June 30, 2020

One evening last October, I was pushing my way through the throngs of people at Money 2020 in Las Vegas, when someone called out my name. I turned and saw today’s guest -- Albert Forkner. He is the Banking Commissioner of the State of Wyoming, and our conversation led to this podcast, because he is doing one of the most innovative regulatory experiments in the United States -- or maybe anywhere.

We recorded this conversation months ago and were delayed in posting it by the Coronavirus, which has upended so many plans. However, the delay does not diminish the fascinating developments in Wyoming.

In the US, we have a dual banking system, with some banks chartered and regulated by the federal government, and some by the states. Some of our states, like California and New York, have economies that are larger than those of many countries. Others are small.

The state of Wyoming, in the mountain West, is geographically huge, with mountains and wide-open prairies and mining and lots of cattle and Yellowstone National Park. In population, though, it’s small -- fewer than 600,000 people.

As recently as 2018, Wyoming had a traditional community banking system serving that population. It has no large banks. It’s not a money center. Its bank regulatory challenges were the traditional ones faced by small banks serving markets that are dominated by two big, cyclical industries, namely agriculture and energy.

That was then.

Today, Wyoming is the leading state in the country in attracting new types of companies centered on cryptocurrency and crypto assets.

In our conversation, Albert tells the story of the transformation, which has only just begun. He explains the motivation -- the potential to grow into a financial hub in crypto, in much the way South Dakota became a center of the credit card industry a few decades back, by creating a welcoming regulatory environment. He explains the types of companies they are attracting and how they plan to oversee them.

Our talk is a window into a regulatory world that few people on the coasts ever see. Wyoming has a citizen legislature that meets for only 20-40 days per year -- the legislators all have “day jobs” the rest of the time, such as being business people, or ranchers. The state banking department has a full-time equivalent of seventeen people. And yet, in just over a year the legislature and regulators have retooled their laws, gathered expert legal and financial insight from all over the planet, and stood up a whole new strategy based on the cutting edge of change in the world of money. It has attracted interest from all over the world, ranging from regulators and crypto companies in Europe and Asia, to all the US regulatory bodies, to the FBI.

Albert shares his thoughts on all this -- his own background, as a lifelong regulator, what they are doing, why, how they are going about it, what he worries about, how they use their regulatory sandbox, what they are doing to accelerate their own learning, what they have done to attract new skillsets into their work, and much more.

I know you will enjoy my fascinating conversation with Albert Forkner.

More on Albert

Albert Forkner was appointed to head the Wyoming Division of Banking as State Banking Commissioner in 2012. In this role he is responsible for the supervision and regulation of all state-chartered banks, independent trust companies, licensed non-depository financial entities operating, and the newly created blockchain/crypto-friendly Special Purpose Depository Institution in Wyoming.

Mr. Forkner has over 21 years with the Wyoming Division of Banking. Prior to serving as commissioner, he was the deputy banking commissioner, a position he held for four years. His experience also includes chief examiner and senior bank examiner at the Division, and a commercial and real estate loan officer.  He served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors during 2017-18.

Mr. Forkner received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from the University of Wyoming and he is a graduate of Cannon Financial Institute and the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado.

More for our Listeners

Remember to leave our show a five-star rating on your favorite podcast platform and to follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

We recently posted new episodes in our special series on how the pandemic may impact the Future of Financial Regulation, one with FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams and one with Christopher Woolard, Interim CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority. We will have a new episode coming up soon with Rodney Hood, the Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration. And don’t miss the show we posted with Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks, on his first day on the job.

I recently spoke at Emerge Live in a panel to discuss the aftermath of COVID-19 and how we can move toward finhealth solutions to help small businesses. You can watch it here. Don’t forget that LendIt Fintech in New York has been rescheduled for the end of September and I am looking forward to speaking there as well. Later in the year I’ll be at Money 2020 and the Singapore Fintech Festival, one way or the other. And in July, I’ll be participating in the base touch program on the finalists for the G-20 Global Techsprint, for which I will be a judge.

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