Tech companies have been throwing their weight around Silicon Valley for decades, and now they're looking to set the agenda in the nation’s capital as well.
In a display of Silicon Valley’s maturing relationship with Washington, five tech companies have formed an advocacy group to push for business-friendly rules in the emerging market for tech-fueled financial services.
The group, known as Financial Innovation Now, comprises founding members Google, Apple, Amazon, PayPal, and Intuit.
“These five companies are coming together because innovation is coming to financial services,” Brian Peters, the group’s executive director, told BuzzFeed News. “And they believe that technological transformation will make these services more accessible, more affordable, and more secure.”
Whether through products like Google Wallet, Amazon Payments, and Apple Pay, acquisitions like PayPal’s purchase of mobile payment startup Venmo, or investments like Google's in peer-to-peer lending outfit Lending Club, the group’s founding companies all have a stake in the evolving industry and its regulation.
“The goal here is to serve as the voice of technology and innovators,” Peters said. “Because honestly the banking policy conversations in Washington have not had that voice historically.”
The coalition isn't yet pursuing any specific laws or regulations, but in a statement it noted several issues of interest, including speeding up the processing time of bank transfers, increasing access to loans by small businesses, pushing for open standards in authentication systems, and encouraging the use of mobile and app-based banking.
“Education is going to be our first job,” Peters said, referring to the group’s primary challenge of explaining to lawmakers how their financial tech platforms work and what their customers have been clamoring for. Financial Innovation Now will concentrate its advocacy work at the federal level, lobbying members of Congress and federal agencies.
“The coalition members believe in the power of technology to help solve some of the challenges that the country has faced since the financial crises, both before and after,” Peters said.
“We believe that if you look at the amount of investment happening in the fintech startup space, which is off the charts right now, there are a lot really smart people working on these challenges and technology is going to be the solution.”
Peters hopes the group will capitalize on young people's dissatisfaction toward traditional brick-and-mortar bank branches and the trust they have for customer-friendly technology companies. Financial Innovation Now also aims to push novel mobile and cloud-based services, with an eye for the tens of millions of “unbanked” Americans who lack access to savings accounts and credit cards. “The companies believe that technology is going to help solve the financial inclusion challenge, which a lot of policymakers are focused on,” Peters said.
Peters is a member of the Franklin Square Group, a Washington, D.C., tech lobbying firm.
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Hamza Shaban is a technology policy reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Hamza Shaban at Hamza.Shaban@buzzfeed.com.
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