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What would a Biden White House mean for fintech?

By Jim Saksa, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Business News

A combination of Joe Biden's steady lead in the polls and its own political hopes has the financial technology world wondering: What would a Biden presidency mean for fintech policies?

The former vice president's campaign hasn't said much specifically about financial technology, but its ideas on traditional financial services - credit reporting, redlining, access to banking services - could have a profound impact on the companies that have eroded the strength of big financial institutions by using technology to encroach on their territory.

The fintech sector is overwhelmingly backing Biden in terms of campaign contributions, although the amounts pale compared with its bigger and older siblings in technology and finance, which are also betting big on the White House going blue in November.

For example, PayPal's employees and affiliates have given $263,300 so far in 2020 across all federal races, including $34,400 for Biden and $5,100 for President Donald Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A CQ Roll Call review of other major fintechs finds similar margins at firms like Intuit Inc., Square Inc. and Stripe Inc. For comparison, affiliates of Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, have given the former vice president more than $1 million and Trump just under $30,000, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. affiliates have supported Biden over Trump to the tune of $255,700 to $77,500.

Political prognosticators give Biden the edge with less than two months left to go until the election. FiveThirtyEight's average of national polls puts Biden up on Trump, 50.5 percent to 43.5 percent, and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales currently projects Biden winning 319 electoral votes to Trump's 188, leaving Georgia and North Carolina's combined 31 votes a "Toss-up."

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The Biden campaign has released relatively little in the way of plans for the technology and finance sectors, let alone for the fintech niche - although it's far more than what's been released by President Donald Trump, whose platform is a continuation of his Make America Great Again agenda. But Biden has said enough on certain issues to expect some big policy shifts, said Diego Zuluaga, a Cato Institute researcher focusing on fintech.

"I think the change could potentially be very substantial," said Zuluaga, pointing to Biden's support for a public credit-reporting agency that would compete with Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, as well as calls to reinstate fair-lending regulations, like the ability-to-repay rule, that Trump appointees rolled back.

Those changes could fall heavily on fintech lenders that have marketed themselves as cheaper alternatives to high-cost, small-dollar lenders, even as some consumer advocates say the fintechs are no different from the payday lenders they seek to disrupt.

"I do worry about attempts to equalize access to credit, even though well-intentioned, that could lead to fintechs leaving certain segments of the market," Zuluaga said.

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