Imagine that you are opening a new bank in the Virgin Islands, said Keith Carter, associate professor of computing at the National University of Singapore.

“The bank must be based in BVI, but can work with customers all around the world,” he said. “What are five services you might provide?”

That was the hypothetical challenge put to the hundreds of attendees at the end of the first day of the Fintech Immersion Conference, held Monday and Tuesday at the Eileene L. Parsons Auditorium at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.

Attendee Jeremy Vanterpool, chief operations officer at the Fi- nancial Investigation Agency, had plenty of suggestions, including online banking and wealth management, Forex, cryptocurrency exchange, “a robust blockchain procedure,” and enhanced know- your-customer standards.

As a regulator, he explained, it’s often his job to react to these rapidly evolving financial tech- nologies, or “fintech.”

“What the industry produces, we have to then adjust to,” he said. But nowadays, he strives to think outside the box to find ways to adapt.

“The best way for us to move a little bit faster is to set up an environment where we can make changes a lot quicker to how the industry moves,” he said.

That’s exactly what Mr. Carter wanted to hear. The professor, who instructs courses in machine technology and artificial intelligence, explained why he asked the audience to brainstorm.

“Capital markets, banking and insurance are experiencing radical change,” he told the crowd. “Technological advances are placing fintech and data in everyone’s hands. Regulators and business owners are being forced to reinvent themselves.”

Mr. Vanterpool said he attended the conference not just for himself, but because it was valuable for the evolution of financial services in the VI.

“We have to see how we can involve our products to remain globally competitive,” he said. “It’s important to raise awareness … and educate the wider community.”

Role in VI

Premier Dr. Orlando Smith delivered the opening remarks at the conference on Monday, telling the crowd that the future will demand that the territory “understand and embrace technology if we are to remain relevant — and, more so, competitive.”

He added that in recent years, the government has been “laying the groundwork through research, policy development and consultation to use the infrastructure, experience and expertise from our main industries and related services to chart a more diversified economic course for this territory.”

He praised the diversity of the attendees, who included college students, public and private sector workers, and tourism and financial services professionals from across the Eastern Caribbean.

The premier also recalled that in June he led a trade delegation from the VI to several Asian cities and “witnessed the transformational power of technology in that part of the world.”

He said it is an opportune time for the conference, explaining that “well-deployed and implemented technology can also help us to leap ahead with the recovery and development of the Virgin Islands.”

New technologies

On the first day, Mr. Carter discussed the ins and outs of initial coin offerings (a type of crowdfunding using cryptocurrencies), blockchain, artificial intelli- gence, know-your-client automation, and other core concepts of fintech. He demonstrated how to use the website Huobi to open a cryptocurrency wallet, and introduced the audience to the “ABCDs” of fintech: AI, Blockchain, Cloud, Data.

“Data is the new cash,” he explained.

He urged the crowd to follow the lead of companies like Goldman Sachs and Citibank, which were already delving into blockchain in 2015.
“Chinese companies are jumping in as well: household names involved in risky business,” he said. “Why? Because they said there is a tremendous benefit there.”

Mr. Carter also noted that “money is not the issue,” pointing out that many of the numerous fintech innovations he demonstrated are free of charge. He called on government in particular to lead the way on legislation that will facilitate innovation.

Mr. Vanterpool said he hoped that public officers in the audience would take note.

“Let’s make sure we have legislation where systems can change quickly so we can adapt, so that we can have processes that facilitate better and quicker regulation,” he said.

Added Mr. Carter, “Though you’re going through a tough time with redevelopment, this is no time to stop dreaming bigger. So let’s dream big.”