CFTC Moves Annual Fintech Conference Online

On July 9, LabCFTC, the fintech office of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, announced that it will replace its annual one-day Fintech Forward conference with three separate online sessions under the series title Empower Innovation 2020.

The new conferences will take place on Sept. 24, Oct. 21 and Nov. 19, with LabCFTC subdividing the days by subject matter. Director and Chief Innovation Officer Melissa Netram told this was an effort to deal with reduced attention span for virtual rather than physical events: “To do a full day we knew that we’d probably end up with people getting distracted.”

The annual Fintech Forward conferences have been a major part of the relatively young LabCFTC’s work for several years. Netram explained the office’s reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

“Because of the pandemic we realized that [the in-person conference] is not going to happen. But we realized we didn’t want to lose sight of the advantage of bringing these people all together.”

It was at Fintech Forward 2019 that Chairman Heath Tarbert announced that LabCFTC would become an independent office within the commission under Netram.

“Encouraging innovation and enhancing the regulatory experience for market participants is essential to what we do at the CFTC,” said CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert in the announcement for Fintech Forward.

Regarding LabCFTC’s overall work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Netram told that the office had been focusing on educating other parts of the agency: “We are able to focus more on these training sessions across the commission and touch on things, like I said, as basic as what is blockchain as well as more complex issues.”

LabCFTC has yet to confirm an agenda for Empower Innovation.

Just yesterday, the CFTC released its goals for the remainder of Tarbert’s term as chairman, which ends in 2024. Those including putting together a more coherent framework for digital assets. Current regulatory practice in the U.S. treats Bitcoin and Ether commodities, meaning that the CFTC monitors their markets and regulates their derivatives, but most crypto assets are still in limbo.

At the conference, LabCFTC will announce the winner of Project Streetlamp, a contest to find a tool capable of scanning the internet for futures offerings available in the U.S. but not registered with the CFTC.

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