A Heaping Plateful of Fintech Takes
By Alex Johnson
Ok, here’s the plan.
I’m going to lay out a draft schedule for Thanksgiving Day and then pair fintech content recommendations (both my content and great content from other folks) for every part of the day.
A couple of notes:
- The draft schedule reflects my own personal Thanksgiving schedule, which may be very different than your own. We eat a fairly traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and we sit down for that dinner a bit later than some (3:00 PM Mountain Time). You won’t get to eat my mom’s mashed potatoes, and for that you have my pity. However, you also won’t have my kids jumping on your face at 5:30 in the morning, and for that you have my envy.
- I would love to get your feedback on my fintech content recommendations. Which of them have you already read? Which of them were on your list, but you haven’t gotten to them yet (totally fine, BTW … my “to read” list is embarrassingly long). Which of them did you miss altogether? Do you have any feedback on either my Monday 3-2-1 newsletters or my Friday essays that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it!
- If you can convince someone you are spending time with tomorrow to subscribe to my newsletter, you get bonus points.
- Multiple members of my family subscribe to this newsletter, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they don’t actually read it. So, if you are family and you have read this far, congratulations! You passed my meaningless little test, and you should feel free to scold me (via text or in person) about my defamation of your good character.
Alright, let’s go!
6:30 AM (hopefully, but 5:30 AM more realistically): Wake up and find caffeine.
My kids, who have outrageous amounts of enthusiasm and energy first thing in the morning, will find me – exhausted and entirely focused on consuming caffeine while sitting in the dark – to be quite boring for the first 45 minutes or so of our day.
Fintech Content Recommendation: The Evolutionary Imperative to be Boring
I try to explain to my kids why I’m so tired and boring first thing in the morning, and they really just don’t seem to care at all.
Reminds me of the attitude that almost everyone working in crypto (and a lot of folks working in fintech) have about regulation. Yes, it’s boring, but there’s a good reason for that!
9:30 AM: Convince toddlers to get changed into something that isn’t pajamas or sweatpants and then devote remaining energy to making yourself look reasonably good.
It’s not going to go well. I just know it. I’ll be too tired, after wrestling tiny alligators, to even really care about what I look like.
Fintech Content Recommendation: How VCs Can Actually Be Helpful
This same sort of resigned and somewhat depressing feeling is how I felt after writing this essay on why female founders and founders of color have such a difficult time raising money from VCs.
I hope you’ve read and reflected on this essay.
10:00 AM (aspirational): Get to parents’ house, the site of Thanksgiving dinner.
It’s a joy to live in the same town as my parents and my wife’s parents (and a lot of our extended family). I feel like a kid, in the best possible way, going over to my parents’ house on the holidays.
Fintech Content Recommendation: The CFPB’s Capraesque Obsession with Relationship Banking
And speaking of nostalgia, I continue to find the CFPB’s bizarre fondness for relationship banking to be extremely interesting. If you want a primer on this, read this essay.
I’ll be fascinated to see how this value shapes the bureau’s approach to rulemaking and enforcement.
10:30 AM: Flip on the football game (on mute) and watch for a few minutes until children make that untenable.
Growing up in Montana, I didn’t have a professional football team that I rooted for. My interest tends to float around the league, depending on which teams and/or players I find most compelling.
I share that so you will understand that you absolutely should not trust these predictions for tomorrow’s games:
- Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions (I like the Lions at home … they’ll be able to move the ball against the Bills)
- New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (I like the Cowboys here … I haven’t watched either team much, so I’m going with the obvious pick)
- New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings (I’m absolutely taking the Vikings here … Belichick’s coaching has been bizarre this season, and the Pats will need great coaching to win)
Fintech Content Recommendation: Fintech Logo Rankings
Another thing I’m really not qualified to pick – the best fintech logos!
I’ve never gotten more angry emails than I did after I wrote this.
11:00 AM: Start snacking on appetizers and play games.
Our preferred appetizer for Thanksgiving: a light cheeseboard with a variety of different options, including sweet and spicy pickles. Yum!
Our preferred games: Candyland (the 4-year-old’s favorite game), pinochle (the greatest card game in the world, hands down), Sequence (get ready for people to get mad), and Anomia (get ready for people to get real mad)
Fintech Content Recommendation: Fintech Brain Food
This is really just a good excuse for me to say how much I enjoy Simon Taylor’s newsletter, which is truly a full-course dinner in and of itself – appetizers (4 fintech companies), a delicious main course (the weekly rant), sides (things to know & good reads), and dessert (tweets of the week).
12:00 PM: Skip the 2-year-old’s nap and pray for good behavior.
We are taking our lives into our own hands whenever we do this. Mostly it works out fine (he often skips his nap at home), but occasionally he really needs that nap. It’s impossible to predict!
Fintech Content Recommendation: BNPL’s Biggest Problem …
Unpredictability is also, in my opinion, the chief flaw with BNPL right now. For more details, check out this essay!
1:00 PM: Sneak into the kitchen and surreptitiously obtain a couple of bites of one of the finished Thanksgiving dishes. Get scolded. Console yourself by making a cocktail.
The dish that I’m always looking to steal a couple of bites of is my mom’s strawberry pretzel salad. It’s a glorious concoction straight out of the 1960s, when Jell-O was everyone’s favorite ingredient.
You didn’t ask, but here is the recipe:
I know it sounds weird, but trust me – it’s delicious.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Fintech is Breaking the Credit Bureaus
I’m going to get in trouble for sneaking a bite before dinner. The credit bureaus are, similarly, going to get into trouble eventually if they don’t get a handle on fintech innovations like BNPL and credit builder products.
Grateful to the great Kevin Moss for collaborating with me on this essay.
2:00 PM: Get cornered by a relative at dinner and try to explain SBF and FTX.
I really hope this doesn’t happen, but crypto is the most visible form of fintech to many non-fintech nerds, and I fear FTX’s misdeeds may come up in the inevitable small talk.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Infrastructure Inception
If you are facing a similar situation, I’d recommend sharing this essay I wrote after Terra blew up. They may not understand a lot of it, but it’ll get you a reprieve from the conversation.
You can also share this awesome essay by Mario Gabriele – The Casino and the Genie.
2:30 PM: Quickly check in on football. Explain to the 4-year-old the difference between the turkey he saw at the farm and the one in Nana’s oven.
This is another conversation I’m hoping to avoid, but it feels distinctly possible that it will come up. I don’t think he understands what happens to the turkeys we saw at the farm.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Does the OCC Know What BaaS is?
Reminds me a bit of this essay I wrote a while back, in which I wondered if the OCC understood what BaaS is.
Worth revisiting given everything happening in BaaSland these days.
(BTW – Jason Mikula has, by far, the best reporting in fintech on all things BaaS, partner banks, and the OCC. Make sure you’re reading Fintech Business Weekly every week).
3:00 PM (aspirational): Dinner!
Finally! The main event!
It’s too much food for one plate, so I like to do this in a couple of different rounds. Round one includes:
- Turkey (light meat only, obviously).
- Mashed potatoes (as I mentioned above, these are the star of the show).
- A little gravy on the side.
- An herb biscuit or two.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Fintech’s Steroid Era
The main event at Fintech Takes, right now, is my recent essay on fintech’s steroid era. It’s all about the fraud (particularly first-party fraud) that neobanks and other B2C fintech companies have been tolerating in pursuit of growth.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, I would love it if you would!
3:15 PM: Dinner: Round Two!
Round two is a bit weirder:
- Strawberry pretzel salad (obviously).
- Sweet potatoes (we have a bit of a sweet theme for round two).
- More mashed potatoes (I seriously do love them).
- Roasted green beans with garlic.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Fintech is Making Credit Cards Weirder
And speaking of getting weird, fintech is making credit cards weird! You should read about it in this essay if you haven’t already!
This essay features, by far, the weirdest graphic I’ve ever created for Fintech Takes (it took me an embarrassingly long time). It also, briefly, made it to #4 on Hacker News, which was a very weird experience (the comments were something else!)
4:00 PM: Do the dishes.
The lizard part of my brain wants to find some convenient excuse, at this point in the day, to be absent from the kitchen and skip the cleaning up, but usually, the voices of my better angels shout it down.
Fintech Content Recommendation: What Are Your Alternatives?
Fintech also likes to look for alternatives, when lending money, to the FICO Score and the credit bureaus. As I explain in this essay, much of that search for alternatives is in vain (though not all!)
(The other reason this essay feels like a good fit here is that clean-up time with my brother is usually prime movie quoting time, and the movie featured in this essay, My Cousin Vinny, has the best quotes.)
4:30 PM: More games!
Wind down the day with a few more games. Definitely pinochle (likely three-handed pinochle at this point) and maybe Five Crowns, Karma, or Scattergories.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Potential Winners and Losers in a Rising Rate Environment
My family is pretty brutal when we play games. Super competitive. Occasionally vengeful. Sore losers and bad winners. The whole bit.
This essay, on winners and losers in a rising rate environment, feels like a good pick here.
5:30 PM: Dessert!
We’re fans of the classics – apple pie, pumpkin pie, maybe a huckleberry pie if my Aunt Jan has the berries to spare.
This year I will be contributing a pumpkin swirl cheesecake to the festivities.
Fintech Content Recommendation: An Apple Bank Account
Pair your apple pie with this essay on what an Apple Bank Account might look like.
6:30 PM: Get children home before they turn back into pumpkins.
The timing here is critical. Doesn’t matter if NFL game #2 is ending in dramatic fashion or if I feel hungry for just a bit more dessert. Forget it. We’re operating on no naps here. Getting the kids home and in bed before anyone melts down is the only thing that matters.
Fintech Content Recommendation: A PFM App by Any Other Name
Fintech founders have been trying to crack the code on personal financial management for decades now. It feels like I’ve been searching for at least as long for the secret to getting my kids to fall asleep on time and with no fuss.
Maybe next year.
8:00 PM: Reflect on how grateful you are.
I try to end Thanksgiving day with a few minutes of reflection on how lucky I am and how grateful I am for the things I have.
Fintech Content Recommendation: Three Years of Takes
On the professional front, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to write Fintech Takes for more than three years now. I feel grateful for all of the mentors and collaborators that I’ve worked with during that time (and well before it!) I feel grateful that Workweek took a chance on me and that writing a newsletter gets to be my full-time job (BTW, my in-laws are convinced that this can’t be a real job!)
And, most of all, I’m grateful for all of you. Sincerely. Thank you for subscribing, reading, and humoring my foolish questions!