Chris Brummer

Creator of Fintech Week

Dr. Chris Brummer is a professor of law and faculty director of Georgetown’s Institute of International Economic Law. Prior to joining Georgetown’s faculty in 2009, he was an assistant professor at Vanderbilt Law School. Brummer has also taught as a visiting professor at several leading universities, including the London School of Economics.

Aside from working as a professor and spearheading multiple initiatives related to financial regulation, he also serves as both a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Subcommittee on Virtual Currencies and the Consultative Working Group for the European Securities and Markets Authority’s Financial Innovation Standing Committee. Chris also concluded a three-year term as a member of the National Adjudicatory Council of FINRA, an organization empowered by Congress to regulate the securities industry, where his work was praised as making a significant contribution to advancing investor protection.

Chris Brummer earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he graduated with honors, and he holds a Ph.D. in Germanic Studies from the University of Chicago. Before becoming a professor, he practiced law in the New York and London offices of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. In 2011, he joined the Washington offices of the Milken Institute. In 2012, he was awarded the C. Boyden Gray Fellowship for Global Finance and Growth at the Atlantic Council where he launched the think tank’s Transatlantic Finance Initiative.

Dr. Brummer is also the author and/or editor of several books, including Fintech Law in a Nutshell and Cryptoassets: Legal, Regulatory and Monetary Perspectives. He has also authored and contributed to several financial publications, analyses, and reports over the course of his career.

Where did the idea for Fintech Week come from?

Fintech Week came from the idea of creating a thoughtful forum for talking about fintech policy in the heart of the capitol. The event brings leaders from a wide array of relevant fields together to encourage conversation between those in the financial sector and those in the regulatory community. We hope to not only forge connections between those who attend – nonprofits, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, etc. – but also to foster meaningful, honest, and action-oriented policy dialogue.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day involves answering emails and queries that come from market participants and regulators around the world, and then turning to my teaching responsibilities at Georgetown. I enjoy engaging with nonprofits and industry alike on their real world priorities, as well as academic inquiry. Living in DC, there is always a focus on current events and trends, regardless of whom I am talking to, but I enjoy being able to engage in my areas of interest in different ways on a daily basis.

How do you bring ideas to life?

There is no other way than hard work. What you know or think will only get you so far, and at a certain point ideas take action.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Digital inclusion, and more attention being brought to it. As our ability to access and understand information continues to rapidly expand, it only becomes more vital for businesses, individuals, and communities to make use of it, and because the efficacy of digital inclusion is determined by participation and collaboration across various industries, the more this becomes a part of the conversation, the better. There is a real opportunity for progress here, and it is necessary, so I’m excited to see where we can take it.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As a policy entrepreneur, I have learned that persistence is itself a habit worth refining and embracing. Some things take time, and success doesn’t always meet you when you feel ready for it. Tapping into the dedication that drives you can help, but persistence is a quality that itself can take persistence to cultivate.

What advice would you give your younger self?

No matter how hard you plan, the future is unpredictable. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared for the future or consider potential outcomes, but you will never be able to control exactly how things turn out. Adaptability is vital, particularly when reaching for your goals – in some cases, it is the unpredictability that can give you the greatest opportunities. It’s easy, particularly as a younger person, to believe the right plan is all you need to achieve your goals, and while it can help, there are often obstacles or opportunities that you won’t see until you reach them.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The IMF is a New Deal Institution. Yes, it may have evolved considerably since its creation, but framers in the 1940s—some of them alumni of the New Deal—considered it essential that it be insulated from Wall Street influence.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Doing your homework. Of course, this is immediately relevant to students, but it carries through. Always consider what you need to know and what you need to do, and then do it. Feeling prepared and staying on top of things don’t only keep you professional and reliable, but allow you to think more creatively and act more confidently without unfinished business weighing you down.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being considerate, even when (some) people don’t deserve it. It can be tempting to act out of frustration or to react to a moment. Acting consistently and considerately will benefit not only your reputation and interactions, but also allow you to navigate uncomfortable or difficult situations more easily.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve always felt that I could be a better writer—which is essential for being an ideas entrepreneur, as it were. Though fortunately writing is the one thing one can always improve on—with enough work.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The simpler the problem you can solve, it’s likely that the more money you can make from solving it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Purchasing the hard cover version of Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage. It provides a framework for understanding not only many markets, but some personal behaviors as well.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I don’t know where I would be without my calendar software.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Biography of W.E.B. Dubois by Sterling Lewis. This book provides an inspirational overview of how one person can make a change, even against the most outstanding odds.

What is your favorite quote?

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Key Learnings:

  • Hard work comes down to action. Good ideas and knowledge will take you far, but eventually you just have to do it.
  • Consideration is key. It can be difficult to quell your reactions in particular moments, but setting a standard for how you interact with others can only help you.
  • Do your homework. This extends beyond school – be prepared and do the work you need to to allow yourself to be present in your day-to-day.