Travel back in time a decade and you’ll find a world awash in game-changing innovation that was supposed to make life less expensive, more efficient and better for all. Instead of apps and data analytics there were mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps and other derivatives. There were specialty lenders. And there were massive hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds to keep money flowing through a web of companies, consumers and investors.
Then it all collapsed, as we know, because regulators didn’t pay attention to the risky activities at the margins. They didn’t understand all of the innovation that had sprung up in odd corners. Sometimes they didn’t know it was happening. And they didn’t force banks and non-banks to set aside emergency money for the risks that they did see. Eventually risk at the margins became risk at the system’s core.
Now financial innovation has recovered along with the banking sector and lots of new activity is springing up in a place often overlooked by the watchdogs in Washington D.C.: the world of venture-backed startups.