The 13,000 registered attendees in Las Vegas for this year’s Money 20/20 conference reflected something of a return to normalcy.
Last year’s emphasis tilted decidedly toward cryptocurrency―likely a reflection of the asset classes’ then high-flying valuations as well as ongoing travel restrictions that curtailed attendance by financial institutions. A solid digital asset presence remained in 2022 but was balanced by renewed bank and credit union engagement, leading to healthy dialogue.
Despite a recurring theme of economic uncertainty, there was no discernible slowdown in energy, ideas, or promotional spending. In fact, many investors and startup founders opined these can actually be good conditions in which to launch a business.
The first day featured America’s Got Access, a new pitch competition where early-stage fintechs focused primarily on financial inclusion barriers. The judges’ selection and winner of $100,000 was Zirtue, a Dallas-based firm (and CMFG Ventures portfolio company) creating a platform to support the extensive informal network of “friends and family” lending.
In a surprise announcement, a $100,000 check was also presented to runner-up Remynt―an even earlier stage Bay Area startup aiming to reinvent debt collection by emphasizing online engagement over phone-based outreach and fostering credit rebuilding as a benefit of repayment. Both Zirtue and Remynt have expressed interest in partnering with credit unions.
On day 3, Javelin Strategy & Research announced the findings of its Child Identity Fraud Study, revealing that 915,000 children in the U.S. were victims of identity fraud over the past year. Although this figure was down from 2021, the number of children impacted by data breaches (1.7 million) rose―perhaps presaging coming increases in identity theft. The study also found ID theft affecting children takes longer and is costlier to resolve, averaging $1,128 per incident.
The exhibit hall seemed to feature a larger-than-usual complement of fraud and identity solutions, many of them highlighting connections to the FedNow real-time payments service slated to launch in mid-2023. Federal Reserve Board Governor Christopher Waller emphasized FedNow’s role in bringing ubiquity to real-time payments during an “Ask the Fed” session, pointing to the limited reach of The Clearing House’s RTP service among the long tail of smaller banks and credit unions. He compared the Fed’s approach to “the public utility model, like the government stepping in with electricity and internet infrastructure (in remote areas), with the same level of service.”
Waller also weighed in on the contentious topic of digital assets. In his view, “Stablecoins are really an old idea,” comparing them to private bank notes of the 1800s or today’s readily redeemable casino chips. However he questioned whether a clear business model for these asset-backed coins has been established, and pointed to the importance of audit transparency to confirm their underlying value. “From a regulatory point of view we don’t like assets that can be run on,” he added.
In the emerging technology arena often viewed as Money 20/20’s calling card, Bain & Co. partner Thomas Olsen offered a helpful layperson’s tutorial on Web 3.0. He observed that most investment in the space has been geared toward creating market infrastructure.
He advised players not to underestimate to power of incumbents, citing companies like PayPal and Robinhood (which at 9 years old qualifies as a grizzled veteran in the Web3 space) that have gained the most consumer engagement.
Meta is the established player that has staked the most in its Web 3.0 strategy. Stephane Kasriel, the firm’s head of commerce/fintech, suggests companies begin experimenting by building a Metaverse presence that resembles their current physical one. “It’s almost certainly not the right answer, but a logical place to start,” he said.
He also noted that while his firm’s Meta Pay functions as a fiat wallet today, it’s positioned to evolve into a comprehensive digital wallet “for identity services and access to all the digital assets you own.”
Bain’s Olsen provided a tidy synopsis during Money 20/20’s closing session, predicting that “the Metaverse’s development will be gradual and messy―just like the internet was.” He believes its implications will differ by financial institution size, and that “timing investments will be the biggest challenge.”
GLEN SARVADY is managing principal at 154 Advisors.