Former US Treasurer Rios Wants To Break “Glass Walls”
The story of how small investors galvanized by an internet bulletin board, a gamified trading app, and a bit of flash-mob style activism rewrote the rules of retail investing – all while pushing up shares of GameStop Through the Roof – now part financial, part cautionary tale.
In a recent high-profile conversation with Karen Webster, Rosa “Rosie” Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States and newly appointed board member of blockchain and cryptocurrency solutions company Ripple, discussed the dangers and benefits of democratizing market access, especially for women and people of color faced with what she called “a wall of glass, not a ceiling of glass”.
The recent Robinhood-GameStop dusting serves as an example of what individual investors would do more at all levels if finance were more democratized, she said.
According to Rios, “The theme of Robinhood, which gives access to a group that may never have had access to anything before with these toll-free exchanges, was actually very innovative. It really changed the way big institutions looked at trades. Whether it was Fidelity or Schwab, they followed this disruptor, [and] I think that alone is the key message.
However, she added that given what happened “specific to GameStop and Reddit … I think there is still a lot of work to be done when you have something this innovative.”
Expressing concerns about the power of social media influencers leveraging connected app technology to encourage naïve investors to save money in new types of speculative assets, Webster asked how regulators should define and control the space. to avoid the “carnage” of downstream investors.
Hinting that we may see more rebellions of this type of small investor in the near future, Rios said, “The problem with government and regulators is that it’s usually not preventative, it’s generally responsive. There are many other disruptors in the payments space who do not yet have that kind of critical path to follow in a way that has been verified and… prepared with good guidance.
“If anything, I think [this is] a learning process for all. I have a lot of faith in [SEC Chairman] Gary Gensler and [the Biden administration] in terms of starting those conversations, because they really haven’t started, ”she said.
Describing the crypto craze as “the wild west of the internet … which has only just begun,” Rios also told Webster that it is “our responsibility as parents, as educators, in as officials, to think about how to move forward. [with crypto, connected] in a way that makes sense ”, without slowing down innovation.
Hunt unicorns, defend crypto, fight for access
Citing the pros and cons of social media – from his role in the campaigns of the first African-American president to allegations of election interference in recent years – Rios told Webster that technological innovation is a double-edged sword creating to both risks and rewards. “I think the next wave of job creation will always be in this innovation space, whether it’s cyber, whether it’s crypto … whether it’s artificial intelligence, it’s the wave of future, ”she said. .
In an effort to accelerate this next wave of inclusive innovation and put financial access in the spotlight, Rios co-hosted the show and the streaming channel “Unicorn hunters. Borrowing a bit from ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’, rather than investing in entrepreneurial retail products, ‘Licorn Hunters’ allows the casual investor to participate in a pre-initial public offering investment ( This opportunity arose after Rios was part of the Biden administration’s treasury transition team.
“The world of venture capital, the world of seed finance is a very, very closed system, even for financial institutions that have access to it,” Rios said. Providing these opportunities to the casual investor while encouraging research and a good understanding of the risks involved creates opportunities for those who have historically had little or no access, especially women and people of color.
Such efforts are important, but Rios referred to recent reports on venture capital funding as evidence that there is still a long way to go. “Of the $ 150 billion allocated by venture capital firms in 2020, only 2.2% went to women,” she said.
As for his new role On Ripple’s board of directors, Rios said blockchain and crypto hold immense potential for the kind of access and inclusion she has spent her career advancing.
Calling it an option “whose model is designed to do good,” Rios told Webster that “I chose Ripple because I firmly believe it is one of the few cryptos that provide a legitimate and credible form of facilitate cross-border payments in a way that has never been done before. It is obviously used by financial institutions. It is used globally. Take this application and provide it as a very good viable resource for many people around the world… is a good thing. ”
A framework to secure blockchains
While crypto can democratize global access to financial systems, the integration of tens of millions of people currently cut off from the connected economy; it is also a major crime occasion. As Webster put it, “The big use case for bitcoin is the crime currency on the dark web. It always stays that way. There wouldn’t be ransomware as a service if it wasn’t for Bitcoin as a currency.
Citing the acronym cloud of DOJ, SEC, CFPB, CFTC, FinCEN and other oversight agencies but without an enforcement framework, Rios said, “I think this will be a collaborative effort between the public sectors and private. There is still a lot of work to be done to really find out what is behind the curtain, how blockchain really works, how unfortunately … cryptos are being used to fund the dark web and other illicit activities.
“For someone who worked on the design of the currency of our country [since 2008], just to put that in context, here we are 13 years later, and again, government usually isn’t a leader, it’s a follower. This will be the case for crypto, ”she said. “All we can do is hopefully move the conversation in the right direction.”