The emerging field of virtual currency initially promised to democratize money, transaction fees and more, yet somehow most of the players look exactly the same as in the fiat space.
The challenges of virtual currency were the subject of the recent Consensus Invest 2019, produced by digital media outlet Coindesk. Various members of the global investment community converged at the Marriott in Times Square, New York City, to discuss the intersection of macroeconomics and crypto assets.
At this conference, there was not one speaker of color invited to lend expertise or moderate.
The annual forum focused on delivering discussions on the trends and investment opportunities for crypto assets as they pertain across global investors, commercial banks, hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies and service providers. This was about analyzing trends in the space as well as defining hype from reality.
Insights, predictions and emerging trends were presented from a variety of speakers including Jeanine Hightower-Selitto, managing director of operations for Gemini; Adam White, chief operating officer for Bakkt; and Caitlin Long, a gubernatorial appointee for the Wyoming Blockchain Task Force.
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A good deal of the day’s focus was around trends as they pertain to regulations. The conversation is still not yet settled on definitions and rules across the board. One thing on which everyone can agree is that the market is maturing and people are becoming more discerning in the space.
Discussion points around market manipulation were debated including if there is truly more manipulation in the virtual versus fiat space and to what extent technology helps quell such issues. Indeed, some argue that there is actually more transparency in this space that the traditional space.
This was the subject of discussion during a particularly buzzed-about portion of the day during an onstage interview with Heath Tarbert, chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC.) Previously, Trabert served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets and Development and as acting Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. He stressed that the U.S. needs to lead in the industry as a regulator and create a space where innovation flourishes within broad-based principles. Tarbert also discussed definitions around the commission’s jurisdiction. He noted the need for clarity and consistency in order to create a true way forward. This is still the early days, so there is still much speculation and uncertainty as to how the digital assets will develop.
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Interestingly, he also mentioned that the CFTC is also seeking to hire more tech-savvy regulators given that such skills facilitate engagement with the community. Perhaps this is a particular inroad for people of color.
If we wonder why uptick does not happen faster in this space or why problems can’t be solved more quickly and holistically, it is probably due to the fact that only one, rarified stratosphere of our country is trying to craft a space that will ultimately impact us all.
Given the shifting demographics of the U.S., it is absolutely vital to include those in the space who consistently drive trends, adoption and usage when it comes to emergent spaces. As new assets classes are created, it is imperative that new attitudes, hires, outreach strategy and more are also quickly enveloped.
America’s place in the global rush for dominance in this new financial space could very well depend upon it.