Spelling FinTech Without The “F” For Fear

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Monday, June 10, 2019    /   08:49AM   /   By Commissioner Hester M. Peirce  / Header Image Credit: Sunnyside Healing Arts


Good morning to all of our panelists and those of you watching in person or online.  Today's FinTech Forum is a welcome event, but it is not the most high-profile event in the Washington, DC area this week, and our panelists here today—impressive as you all are—are not the most notable celebrities in town.  A few miles from here, the Scripps National Spelling Bee just wrapped up last night with eight co-champions.[1]  Watching these amazing kids spell obscure words with confidence and accuracy never gets boring. 


That said, the spelling bee is an unwelcome reminder of the dark side of technology.  After all, were it not for technology, I might know how to spell too. The wonders of spell-checking and autocorrecting software have robbed me of my ability to spell even the most simple words—even words I almost certainly once knew how to spell.  Every now and then, for example, my phone's insistence that my name is really "Heater" has me half convinced . . . I fear that I am not alone; automatic spell-checking seems to have dulled the spelling skills of modern America.[2]  Would we be better off without all this newfangled tech?


This agency sometimes seems to be so focused on the dark side of technology that we forget that it improves lives too.  Yes, we need to be cognizant of risks that come with new—and old—technology, but we also need to keep our doors open to innovation. FinTech innovations can diversify people's portfolios,[3] open the life-changing doors of investment to first-generation investors,[4] and connect aspiring young entrepreneurs to sources of capital thousands of miles away.[5]   


Keeping an open mind to innovation might mean untethering ourselves and the industry we regulate from tired paper-based requirements.  Or it might mean allowing new custody solutions to accommodate digital assets.  More generally, it might mean reconsidering some of the technologically outdated assumptions underpinning our laws. 


Of all the innovations that technology has brought us in the years since the Securities Act and Exchange Act were passed, the innovations in communication and documentation may be the greatest.  While FinTech can mean many things, those of us overseeing the capital markets are especially interested in its effect on how investors and issuers communicate with each other, and how market participants record and transmit activity.


 I am very pleased that Valerie Szczepanik and her team at FinHub have organized today's event.  There are technology-related issues touching every part of our markets, and I look forward to hearing from our participants about what they are seeing on the front lines.  As we explore how financial technology is transforming capital formation, trading venues, and investment management, I hope we will all keep in mind two spelling bee words.  The first is one that a seventh grader nailed at yesterday's round of the National Spelling Bee —"kairos"—which means "the opportune and decisive moment."[6]  The second word is one that disqualified me from my sixth grade spelling bee—"legacy"—an easy word to spell in hindsight without pressure, but a killer for me. That was well before spell check, so maybe I can't blame technology for my bad spelling, after all.


The opportune moment is now to work with the developers of new technology to ensure that a well-intentioned legal framework is not an unnecessary barrier to the achievement of something good for society.  The legacy that we ought to leave to the next generation is a robust legal framework within which people can explore, experiment, and express themselves in ways that make our society more exceptional.  Thank you all for taking the time to be here today.  I look forward to hearing your insights.



About Commissioner Hester M. Peirce

Hester M. Peirce was appointed by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and was sworn in on January 11, 2018.


Prior to joining the Commission, Commissioner Peirce served as Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Financial Markets Working Group (now Program on Financial Regulation) at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. While at the Mercatus Center, Commissioner Peirce’s research explored how financial markets foster economic growth and prosperity and the role well-designed regulation plays in protecting investors and consumers while promoting financial stability and innovation. Commissioner Peirce co-edited two books, authored publications, testified before Congress, and served on the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee.


Before joining the Mercatus Center, Commissioner Peirce worked on Senator Richard Shelby’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs staff as Senior Counsel. In that position, she oversaw financial regulatory reform efforts following the 2008 financial crisis and conducted oversight of the regulatory implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act.


From 2004 to 2008, Commissioner Peirce worked as counsel to SEC Commissioner Paul S. Atkins. Prior to serving Commissioner Atkins, Commissioner Peirce worked as a Staff Attorney in the Division of Investment Management. Before working at the SEC, Commissioner Peirce was an associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale) and clerked for Judge Roger Andewelt on the Court of Federal Claims.


Commissioner Peirce earned her B.A. in Economics from Case Western Reserve University and her J.D. from Yale Law School.  Source: SEC Website



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