It seems like every day there is a story coming out of Washington that can have a major impact on fintech. Whether it is the CFPB, OCC, SEC, the Fed or new legislation being proposed, fintech companies can be profoundly impacted by what happens in our nation’s capital. That is why it is important to have an independent trade association making our ideas and opinions known.
My next guest on the Fintech One-on-One podcast is Phil Goldfeder, the CEO of the American Fintech Council, a job he has held since March of this year. He is advocating for our industry every day, not just in Washington, but also in statehouses around the country.
In this podcast you will learn:
What attracted Phil to the job at the American Fintech Council.
What the AFC does exactly.
The basic story that Phil tells legislators about fintech.
The core issues that the AFC is working on in Washington.
How they are engaged at the federal level on earned wage access.
What needs to happen for fintech to have a seat at the table.
Why Phil is optimistic that there can be change in Washington that is positive for fintech.
Read the transcript of the interview below.
Peter Renton 0:01 Welcome to the Fintech One-on-One podcast. This is Peter Renton, Chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus. I’ve been doing this show since 2013, which makes this the longest running one-on-one interview show in all of fintech. Thank you for joining me on this journey. If you like this podcast, you should check out our sister shows The Fintech Blueprint with Lex Sokolin and Fintech Coffee Break with Isabelle Castro, or listen to everything we produce by subscribing to the Fintech Nexus podcast channel.
Peter Renton 0:31 Before get started, I want to remind you about our comprehensive news service. Fintech Nexus News not only covers the biggest fintech news stories, our daily newsletter delivers the most important fintech stories into your inbox every morning with special commentary on the top story of the day. Stay on top of fintech news by subscribing at news.fintech nexus.com/subscribe.
Peter Renton 0:57 Today on the show, I’m delighted to welcome Phil Goldfeder. He is the CEO of the American Fintech Council, one of the leading trade associations for the fintech space. We wanted to get Phil on the show. He took the job a few months back and wanted to get him on to talk about some of the hot button issues facing the industry today. He goes through several, we go in depth on earned wage access, we talk about data privacy, bank-fintech partnerships. He talks about the CFPB. We also delve into the seventh annual policy summit that is happening in DC in November, you can find all about that towards the end of the interview. It was a fascinating discussion. Hope you enjoy the show.
Peter Renton 1:58 Welcome to the podcast, Phil.
Phil Goldfeder 1:59 Thanks so much for having me, Peter.
Peter Renton 2:01 My pleasure. So we’ve known each other for years. But first time on the show, an honor to have you here. I know a lot of the industry knows you well, you have a pretty high profile. But would love to kind of get your background. I know you spent some time in politics. So just give us some of the highlights of your career to date.
Phil Goldfeder 2:21 Oh, thanks again for having me, really excited to be here. I’m a little bit offended I haven’t been on the show, for the many years to this point. But what will make this show so great that you’re gonna want to have me again.
Peter Renton 2:32 Okay!
Phil Goldfeder 2:32 So I started my career in public service, spent time in New York politics for the New York City Council, I worked, I had the privilege to work for, then Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And before moving on to work for Senator Chuck Schumer, before ultimately running for office myself. Proud to serve in the New York State Legislature until 2016, where I decided to sort of shift to the next level of public service and found that fintech was the right fit for that. And so, for six years, worked as the Head of Public Affairs for Cross River, acclimating and growing Cross River’s brand and presence across the industry, and now really, really excited to be at the American Fintech Council.
Peter Renton 3:14 Yeah, so let’s just start there, what attracted you to the job at the AFC?
Phil Goldfeder 3:19 So I dedicated my entire, you know, again, the first half of my career to public service, the idea of fintech was something that was very, very exciting to me, it’s the reason I ultimately went to Cross River. I had relationship with the leadership team and with their CEO, but really, what drew me in was the message and the story and what they were able to accomplish. You know, you think about post recession, going back to 2008, when most big banks withdrew and derisked and exited communities, and communities and families didn’t have basic access to financial services. It’s when the earliest stages of fintech really stepped in to solve for those problems in a fair, safe, transparent, reliable way. Cross River was the leading bank, enabling those fintech companies to offer those services to families who needed it most. And so to me, it felt very natural as an extension of my public service in terms of how I can continue my work, but more importantly, impact communities, impact neighborhoods, impact states and ultimately, the country and hopefully, at some point across the world.
Phil Goldfeder 3:19 The American Fintech Council is the next, natural step for for that and for me and my career, and that it’s more than just representing a single entity and their partners, but but now I have the privilege of representing dozens and dozens of companies who are all in their own way democratizing financial services and creating access to credit, access to financial services, and providing services to those in need. The American Fintech Council provides me the perfect platform to advocate, to create a real voice for an industry I think that needs it.
Peter Renton 4:58 It’s the perfect job for you in many ways. You’ve got a high profile in the industry and you’ve got a lot of energy, and the industry needs someone like you to at the helm for a big job like this. So maybe let’s step back and just give the listeners a bit of a flavor of what the American Fintech Council does exactly.
Phil Goldfeder 5:18 That’s a great question. And I not to be confused with your traditional trade association. While by all aspects, it looks like traditional trade association, what makes the American Fintech Council different is that our members, the fintech companies, and the banks that serve them, who make up our membership, all believe in a clear standard for operation. And so the American Fintech Council represents a number of different verticals in the fintech space, payments, earned wage access, buy now pay later, obviously, banks and more. And within each of those verticals, we work with our membership to understand and determine a clear and direct standard that we can then propose and work with regulators, policymakers to institute, to ensure that we’re not compromising on consumer protection as we offer financial services in the technology space. It’s so important to understand that just not all fintech is created equal and the American Fintech Council’s job is to bifurcate those companies that are offering responsible, transparent products, and those who simply do not.
Phil Goldfeder 6:26 Now it’s unfortunate. I had the privilege of representing southern Queens and Rockaway, New York, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. And I was on the front lines witnessing those, we’ll call them what they are: those bad actors who prey on families in their worst time of need. And in fintech, we look unfortunately see the same thing, right? You see, some companies who are taking advantage of consumers, some companies who are taking advantage of small businesses, some banks that are utilizing their regulatory structure to enable certain fintech companies to take advantage of the system. And that’s everything that the American Fintech Council stands against. And we create a standard that that really sort of as a symbol and a sign to regulators, policymakers, but also to consumers that fintech is not unregulated. It’s not the Wild West, and that when you work with responsible actors, you can get responsible and transparent and affordable products. And we try to really spend a lot of time bifurcating that message and bifurcating sort of the various verticals and companies within those verticals.
Phil Goldfeder 6:45 They’re offering, let me be very clear, very different products, right, just because somebody is in the buy now pay later space, it doesn’t mean that they’re offering a similar or the same product. There are companies that offer a clear standard to designate their products as loan. So consumers are getting proper disclosures. But then there are companies that don’t, and who look for ways to not provide certain disclosures and not provide the consumer the information they need, and so those are the kinds of things, and the kinds of companies that we work for. And that we represent. You know, in the bank space, we look for banks that maintain a standard, a 36% interest rate cap to ensure that consumers are getting access to credit, but they’re not getting access to credit that they can’t afford. Or they can’t handle. So it’s about really bifurcating responsible fintech actors from from the rest of the ecosystem.
Peter Renton 8:26 Right, okay. I want to spend the next few minutes talking about some of the hot button issues facing the industry, obviously, around Washington. Is it every week you’re in Washington these days?
Phil Goldfeder 8:40 Every single week, I tried to spend a lot of time meeting with our companies where they are, but a lot of our work takes place in Washington, DC, and I want to make sure that I’m there to represent our companies.
Peter Renton 8:50 So then let’s just spend next few minutes talking about some of the hot button issues that when you’re talking with the legislators there, when you’re talking with regulators, and your members, what are some of the core issues that you want to make sure people understand?
Phil Goldfeder 9:07 So interestingly enough, I mean, oftentimes, you know, Peter, you and I spend so much time in the industry talking with companies, talking with different participants, and we kind of forget that there’s a wider world around us who don’t inherently understand what is fintech? How is it different than traditional financial services? What are the nuances? How does it work? And so, we oftentimes take that for granted. And so I think, first and foremost, it’s critically important to recognize that fintech is regulated when done responsibly. Fintech is absolutely regulated. Many fintech companies partner with regulated institutions. If they’re not partnered with regulated institutions, they’re getting state licenses. Many of our members have have 40/50 state licenses all across the country and so responsible actors are looking for ways to work within a system and they’re doing this for the very, very simple reason is that they’re trying to build a solid foundation in which to grow their companies, and grow their market share, and serve more consumers. Unfortunately, again, going back to what we talked about a few moments ago, there are some companies who are looking to make as much profit, prey on as many consumers as possible and get out. Responsible companies are doing the opposite, right. They’re looking to sort of understand that there’s short term risks, short term, potential pain for long term success and growth of their company. And you’re you’re already seeing that survive, and more importantly, thrive. And so first and foremost, when we when we talk to policymakers and regulators in Washington, and in states all across the country, AFC right now is actively engaged with 14 states across the country.
Phil Goldfeder 11:05 I imagine as we start to plan for the 2024 legislative session, we’ll probably take on a few more. That being said, is it basically telling the story that fintech is regulated. When performing financial services online, it’s not the Wild West, the space is regulated. And then sort of you go down and you start to think about well, so how are they regulated? So the nuances of the bank-fintech partnership, and how do you judge and determine what is the responsible bank-fintech partnership? And what are the regulatory oversight that comes with that? Again, in each of these spaces, you’re kind of bifurcating sort of various actors in the bank-fintech partnerships. Not all banks are created equal, some believe in standards, and some don’t. So the AFC we spend a lot of time educating members and companies, and policymakers about the differences in those banks-fintech partnerships, but as you sort of go down, dig a little deeper in the various verticals, you think about things like earned wage access, that’s a very sexy topic. As I mentioned, we’re in a number of states, in 2023, in, there was a number of earned wage access state legislative bills that were introduced. And we were fortunate enough to actually get two of them passed. In Nevada, was the first state in the country to institute an earned wage access bill and signed ultimately by the governor, and also in Missouri. And we work with our partners and our members, DailyPay and Payactiv, and many others to sort of talk about best practice within those specific industries. And so again, the education of the various verticals and sort of how do you bifurcate one actor, one company within that vertical versus another data privacy, data privacy is very, very hot.
Phil Goldfeder 12:34 The CFPB has been spending a lot of time talking about 1033 and other rulemakings that related to data privacy. And obviously, again, for us, we believe that the consumer owns their data and should have control over their data, and more importantly, we believe in competition, and that’s what fintech is really ultimately all about – creating competition, offering optionality for consumers. I touched upon and, you know, buy now pay later companies, right? And we already spoke about kind of the nuances and how do you explain that, again, sort of, particularly to regulators and policymakers who are going to be determining the future of these industries, it’s important to get ahead of it now, and talk about those standards. And I’ll just end I mean, Peter, I can go on for hours on this. I mean, I, as you know, because you and I talk a lot. There’s a fundamental difference between what we do at the AFC in Washington, and obviously what we do in the states, and we spend a lot of time with with regulators in Washington to actually create those standards, whether it’s through the regulatory agencies, whether it’s through policymaking or getting and working with members of Congress to introduce bills. But the challenge we have and the challenge, I think that a lot of fintech companies have is sort of the two different verticals of regulatory structure. Number one is the federal but then number two is the state by state regulatory oversight. We pay a lot of attention to it. But it’s difficult, right?
Phil Goldfeder 15:40 No fintech company wants to have to worry about a 50 state regime. And more importantly, is that they want regulatory certainty. And when you have to go state by state to understand and change your product, and your product offerings, and your and your compliance mechanisms, it almost makes it impossible for fintech companies to operate responsibly and affordably. And so, you know, again, it’s critically important that number one, when states are engaged, that we engage, right, whenever a state is engaged, and I come from a state legislative background serving in the New York State Legislature, when a state legislature or a member of a state house is engaged, obviously, we’re going to engage, but when it comes to state regulation, or state regulators or attorneys general, it’s critically important that they recognize that there already exists a regulatory structure that most of our members at AFC abide by. And so, again, you know, this is a constant education process in terms of talking about sort of how we’re regulated, the standards we believe in, and obviously we’ll work with anybody on the government side who wants to work with our members, but it’s critically important to recognize that right now responsible innovators are servicing millions of consumers. And so it’s it’s important that that policymakers and regulators recognize that those are critical services that unfortunately, you know, particularly in minority and rural communities that people would be without, if not for fintech stepping in.
Phil Goldfeder 15:40 And we saw that time and time again, Peter, we, you probably said, and I, it’s funny, I, it’s hard for me to talk about I you know, how much time we spend talking about the Paycheck Protection Program through COVID. And you think about sort of the story of a mom and pop shop or an Uber driver, right, a sole proprietor or an independent contractor, who was just as eligible for a PPP loan as everybody else. But unfortunately didn’t have a big bank relationship or didn’t know a banker and had no way to access the Paycheck Protection Program. Steps in responsible fintech companies working with regulated banks, as every study has shown that when working with with responsible, regulated banks, can democratize the system. And I was working at Cross River at the time who partnered with dozens and dozens of fintech companies to offer paycheck protection loans in a fair, safe, transparent way. And ultimately was able to fill that gap that traditional financial institutions, I don’t want to say couldn’t but refused to, because it was too difficult or too hard. And that is exactly what fintech is. But I think it’s critical, I repeat this again, not all fintech is created equal, right? There were some that took advantage of the system. We don’t stand for that at AFC. And none of our members would stand for that. And it’s unfortunate. And we worked with the SBA to go after to those bad actors who preyed on small businesses in their time of need. And so, again, fintech, there’s a real opportunity with fintech, particularly when you educate the policymakers and lawmakers about the benefits and how we can serve consumers in need.
Peter Renton 16:59 Yep, yep. I agree that the Paycheck Protection Program was so, so important. And in many ways fintechs came to the rescue. I actually want to go back, I want to go back and talk about earned wage access. It’s one of my favorite products. I feel like it’s one of my pet peeves is that, you know, we are in this. We’re here in 2023. And we’re still getting paid, you know, twice a month or once a week or sometimes once a month. It’s a little ridiculous that we’re not paid whenever we want. And that’s why I love the earned wage access product. I think it’s I personally believe it’s probably the best financial inclusion tool or financial health tool that has been invented by fintech. I think it’s just so, it enables people to access their wages when they need them instead of having to go to a payday lender. But I know that we’ve talked about there’s two states, Nevada and Missouri that that, is there any movement at the federal level? Or do you think that we’re still a long way away from that?
Phil Goldfeder 18:02 So let me start by saying the idea in with Nevada and the Missouri law, were again to create the standards, right? Again, it’s critically important to recognize that not all fintech is created equal and especially within those verticals. And so how do you differentiate, and how do you define earned wage access? So number one, earned wage access, to be very, very clear, is not a loan, right? A loan is when you don’t have money, and someone lends you that money, and you pay them an interest rate based on that. That’s not what earned wage access is. When you think about earned wage access, it’s exactly what it says – earned wage access, right? You’re accessing the wages that have already been earned. Now, think about it like this. If you’re a Lyft driver, right, or somebody working in the gig economy, most of those, most of those folks, when they finish their delivery, or they finished making their ride, they could push a button on their app and they get access, right? They just made the ride. Think about it. Think about historically a cab driver, right? You get out of the cab you hand him money, right? This is back in the olden days, where we handed the cab driver actual money. The cab driver just earned the money for the ride he gave. Peter, that’s not a foreign concept. It’s something that we understand, that we embrace, that we accept. Why should anybody be any different?
Phil Goldfeder 19:16 Now, if you’re going back to those days where people handed each other money, it was also also very, very costly for companies to run payroll. I can tell you that my wife is a teacher, one of her jobs, she actually still gets a paper check once a month. And once upon a time, it was actually very, very costly to run payroll. That’s not the case anymore. That’s not the case today. Matter of fact, right just a couple of weeks ago, FedNow was introduced the new version of the Federal Reserve’s instant payment network where you can move money, not in near real time, in real real time. And that’s what earned wage access does, is that it’s not a loan. We’re giving you access to money that you’ve already earned. And if the gig economy could have that, why can’t every employee have that? And more importantly, is exactly what you said, it is a clear alternative to what people are currently using, which is payday and predatory lenders. If someone needs to pay a bill, right, they get their bill, but their paycheck doesn’t come in until the end of the month. But this bill comes in at earlier, you know, the week before the end of the month, right now, how are people bridging that gap? How are they making that payment, and so they’re borrowing from friends and family in a good instance, in a bad instance, if it’s a bill they have to pay, if it’s a utility bill, if it’s a rent payment, whatever it is, right, because the paycheck doesn’t align perfectly with all the bills that come in, you’re now able, if they’re not able to, to access that money in a safe way, they unfortunately, you know, take their ring, take their necklace, they go to a pawn shop, right? And that’s the way they make ends meet. And that’s happening, that’s happening today.
Phil Goldfeder 20:55 As an alternative, earned wage access is a safe, transparent way to access your your funds, through companies like DailyPay and Payactiv and Earnin and so many others who are offering responsible products, and so AFC together with our coalition that we were able to put together, we started working with state legislatures to introduce bills that kind of laid out those exact parameters I talked about, right. Number one it’s not a credit product. And so we’re not going to do any underwriting. There’s no fees based on credit worthiness, it’s not credit, right, it’s not an installment, there’s no interest charges. The bills, the parameters of the bills in general is that you have to get licensed in those states, right, which means there’s going to be a significant amount of transparency and that there needs to be a no-cost option. And so there needs to be, every company needs to offer a free option. You have to commit to sharing your data with your regulatory agencies. You can’t obviously, as we talked about, you can’t exceed the money you’ve earned, right. So if you haven’t earned it, yet, you can’t exceed the amount of money that you earn. And then most importantly, and I would argue, most importantly, everybody has a different opinion. But there’s got to be fee disclosures. And so however you charge a fee, right, whether it’s a tip, whether it’s a fee for service, whether it’s a monthly fee, it must be disclosed and not buried in the fine print.
Phil Goldfeder 22:15 I had the opportunity to, as a matter of fact at Fintech Nexus, to interview Rohit Chopra out of the CFPB, the director of the CFPB, where we talked about the fine print that oftentimes all these quote, unquote, “transparency gets buried in”. When it comes to earned wage access, we’re sort of taking the transparency out of the fine print and trying to make it as clear as possible. And then finally, like non-recourse, right, it’s not a loan. And so there’s gonna be no late fees, there’s no debt collection. And there’s no collection of any kind. The idea is that if you don’t make your payments, obviously, you’re not be able to utilize the program again. But because it’s not a loan, there’s really no recourse. And these are all non-recourse products. And so we’ve worked very hard in passing the two bills, as you mentioned, and obviously, spending a lot of time working with members of Congress. We have, I have seen, and I don’t want to say too much yet, I have seen a draft of a congressional bill, legislation in Washington, and that’s still underway. In addition, we’ve been talking with regulators at the CFPB and others about ways to build parameters and some of those standards that I just talked about in to earned wage access regulatory structure. And so we’re on the forefront of of these issues. We spend a lot of time with our members and our staff to make sure that we’re promoting sort of those who act responsibly and creating standards and structures for them to work with them.
Peter Renton 23:35 Interesting, very interesting. Okay. You mentioned the CFPB. I want to touch on an op-ed that you recently did at American Banker, you and I think it was Armen Meyer from LendingClub penned this op-ed, or something like “Be Careful What You Wish For” or something when you were talking about the challenge, because the Republicans are challenging the very existence of the CFPB, whether it is actually constitutional? Tell us just give us a quick summary of what you were trying to say there?
Phil Goldfeder 24:04 Yeah, the very basic idea is that it’s, I started our conversation, Peter with the concept of a trade association for the sake of being a trade association. And what I mean by that is, we set up the trade to represent industry to push back on regulators, right, and it becomes a oftentimes very black and white, you know, Democrat, Republican, you know, liberal, conservative, right, like very black and white. And if you’re a conservative, you have to do x. And if you’re a Democrat, you have to believe in y. I didn’t believe that in my political career. I didn’t believe in that at Cross River, and I don’t believe in that now at the American Fintech Council. And what I mean by that is, is that just because we’re a trade association doesn’t mean that we’re inherently obliged to push back on regulatory structure or on regulators that want to regulate. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, we believe in responsible and appropriate regulation. That being said, and what scares fintech companies is uncertainty. And even worse than that is enforcement, right from a regulatory agency that is done because of that said uncertainty. And so, the fear for us at the American Fintech Council and for our members and a tremendous, tremendous thanks to Armen Meyer. Armen has been one of my closest friends in this industry for a long, long time, you know, sort of heads policy at LendingClub, and obviously now sits on the board of the American Fintech Council. The premise was very, very simply is that, you know, there’s some, there are some who want to see the CFPB gone, not because they disagree with everything, not because they’ve done a real question of what works and what doesn’t work, and what’s the best way to do it? It was simply based on the constitutionality. And interestingly enough, some of the pushback we’ve gotten from, since the op-ed is your arguments have nothing to do with the constitutionality of the CFPB or not. Granted, right? I’m not a lawyer, I was not weighing in on whether the premise of the case or the nuances of the case.
Phil Goldfeder 26:02 I think the point we were trying to make is really about regulatory certainty. And if you roll back the CFPB, do you then call them to question a lot of the rules and rulemaking the CFPB has done, particularly again, in the case we pointed out was around 36% rate cap right, and the payday rule, and other things that kind of provided some semblance of regulatory certainty and guardrails for the fintech industry. And so we always try to look at that agency, that rulemaking to try and figure out kind of what the positive is, and how do we find a way to work within it. The biggest challenge in the absence of that, and the reason why I think the headline was was almost perfect, right? You know, “Be Careful What You Wish For”, because the CFPB goes away, and now all of a sudden, some of the things that many companies were relying on, you know, potentially go away as well. And some of that regulatory clarity and regulatory certainty, go away as well. And so I’m more of a, you know, of a pragmatic thinker, right. And I’m a believer in, we may not like the agency in the way it’s constructed, and let’s find a way just to manage that. Right? Like, let’s understand the way it’s constructed. Let’s take a look in its totality what the challenges are at the CFPB. And should it be set up similar to the FDIC, where there’s a board, right? Should there be a commission? You know, there’s a number of different ideas that have been proposed. But ultimately, I’m afraid of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And unfortunately, you see this on both sides. You’re seeing it now with the CFPB.
Phil Goldfeder 27:30 Peter, you live in Colorado, you and I had spent time together when I was there, working with the Attorney General and the state legislature on a Colorado bill where there were some in the consumer advocacy world who are willing to throw away access to credit in the interest of of making a small difference in the predatory lending world, versus like finding ways to come together. And so the core of the op-ed and ultimately, kind of what AFC believes in is that we want to work with everybody. We want to make sure that particularly consumer groups, to consumers themselves, the regulators, members of Congress, members of state legislatures, are all sitting together, right, sitting together and having the debate about what is the benefit of the of the program? What is the downside of the program? And how do we work together together to craft compromise? And that’s the way I look at the CFPB as well. And so, um, you know, again, we’ll see how things turn out. I think that rules of the road are important for fintech and for fintech certainty, and unfortunately, you know, too oftentimes, you see, and I saw this when I was a member of the legislature, you see reactionary legislating, right, let’s do it because it’s the message of the day or because it’s the, you know, sort of that’s the way the wind is blowing. And I don’t think we should ever operate that way, right. We expect regulators to be thoughtful. We expect policymakers to be thoughtful, industry should be equally thoughtful.
Peter Renton 28:56 Very good points. Very good points. Okay, I want to talk about the policy summit that is coming up. I think it’s the sixth annual policy summit going back….
Phil Goldfeder 29:08 Seventh!
Peter Renton 29:09 My goodness, I’m sorry, seventh annual. Going back to the days of the OLPI for the listeners who have been with us a while. And obviously, Fintech Nexus is partnering with the American Fintech Council on this summit. Very excited to be working with you again, Phil. And just tell us a little bit of, a little bit of background about it and what people can expect at the summit this year.
Phil Goldfeder 29:32 So thank you again, it’s the perfect, it’s the perfect follow up to what I just talked about, right? This is, the American Fintech Council is not your traditional trade. And then the American Fintech Council Policy Summit is not going to be your traditional trade show/conference. There are many good ones and there are many great ones, and there’s obviously tremendous value to those. What we’re trying to do is foster dialogue and foster conversation, exactly to what I just talked about. Related to the CFPB is that there’s no right way to do everything. There’s no one way to do everything, right. There are multiple opinions there. There are multiple mechanisms in which to solve to solve a problem. Going back seven years, and you were there, at probably our first one, it was my first year at the Online Lending Policy Institute, together with Boston University. It was Cross River and Rocket Loans that created this policy summit to really put everybody into the same room.
Phil Goldfeder 30:28 Consumer groups, members of Congress, industry, CEOs, general counsels, Heads of Compliance, to obviously create panels and opportunities to put thought leadership out there and kind of those conversations in terms of your traditional panel presentations and keynote speeches, but more importantly, is that we created opportunities for the dialogue to continue. There was, I remember it like it was yesterday, it was the third or fourth year, and the years blend together, but it was the third or fourth year where we sat you know, we just finished the panel right before lunch on bank-fintech partnerships. And a bank CEO, a fintech CEO, the head of a consumer group, and one that people have very strong opinions about so I’m not going to mention their name. But yeah, a very aggressive consumer group, and a member of Congress were sitting down having lunch and fighting over regulatory structures for bank-fintech partnerships. I want you to think about what that means, Peter, we’re no longer operating in this theoretical like, oh, what could happen? The CEO was talking about what he was dealing with every single day, the fintech company was talking about what they were dealing with, the member of Congress was asking really good questions. And the consumer group was poking holes about why it was wrong. And they walked away. I don’t, let me just be clear, they didn’t solve world peace that day, right. They didn’t solve the problems, and they didn’t figure it out. But that dialogue is critically important, because in the absence of that everybody defaults to hyperbole, defaults to kind of just the grand statements that makes them feel good in that moment.
Phil Goldfeder 30:31 The beauty of the Policy Summit November 14, if you haven’t had a chance, go to fintech council.org to buy your tickets today. The Policy Summit is going to convene the biggest, most important regulators, policymakers, CEOs, fintech companies, for a full day of thought leadership, of dialogue, of important conversations. And more important than just those panels that we’re going to see is that it’s going to foster opportunities for people to come together to have some of these important conversations, and that we’re not afraid of it. I you know, I remember pitching and we all do this in the industry, right, pitching a panel at an industry – it was not Fintech Nexus, I promise. But we were pitching a panel idea. And I said, wouldn’t it be great if I can sit with you know, consumer groups, and we can have an honest to goodness debate, right. We’ll have a moderator but we’ll have an honest… like the debate we do behind closed doors, let’s do it in front of everybody, there’s no reason. And the industry trade association said no, they’re not interested. They don’t want those opinions because you know, that’s bad for industry. I don’t think that’s bad for industry, the American Fintech Council doesn’t believe that’s bad for industry. Those engagements are actually the best thing for industry and for the fintech industry. And so whether you’re an earned wage access, buy now pay later, whether you’re a BaaS bank, regardless of how much you’re dipping your toe into fintech or if you’ve dove in headfirst on the fintech side, or the bank side, we encourage you to come to get your tickets, November 14, it’s going to be the biggest policy and regulatory summit in Washington, DC. And we encourage you to attend. It’s going to be an important conversation.
Peter Renton 33:38 It will indeed. I’ll be there and I’m looking forward to it immensely. In closing, Phil, would love to kind of get your sense when you look at Congress today, we have an election year next year, you’re talking with policymakers, any sense on whether we will see new legislation that will impact fintech in the next year or so?
Phil Goldfeder 34:01 It’s funny because, you know, I think the expected answer would be no, right? No, we don’t expect Congress to do anything or make any moves. But coming on the heels of two big things, which I think are important to note, which one I mentioned earlier is FedNow. Peter, I actually, and I’ll admit this to your audience, in 2019 I wrote an op-ed and I said that like a FedNow is, number one may never happen, and number two, is so far off in the future that by the time it gets here, if it gets here on time, is not going to be useful or serve a purpose. And I will admit it, I was wrong. FedNow is here. It is a government program or quasi government program that is here on time on schedule, actually already working. It’s been up and running now for a bit and it’s already actually working and moving money in real time. And so, you know, again, sort of pushes back on the idea that it’s hard to get things accomplished in Washington. Number two is that we just had an historic crypto, a bipartisan crypto bill that was passed out of House committee recently and, you know, we’ll see how it how it proceeds. But we’re actually seeing movement on crypto and crypto-related legislation and you’re seeing members like Congressman Patrick McHenry on on the Republican side, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters on the Democratic side actually find ways to work together for common sense proposals. I had a meeting with, you know, again, I had a great meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office not too long ago to talk about AML BSA specifically related to crypto, right, like how are we going to evolve the industry and have common sense conversations, sometimes even with the most right leaning members of Congress, and sometimes even with most left leaning members of Congress.
Phil Goldfeder 35:38 So, I have been called an optimist before. It’s one of my downsides. I’m a believer that we can actually change the world. I wholeheartedly from the day I started my career in public service, until now at the American Fintech Council, I believe we can change the world. It’s the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing today. And so how do we do that? We do that by engaging. We’re having a number of conversations now, specifically, with BaaS related banks, right? How do we tell the story, specifically related to banks that are partnering with with financial technology companies, the fintech companies. And a lot of them come to the table saying, like, eh, the regulation has been baked in for 200 years, it can’t be changed, we can’t get anything done. And I’m pushing back on that, right? And I’m saying, no, we have to try, right, we have to engage our regulators, and we have to engage our policymakers. Because if you don’t engage, you’ve already lost. And it’s what I’ve done my entire career.
Phil Goldfeder 36:33 I apologize, because I sometimes like, you take a look at the bills around me. And there’s three that are hanging on the walls that are behind me, those are penned certificates that were bills that I introduced. Each one of them I was told could never be done, you’ll never get it passed, you’ll never get it signed into law, and ultimately it’ll never take effect. And all three of those laws, and there’s one more over here off camera, all three of them were done. They were done in a bipartisan way and ultimately impacted the lives of 1000s of my constituents and millions of New Yorkers across the state. And so I’m very proud to represent the American Fintech Council, because we have the opportunity to change every single family in every single community. But collectively as a group, we have the opportunity to really make an impact to families and to financial services all across the country, and ultimately across the world. And so that starts with engagement. We’ve got to engage, right? And I look, I don’t want to change the world overnight, I want to take steps.
Phil Goldfeder 37:30 I believe my first job in politics, you know, many, many years ago, led me to where I am today, right? Everything was a step on the last one. And so I believe that we can change the world, I believe that we can make meaningful impact and influence in Washington DC. And as we’ve already proven, we could do it in the states, time and time again and in various verticals, whether it’s in the payments regulatory structure, whether it’s in earned wage access, whether it’s in buy now pay later, or state usury caps and usury rates. And so we can’t change anything if we don’t come together and try. And that’s what the American Fintech Council is trying to do. Create the network effect that will enable us to not have a seat at someone else’s table, to all get to sit at our own table and influence those messages, right. And so we don’t allow the legacy systems and legacy companies to dictate the rules of the road that BaaS banks and fintech companies have to live by today. We deserve our own seat at the table. They have trade associations of their own who are advocating for them. We need to come together and influence and create that movement to define who we are, and our future destiny. And so there are a lot of people who are going to try and define fintech and there are a lot of people, and you’re gonna see it from the right, from the left, from the consumer groups, and from the industry. American Fintech Council is trying to create a responsible standard and rules of the road that will provide access to credit, particularly in minority and rural communities, but also enable the BaaS banks and the fintech companies to thrive and grow.
Peter Renton 39:04 Okay, well, let’s leave it there, Phil. Really great chatting with you. It’s a noble mission. Good luck, and I hope you get to change the world.
Phil Goldfeder 39:13 Me too, Peter, you and me together.
Peter Renton 39:15 Indeed. Okay, thanks again, Phil. See you.
Peter Renton 39:20 Well, I hope you enjoyed the show. Thank you so much for listening. Please go ahead and give the show a review on the podcast platform of your choice and go tell your friends and colleagues about it. Anyway, on that note, I will sign off I very much appreciate your listening, and I’ll catch you next time. Bye.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus, the world’s first and largest digital media and events company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series. Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.