As we have learned the hard way, social media has become a viral force for pandemic-scale political plots. Of course, it is not the media themselves that do this; instead, it’s the rage many Americans harbor at government institutions made profitable by social media giants.
So it’s no surprise that companies like Facebook, which has become omnipotent fueled by social anger, understand better than established financial institutions that economic anger is also growing at an increasingly feverish rate. As a result, what I’ll call viral finance is spreading into every nook and cranny of the once stable banking, payments, and investing infrastructure.
Building a new age financial regulatory framework therefore requires a deep understanding not only of how crypto assets work, but also why they work so seductively to millions of people who are now putting their savings at risk. not because they don’t know better, but because they can’t do better otherwise.
As the same-stock frenzy, the rage against financial institutions is generally directed at “Wall Street”. Crypto assets and fast growing decentralized infrastructure (DeFi) are also aimed at least as much at bypassing those who are deemed to control finance for their own benefit as they are at innovation, inclusion or any of the other attributes that advocates often adopt.
But there is an even more compelling motive behind new age finance than anger: despair. The stream savings rate with an insured depositary is 0.06%. With inflation now reaching at least 5.3%, anyone without significant assets still hoping to save for the future has no choice but to gamble on the stock market or speculate with crypto assets.
The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gensler, has priority reforms to trading platforms that turn investors into pawns, not kings they imagine themselves to be in a video game-like battle against greatness. However, U.S. banking regulators have so far taken no action to address the risks that crypto assets pose to vulnerable consumers. A “sprint“is now underway to target crypto in general and stablecoins in particular, but the hard fact of this urgent matter is that the activity most likely to persuade investors to undertake crypto asset strategies is the activities most likely to attract vulnerable consumers Although they are relatively poorer than most other groups, black consumers are at least twice as likely as whites to own crypto assets, with 61% of ‘marginalized’ households stating that they are interested in crypto assets because mainstream finance isn’t working for them.
But, despite the urgent need for consumer protections, the regulatory sprint faces very significant hurdles given the anachronistic definitions of deposit collection, payment services and loans, on which their rules must be based. There are certain actions that agencies can take, and I think they will. Indeed, they have already taken a big one in a small one proposal requiring that any entity with which a bank conducts crypto-type activities adhere to standards for banking safety and soundness and consumer protection. U.S. agencies will also act quickly after global regulators finalize the difficult proposal. capital standards for high risk crypto asset exposures.
These efforts are worth it, but they will prove to be limited at best. The premise is that banks still hold the key to the most lucrative corners of the financial system. This is already wrong when it comes to many forms of loans, essential payment services and more, even deposits. DeFi also aims to shatter the whole edifice of traditional financial intermediation and may well succeed in a remarkably short time frame.
A new law is therefore already overdue to protect vulnerable investors, savers, payers, beneficiaries and borrowers. Reforms like what a British regulator is recently proposed are also essential in ensuring that financial social media posts are far more truthful than others. We know it’s damaging when social media persuades Americans not to get the COVID vaccine, but it will prove to be at least as risky if that post also prompts those with few resources to part with it in the hope of what is almost always illusory gains.
However, new rules and even a new law will reduce risk in limited ways as long as the fundamental force that drives savers and investors to desperation – and then to anger – is ignored. Things won’t change until the Fed begins to recalibrate interest rates to favor average savers, not wealthy investors.
When no one can save for the future, even those who shouldn’t will speculate when they meet someone who is willing to take their money and promise riches to come. They do not have the choice.
Karen Petrou is a Managing Partner at Federal Financial Analytics, Inc. She is the author of “Driving Inequality: The Fed and America’s Future of Wealth”.