I think this is unfortunate: finance is a key element of the infrastructure of our economies and societies. Like power or transport networks, finance should be seen as something that enables and empowers us. It’s too important to be seen as something mysterious, beyond our collective understanding, left to some self-selected elite to shape. It’s too important to abdicate our responsibility to expect a financial system that serves society deliberately and thoughtfully, not simply as an accidental consequence of serving its own interests first.
For most people, the idea of engaging in a conversation about finance sounds about as appealing as watching paint dry. And for many in the financial establishment, this is by design.
Finance is hard. Finance is boring. Leave finance to the experts. For centuries the “Church of Finance” has done its best to keep it this way.
“It’s complicated. Don’t worry, just trust us.”
And yet. Finance is too important for society to ignore. To accept whatever outcome the finance industry deems to deliver. The financial system is our economy’s nervous system: without it our society would cease to function. If it is broken or diseased, individually and collectively we suffer immediate and significant distress. It concerns all of us. Its health should concern us all.
And if you break it down, if you look through the how and focus on the why, finance is really not so complicated.
It’s about storing and exchanging value. It’s about managing flows and stocks. It’s about managing and mutualizing risks. Being financially literate and engaged does not require one to be a finance expert, any more than being digitally literate requires one to know how to engineer a CPU. Reframing the conversation in these terms would allow people from all parts of society to engage in designing the financial system we need.
The world is changing. The industrial societies of the 20th century are rapidly giving way to the reshaped—technologically, economically, culturally and demographically—information societies of the 21st. This presents us with a unique opportunity to reboot, reinvent, and reimagine our financial system. To rethink obsolete business models, products and services that have too often devolved into zero-sum paradigms that have lost sight of the fundamental purpose of finance. That have forgotten their essential, but essentially subordinate, role to play in our society.
When my co-founder and I set out to build Anthemis Group a decade ago, this was the opportunity we had in mind. A key component of our ambition was to convene a community of like-minded people passionate about catalyzing change in finance. And we’ve had some success. I am most proud (and often humbled by) the many entrepreneurs and professionals who have joined our ecosystem, and the collective success they have enjoyed with respect to establishing a new narrative within the financial industry.
But we have also noticed that many voices from other areas of society were missing from this narrative. And we noticed that when we were in fact able to engage such voices in the conversation, the results were phenomenally powerful, buttressing us in our conviction that many of the most powerful and consequential ideas emerge at the intersections of diverse experiences, expertise and temperaments.
And so—armed with this conviction and the success of these early experiments—we are incredibly excited to bring Hacking Finance to the world.
We don’t pretend to know exactly how Hacking Finance will develop and evolve, only that we hope that it will transcend Anthemis and grow in an emergent fashion. We hope Hacking Finance will inspire and engage people from across society, drawing on the ideas, actions and energy of all those who are interested in an ongoing movement to build a financial system that enables and empowers a society that strives to improve the human condition, our civilization and our planet.
Our aspiration is that Hacking Finance becomes a new commons for all those who share the view that finance is too important to our society to not engage with all of it. Please consider this my personal invitation for you to join us in this conversation.
ps tell your friends 😉