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RPI hosting financial technology industry conference

The logos of RPI and Stevens institute of Technology
WAMC screen capture

In 2021, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey were awarded a National Science Foundation grant to create a research center on financial technology and science. Now the Center for Research toward Advancing Financial Technologies, or CRAFT, is hosting an industry conference at RPI Thursday and Friday to determine what projects to pursue. WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Aparna Gupta, the co-director of CRAFT and a professor of quantitative finance at RPI about the gathering.

Gupta: The upcoming meeting is our first industry advisory board meeting in a fully operational form for our National Science Foundation funded Center on Research for Advancing Financial Technologies. So the purpose of an IAB meeting in this setting is that we present a whole bunch of very well crafted and developed projects and the industry members of the Center review and then vote for selecting the project for funding. So this would be the first round of projects that the Center would start funding, so this is very crucial meeting.

Levulis: And what are some of the topics that are set to be set to be discussed?

Gupta: I would want to actually describe the process by which we came about selecting the themes. So we had a first discussion oriented IAB meeting in October last year, where we had several panel discussions to identify what the research trust, the industry would want us to focus on were. So the project that we have developed now are basically responding to those research themes. So one of the research theme is looking at all the AI technologies advancement, but then looking at developing trustworthy and explainable application of AI in various spectrums of financial decision making. The second theme is, in the context of data paradigms, there are lots of different varieties of data, and lots of different varieties of context that those data can be used. So how are the data paradigms to be designed that utilize the data for making sound financial decisions? The third theme that came up in our discussions in October were all the emerging new risks. So whether it's in crypto assets and platforms that are primarily devoted to crypto assets engagement, to basically utilization of quantum technology for financial decision making and risk management. What are the advances needed for addressing the upcoming risk challenges in the future? So these are the major three themes and pretty much on an ongoing basis in every next meeting, we will have similar discussions to define similar defined themes of projects to continue to develop the research agenda of the Center.

Levulis: And you mentioned cryptocurrency there in the risk category. Now, President Biden recently signed an executive order on government oversight of cryptocurrency that urges the Federal Reserve to explore whether it should create its own digital currency. First, do you think cryptocurrency needs greater government oversight?

Gupta: Absolutely. So in fact I like to mention that we had one session last October around basically regulations and innovations coming from startups. And there was a lot of concern that the regulations and the clarity of them was not helping the innovation and the progression of United States activity in this space to remain at the forefront. So the executive order is an extremely important update that has happened. And I'm sure we'll have a lot of discussions around it at the upcoming meeting.

Levulis: And also what are your thoughts about a digital currency created by the Federal Reserve? Would that lead more people to try it out, do you think?

Gupta: I think a central bank digital currency is a must. So of course, the Federal Reserve System has been deliberating that for past several years. In my mind, it's a matter of when and how. It’s not at all a matter of if. And then, of course, the when and how, there are numerous issues to be addressed in terms of the specific design and the specific range of purpose of CBDC, as it's called. So that's again, another set of issues that our industry members have raised for CRAFT to start addressing. So once again, I mean in terms of having the broad stakeholder support, in the manner that a CBDC is designed and launched, is very fundamentally important to how this will progress going forward.

Levulis: And then shifting back to the conference here a bit. I noticed under the risk challenges category that we've been discussing, there's one topic called “data driven flow financial decision making in climate change induced flooding.” And I was wondering if you could explain to me what that might entail?

Gupta: That specific project is focused on flooding and real estate decisions and insurance decisions or risk assessments related to real estate or insurance in the context of flooding caused by climate change. But I'd like to use that project and I'm happy that you mentioned it, to highlight the importance of broad issues in climate change and related climate policy considerations from financial services perspective that CRAFT is very keenly interested in. So in fact, some of our members once again, highlighting the fact that the Center defines its agenda by the industry members’ guidance, some of our members are very keen on lots of ranges of issues around climate change and impact of financial services. Whether it's from insurance, whether it's from creating innovative products that help in risk management. So this is just one of the 14 projects giving us a flavor, but there's definitely going to be a lot more activity in how climate change risks and concerns are going to be relevant for financial services. And I'm again glad that the executive order also picked up on the climate risks relevance of financial services.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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