Last week I attended the Milken Global conference, and spoke on a far-reaching fintech panel. Dan Primack’s recap in Axios summed the conference up well (I agree about the rainbows), so here are just some quick observations from various panels I attended and discussions I had during the conference:
1) There was an optimism that the typical "8 year recession" cycle will be broken this time around, due to monetary policy, taxes, unemployment, and a lack of clarity over what bubble is going to pop. 2) A lot of investor optimism and lots of money looking for a place to invest, although that’s tempered by concerns that company prices are quite high due to the strong economy and bullish current markets. 3) Lots of interest in fintech, and many people asking us to launch LendUp in their country! 4) China has unquestionably leapfrogged the US in financial services. Over just the past few years, cash has become almost irrelevant across the board -- from major commerce to the food street vendor. Everything is done on a mobile phone instantly and transparently. We still cannot even get the banks to agree that instant payments is something that matters, let alone have a plan to get it done, let alone will it have authentication as ACH was not built for today's economy. Maybe the US can leapfrog China back and adopt blockchain as the domestic standard protocol? 5) I was impressed by Chinese companies doing really cool stuff for fraud prevention around facial matching and detection, voice recognition on calls and during the application process, matching address and home by tracking your phone, and geolocating. One very large financial services provider claimed almost no identity fraud. 6) Bitcoin is a currency. Ethereum is a security. ICOs are IPOs. And the SEC is just getting started. 7) There is seemingly universal excitement for Dodd Frank reforms from both sides of the political spectrum, and the secondary consequences were much larger than anyone anticipated. 8) There’s an interesting debate over whether owning a home is still the American Dream, or if we’d all have a better chance at long term wealth creation by investing in the S&P 500. Warren Buffet just claimed that had he started investing $10,000 in the market, it would be $51M now. I am not sure real estate would provide that same level of return anywhere. That said, it is Warren Buffet. 9) I was fascinated by Juan Enriquez, who’s successfully completed the firsts step in coding brains and memories by downloading a neuron in binary code. Next step is to download an entire brain, and then figure out how to retrieve the memories, upload it to another person, and have eternal life without having to live in an older body. Ethical issues aside, I would love to be back in my 21 year old body. Or better yet, Chris Hemsworth’s 21 year old body. 10) Inspired by Jane Goodall, who still travels 300 days a year and is as passionate as ever about saving chimpanzees and the earth. 11) I hate wearing a suit and tie.