early May!  Details to come, so please check our website afdfintech.com regularly.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @AfDfintech.

Dec 30, 2019

We discuss with Jon his experiences in different roles in the financial markets, and how, as CEO, that has informed how he motivates his team.  He offers interesting insight into how a team is built and managed effectively, including adding emotion to people’s work.  Let’s high five when it’s a good day, and let’s evaluate what happened on a bad day.  There are parallels to sports and how teams pull together and learn together.  Troy and Lee even high five!   

Dec 16, 2019

Buyers and sellers want choices regarding what to buy and sell and where to buy and sell it.  Trading stocks for investors is no different, as choice matters there too.  We talk with Jon Clark, the CEO of Luminex, about his efforts building a company with the mission of affording institutional investors another choice centered on trading a large block of shares, rather than accessing the moment-to-moment liquidity of stock markets.  Luminex, which actually is owned by institutional investors, is a stock trading venue for blocks of at least 5000 shares traded by institutional investors.  Luminex’s business is one part of equity market structure, which needs to keep up as technology and market conditions change. 

Dec 2, 2019

The secondary market for mobile phones is enormous, and Flavio believes that putting that market on a blockchain-based open platform is the future.  We discuss his thoughts on deploying a permissionless blockchain not only for his own company’s business, but to allow an entire ecosystem to develop that offers all manner of goods and services on a B2B, B2C, and C2C basis.  If mobile phones – the most successful consumer electronics device in history – are any indication, the possibilities seem endless with platforms that leverage the right tech and have the right features.

Nov 18, 2019

Flavio’s vision is a peer-to-peer open platform for buying and selling used mobile phones – of which there are millions around the globe.  Flavio shares his take on the mobile phone industry, including existing inefficiencies in how used phones are graded, priced, sold, and delivered to the next owner, all of which he’s hoping to disrupt with blockchain technology.  His plan is to use blockchain to fix informational asymmetries, reduce transaction costs, and promote pricing efficiencies.  Flavio’s ultimate goal is for a platform that fosters a marketplace that is open to everyone and not limited to mobile phones. 

Nov 4, 2019

As Dale explains it, our brains have been practicing how to respond to stimuli for millennia. While humans have been around longer than computers, computers can “practice” harder and longer than humans can. And so, through practice, computers can get really good at what they do really quickly. Interestingly, according to Dale, different computers may learn differently, and so machine learning may yield different results by different computers – sort of like how different people learn differently and thus make different decisions. Where will it all lead? Troy and Lee’s wrap-up conversation explores some of the themes they discussed with Dale.

Oct 21, 2019

As a neuroscientist for decades, Dale has studied the human brain. Now he has directed what he knows about the human brain to artificial intelligence and machine learning – or, put differently, to the computer brain. Tackling questions about theoretical neuroscience (how the brain does what it does), consciousness (which he thinks is replicable in machines), and perception (what we see may not be reality), Dale offers fascinating insights into both human behavior and machine behavior and how they are linked through the adage of “practice makes perfect.”

Oct 7, 2019

Is it more difficult to create the tech or to get it adopted? We continue discussing with Amir his hopes for the internet of things and developing a sensing overlay on the world. We discuss what sparked him to want to create a web of connected devices in the first place and why building the technology is only part of the battle. It takes more than great tech to succeed – you also need people to accept and ultimately adopt your innovation. Acceptance and adoption begin with educating people about what the tech enables – how it can make people’s lives better – so that it can be unleashed in practice. Lee and Troy share some post-conversation thoughts.

Sep 23, 2019

Helium is about the convergence of two big ideas – blockchain and the internet of things – to help fashion the “data layer on the world.”  Helium’s innovation is to get “hotspots” (combining software and hardware) into people’s hands to effectively crowdsource a network of devices.  Using radio waves, blockchain, and the internet, the potential is to create an every-day-internet-of-things using every-day devices so that conceivably anything can be tracked anywhere (if the vision succeeds).  What’s one real-world possibility?  Connecting low-powered sensors that can detect a potential natural disaster, such as a fire, and alert people to the threat.  Starting in Austin, Texas, Helium is rolling out their hotspots to consumers this year.

Sep 9, 2019

Our interview with Roman Ginis continues in a more philosophical vein, as we talk about the perspective and spirit of engineers and the open source movement. We also cover what “optimization” (as compared to “maximization” or “minimization”) is all about. Optimization takes a lot of hard work, trial and error, a good sense of the problem you're trying to solve, and recognizing that decisions involve trade-offs. Troy and Lee have a post-interview discussion about where marketplaces and machines will fit in the world of tomorrow.

Aug 26, 2019

Roman Ginis is the CEO of Imperative Execution, a firm that is dedicated to using AI and machine learning to create a better trading experience. For example, can you buy or sell without your own buying or selling affecting the price at which you trade? Even though people have been trading securities (and other things) for a very long time, there is still room for technological innovation. We discuss with Roman how new technology allows new ways of addressing longstanding challenges.

Aug 12, 2019

Professor Hal Abelson of MIT continues to explain the world of machine learning, including its limitations. Have you ever considered that a computer can recognize some images better than people can, but the computer might not recognize that an image is a dog if the picture is upside down? Even the best computer scientists are still working to develop clear and fulsome explanations of why and how machine learning works. As we also discuss with Hal, even the best-trained machines lack what we, as humans, think of as judgment, and machines certainly lack human values. Perhaps new advances will move computers more towards possessing judgment and values – the ability to have compassion or empathy, for example. If so, that could have big implications for how key decisions that affect our lives get made.

Jul 29, 2019

Professor Hal Abelson of MIT joins Troy and Lee to explain key elements of the internet, machine learning, and the policy that governs them. He has broad experience from more than 40 years at MIT working with various types of computer systems. His insights into how things work and his efforts to educate policy makers is informative and timely given all technological breakthroughs that we’re living through. We take a deep dive into how machines learn, the limits of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the sometimes inexplicable nature of what machines tell us. Our discussion got us thinking that machines and humans have some similar learning characteristics, even though machines do it with much less intuition and without any type of understanding... at least not yet.

Jul 15, 2019

In this second part of our conversation with Naval Ravikant, we talk about how financial services will be disrupted, from blockchain to payments and beyond. We then venture into the future of work, such as what will the gig economy mean for how we will work in the future? At the end, Troy and Lee chat a bit about their impressions from the conversation with Naval, giving some additional food for thought. We hope you like this new feature. Of course, nothing said in this episode is investment, legal, or any other advice of any kin

Jul 1, 2019

We welcome Naval Ravikant, a prodigious entrepreneur who has made a career helping other entrepreneurs. In this episode, we discuss how to be an effective entrepreneur, including the game theory of venture capital. Plus we cover complexity theory (or, Why can’t everything be simpler?), the “infrastructure of innovation,” and the first-principles thinking of science. Of course, nothing said in this episode is investment, legal, or any other advice of any kind.

Jun 17, 2019

More with Professor Johnson of Virginia Tech. This time, we learn about his “big humanities” response to “big technologies.” Lots to consider, from brain-to-computer interfaces, to robotic morality, to democracy, to trust. We liked his ideas about the inclusiveness that is needed for human beings to think these things through to ensure that voices and experiences are not left out. Some big philosophical stuff that left Troy and Lee in deep thought. We aren’t sure what the future holds, but we are glad people like Sylvester are helping the world grapple with these foundational questions.

Jun 3, 2019

With the help of Professor Johnson of Virginia Tech, we discuss what it means to be human in an age of accelerating technology, where computers and robots can think and maybe even feel. Professor Johnson explains several of the amazing technologies that exist today, both “outside” people and those being incorporated directly into people’s bodies, and how industry and government is pushing this forward. He really expanded our views on how to think about humanity and technology.

May 20, 2019

We chat with folks from Clearpool, a financial services firm that provides a wide variety of technology tools and routing infrastructure to sell-side broker-dealers to help them seek best execution for their institutional clients. We cover the technical aspects of how trading works, the speed at which it happens, and some of the technologies being deployed. These technologies are cutting edge in terms of speed and reaction time, which may pave the way for speed in other industries. The Clearpool team also gave us insight into being a startup in a competitive space.

May 13, 2019

Stina Ehresnvard returns with more insights about security, the hardware business, and finding your dream client. The dream client helps drive your business forward and may not always be the one you think.

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