White House Fuels Growing Blockchain Interest on Capitol Hill

Blockchain interest and awareness are increasing on Capitol Hill, spurred by a series of recent high-profile events.

Jun 13, 2016 at 4:44 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:19 p.m. UTC
CoinDesk Insights

White House Fintech Summit

The blockchain has indeed reached the White House, and there are signs awareness of the emerging technology is increasing on Capitol Hill.

Following an event with several of President Barack Obama’s top technological advisors last month, an increasing number of public policy meetings are now taking place in and around Washington, DC.

On Friday, Secretary Penny Pritzker of the US Department of Commerce joined special assistant to the president for economic policy Adrienne Harris and other top White House officials for an event featuring a lecture from Brian Forde, director of digital currency initiative a the MIT Media Lab, and multiple panels on financial technology more generally speaking.

Hosted at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the executive branch of the US government invited "senior administration officials" and "stakeholders" from financial institutions, startups and academia for the half-day event, called the White House Fintech Summit, according to the invitation.

Over the past two weeks blockchain industry leaders have participated in two events with the White House, including one with technology advisors to President Barack Obama, a briefing with members of the US Congress and an informational session with 90 central banks hosted by the US Federal Reserve.

One of those who participated, Matthew Roszak, chairman of the industry trade association the Chamber of Digital Commerce, said frequency the federal government and regulators is sending a positive market signal, albeit one that has outpaced even his expectations.

Roszak said:

"It’s happening faster than I would have anticipated."

On the agenda

Though comments at the event were made off-the-record, the event’s agenda shows that MIT’s Forde addressed the participants about distributed ledger technology generally speaking.

At the event, Secretary Pritzker led a panel discussion on the government’s role in fostering financial technology innovation; Mark Walsh, head of innovation at the US Small Business Administration, led a panel on FinTech at small and medium-sized businesses; and Jason Furman, chairman of the council of economic advisors.

In the audience were representatives from Deloitte, JP Morgan, PayPal and Microsoft, according to Roszack.

"Blockchainers were everywhere," he added.

Of about 100 people in attendance at the closed-door event, he estimated about 20% were from the blockchain industry.

President Obama's special assistant Harris gave closing remarks and in a blog post after its conclusion described the Summits activites.

"We spent the day identifying those areas where partnership across industries and between the public and private sectors can help advance our financial well-being and economic prosperity," Harris wrote.

The build-up

The event is similar in content to others held in recent weeks.

On 20th May, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology gathered executives from distributed ledger consortium R3CEV, advocacy group Coin Center, Stanford University and MIT Sloan School of Management for a series of addresses followed by a question-answer session with presidential advisors including Google’s Eric Schmidt.

Less than a week later, 15 members of US Congress received a briefing organized by the Chamber of Digital Commerce with industry stakeholders including ConsenSys and Bloq and legacy technology leaders, Deloitte and Microsoft.

Then, last week regulators at the US Federal Reserve hosted 90 central banks from around the world at an informational event also co-organized by the Chamber of Digital Commerce.

Chamber founder and president Perianne Boring told CoinDesk that last week’s event saw a combination of agencies and individuals at the previous events along with new attendees.

Boring said:

"They did a good job bringing in White House staff but also looping in other agencies who regulate technology and finance more generally."

The White House was unavailable for comment at press time.

Image of White House panel courtesy Matthew Roszak; White House image via Shutterstock

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