August 14, 2018

We have such a special guest on today’s show. Gregory Meeks is the United States Congressman representing the Fifth District of New York. He is also a leading member of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services. I was able to sit down with him, in his Capitol Hill office on one recent, hot summer day, to talk about how technology is changing consumer finance and, especially, how it can expand financial inclusion.

Congressman Meeks has been bringing breakthrough leadership to this issue on Capitol Hill.  As he says in our conversation, his views are grounded in his own experience growing up in public housing in Harlem, where he learned firsthand the struggles faced by low-income families in making ends meet, and also in getting access to credit. He talks about his own parent’s situation in being able to purchase a home, and the effect it had on his family. As a passionate advocate for these communities, it’s hugely important that he believes some of the solutions for them lie in fintech.

I think it’s fair to say that many advocates for financial inclusion are still skeptical that fintech is a good thing. Obviously it sometimes isn’t, and clearly there are many questions that need to be  addressed as these new technologies expand. As someone who has worked with financial inclusion efforts for decades, however, I think these new tech innovations are actually the best hope we’ve ever had for building a truly affordable, accessible and healthy financial system for everyone.

As we’ve discussed in other shows, fintech is attacking all the things that cause people to have unhealthy financial lives, other than lack of money itself. It is sharply reducing the costs of providing financial services, by leveraging both mobile delivery channels and new kinds of data. It’s enabling accurate underwriting of the millions of people who can’t qualify for good loans because they lack traditional credit files -- again, using new data and data analytics. It’s helping people build digital identities, which equips them to satisfy the Know-Your-Customer rules of the banking system and thereby access transaction accounts (this progress is especially dramatic in the developing world). Fintech innovation is also creating a wide array of tools that just make it easier to manage money wisely, regardless of your level of financial education. New tools are simplifying everything from saving, to budgeting and bill-paying, to new solutions for people with “gig” jobs, to getting alerts when funds are getting low. Fintech is not a panacea, obviously, but my view it that it can accomplish many of the goals we’ve been pursuing for decades through regulation, with mixed results at best. Congressman Meeks is focusing on this powerful potential.

We had a wide ranging conversation, including talking about modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act which the Congressman has called for -- here is his op-ed on that challenge. And you’ll hear his passion for building a bipartisan approach to crafting solutions that work for everyone, including how both rural and urban communities’ financial health can benefit from fintech.

The Congressman has a keen sense for how we need to embrace technology, rather than fighting it. He’s optimistic, as am I, that we are on the verge of finding truly superior ways to use new technologies to better communities.

More on Gregory Meeks
Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) is now in his tenth term serving the 5th District of New York, which is one of the most diverse constituencies in the nation. He is known for working with Democrats and Republicans alike and is one of sixty-one pro-growth Democratic members who comprise the New Democrat Coalition (NDC). He co-chairs the NDCC Trade Task Force.

Congressman Meeks is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, having previously served as a Dodd-Frank conferee. Key provisions in the Wall Street reform law – including its stress testing requirement, the creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at the financial regulatory agencies, and the requirement that U.S. public companies that use natural resources must report their due diligence in stamping out conflict minerals– were authored by Congressman Meeks and remain in the law today.

The Congressman is also a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. A multilateralist with decades of experience in foreign policy, he believes the United States should build coalitions around our interests and work with other countries to build a stable and prosperous future. He co-chairs several international organization caucuses, including the European Union Caucus.

More for our listeners

We have many more great podcasts in the queue. We’ll have a really thought-provoking discussion with my friend Greg Kidd, Founder of GlobaliD.  We have a wonderful episode with the California banking commissioner, Jan Owen (which we recorded amidst a gathering thunderstorm that adds some drama). We’ll also have two regtech firms —, which offers machine-readable regulatory compliance, and Alloy, which has high-tech solutions for meeting the Know-Your-Customer rules in AML. And we have one with the co-founders of Earnup. There are many more in the works.

The fall events schedule is filling up. Some of the places I’ll be speaking are:

I’ll also be speaking again at AFI, in Russia, if we can make the schedule work.

Also, watch for upcoming information on my collaboration with Brett King on his new book on the future of finance — we’ll have a show and events on that as well.

If you listen to Barefoot Innovation on iTunes, please leave a five star rating on the show to help us build it. Also please remember to send in your “buck a show” to keep it going, and come to for today’s show notes and to join our email list, so you’ll get the newest podcast, newsletter, and blog posts. As always, please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Get involved

Stay informed by joining our mailing list