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Arthur Levitt, Board member, Bloomberg

Arthur Levitt headshot.jpg

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background. 

I worked for Life Magazine in Cincinnati and NYC. I worked in the cattle business in Kansas City and New York City and then became Chairman of the American Stock Exchange. I owned the Congressional newspaper Roll Call and served on two base closing Commissions. I served on commissions for President Carter, Bush and Regan and was the longest serving chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

How well are financial companies adapting to the coming of age phase of fintech development? Where are the opportunities, and where are the roadblocks still?

The question of how well financial companies – especially the big banks – are adapting to fintech is best addressed by those who work within and around those large institutions; their success in recognizing the opportunities and the challenges is mixed, to put it mildly. My focus has been on broader issues around how fintech is being viewed by regulators, policymakers and others critical to the industry’s future success.

What challenges do you see for fintech maturation, and how will their business models help deliver future financial success?

In every major financial market innovation, there is a lag between early adoption and regulatory acceptance. That is true of fintech, just as it was true of derivative products much earlier in my career. The maturation of fintech from its relative infancy to a more robustly understood and regulated set of products and services will be a process, and it will take time and effort. That fintech offers great promise in creating economic value is not in dispute; the issue is whether fintech products and services are transparent enough for regulatory oversight and understanding. This is going to be a challenge, as it always is for financial market innovators. But it is essential for the long-term success and public acceptance of fintech.

What will you be discussing at The Economist's Finance Disrupted Conference?

My goal will be to focus on how fintech will alter our current monetary system and how it will create a new system that is still undefined and will require significant regulatory and policymaker adjustment. For example, the clearance system will have to be rewired to account for multiple fintech systems and new entrants. While fintech players are moving quickly to rewrite the rules of finance, they have to take the time to make sure the key stakeholders in the global banking system – especially regulators – understand what they’re up to. There is not nearly the kind of political or regulatory support for any new source of risk in major financial systems. If fintech is viewed as a poorly understood source of systemic risk, it will have to cope with the kind of regulatory oversight and interest that can stop most financial innovations in their tracks. The fintech industry must therefore take seriously its responsibility to explain itself, make sure regulators and policymakers understand it and work to develop a regulatory framework capable of protecting the value that they hope fintech creates.

To learn more about the Finance Disrupted event, please click here.