August 09, 2022

Today’s show is required listening for our regulator audience, and is also packed with practical advice for ANY organization, public or private, that has to transition from the analog to the digital age. The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, or MSRB, is a small US regulatory body that’s doing outsized work in technology innovation. Our guests are Chief Data Officer Brian Anthony and CTO Adam Cusson, and they are leading the way in one of the most exciting regulatory technology projects I’ve seen anywhere. They seem to be working miracles, and somehow they’re even making it look easy!

As my guests explain, the MSRB is the principal regulator for municipal bonds – the market through which communities raise funds for public works like roads, schools and hospitals. It’s a specialized field of securities, but it’s enormous – $4 trillion a year. The agency runs a website called EMMA, for Electronic Municipal Market Access, as a repository for disclosures on these securities transactions. Brian and Adam are leading an ambitious project to upgrade that process to leverage the best of data and technology.

In our conversation, they share why and how they launched the effort in 2018 after building a compelling business case, and then how the Covid crisis accelerated their inventiveness. They explain the daunting scope of the challenge, including the need to convert hundreds of thousands of PDF reports into digitally-accessible form.  

Crucially, they decided at the outset that they had to migrate the whole agency into the cloud – a conversion they achieved in just 18 months, on time and on budget. This move contrasts sharply with most other agencies, which are still evaluating risks and barriers and hard decisions raised by cloud computing, causing delays that are holding back essential modernization.

Perhaps even more crucially, Adam and Brian emphasize that the cloud migration was just the start, necessary, yes, but not sufficient, to reaching their goals. Being in the cloud enabled them to take on the really bedrock task of redesigning the MSRB’s technology architecture, which, as they note, had been state of the art when it was adopted, but today is completely out of date. Here again, almost every regulatory agency I know is in that position, trying to oversee rapidly-morphing financial markets using ponderous technology still there from decades past. 

The MSRB found that the cloud migration alone would have produced a positive return on investment in just a few years, but that the deeper re-architecting will create massive yields.

Our conversation offers a how-to for other agencies, describing the cloud conversion and then walking through the three phases of the larger technology modernization project now underway. They talk about the practical problems they have had to solve for, including security.

They also emphasize the human side of the equation. We all know that the main challenge in regulatory technology is not technology – the tools that we need already exist – but rather, people. Brian and Adam explain how they built support and enthusiasm, to the point where they estimate that 97% of agency personnel were excited for the change and the other 3 percent were “nervous.” They share a whole range of practical solutions, from individualized learning journeys to gamification.

And they describe what they’re building, including their EMMA Labs platform and their amazing disclosure search lab, which lets users find whatever they need in those voluminous reports.

It’s especially great to see regulators leaning into the playful side of creativity. For example, you’ll appreciate hearing about the MSRB cowbell

More on Adam

Adam Cusson is Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, where he oversees IT operations, data and infrastructure management, enterprise architecture and systems development. He began his career at the MSRB as the Director of Systems Development.

Previously, he was senior director of development at Oracle where he led the SaaS application Eloqua, which processes more than two billion marketing transactions per day. Prior to Oracle, Adam held similar positions at Micro Focus International, NetIQ and Novell.  

Adam studied computer science and electrical engineering at George Mason University and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in information systems from Strayer University. He holds three published patents involving structured social networking.

More on Brian

Brian Anthony is Chief Data Officer (CDO) of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, where he oversees the definition and delivery of MSRB’s comprehensive data strategy, which includes data governance, data quality, data management and data analytics. He began his career at the MSRB as Director of Data Strategy and Management. 

Prior to joining the MSRB, Brian served as Vice President, Senior Engineering Manager for Investment Data at T. Rowe Price. Brian has more than 25 years of Data and Information Technology experience of which 15 years are concentrated in information delivery in the financial services industry. Brian holds an MBA degree from the University of Maryland University College.

More for our Listeners

We have great shows coming up!  Following up today’s episode, we’ll have a conversation with Sunayna Tuteja, the first-ever chief innovation officer of the Federal Reserve System. We’ll also talk with former Treasury Department official Jessica Renier, who is now at the International Institute of Finance. We’ll have Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire back again, along with Tomicah Tomilson of Haun Ventures. I also talk with The RegTech Association’s CEO Deborah Young. And we’re going to talk with the one and only Simon Taylor, on all things crypto and defi. And I’ll be talking with David Foss, CEO of Jack Henry.

This month I’ll be in Aspen for the Moonclave conference, which will be tackling the most interesting issues  in crypto. In September I’ll be back at And we’ll of course be at Money 20/20 in the fall. 

Don’t forget to follow AIR on LinkedIn and Twitter. Be sure to leave us a five-star rating on your favorite podcast platform. And please take a moment to follow me personally on Twitter @JoAnnBarefoot.

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