Actually, I am not. Well, at least a qualified not.
What has long roiled the waters of Occupy and like movements is the role taken by the TBTF (Too Big To Fail) banks and their supporters. It is well established that Wall Street, not Main Street, is the villain for leading the U.S. down a path of economic destruction and pain from which we are still reeling.
And, no amount of spin on the part of K Street, corporate publicists, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or government flacks can walk public opinion back from the truth unveiled by Occupy's proclamation:
"They got bailed out. We got sold out."
It would seem to be a logical conclusion then, that bankers and occupiers are blood enemies. And, depending on whose camp you are in, anyone who serves to support one over the other is either a turncoat or a paid mouthpiece.
If only it were that simple
I was fortunate to find myself invited (was this a mistake on their part? Had they not checked my credentials on LinkedIn, or Googled me?) to a talk by a banking contrarian one night this past week hosted by the prestigious NYC-based law firm of Goodwin Proctor.
The occasion was the book launch of "Digital Bank" by author Chris Skinner of The Complete Banker.
Skinner's credentials would be enough to raise any OWS-influenced eyebrows. WSJ holds him to be "one of the top 40 most influential people involved in financial technology for 2014," and creator of one of the top "10 best banking blogs worldwide" in 2012 and 2013. His website extols his serving as a judge on "many awards programs including the Card and Payment Awards...." And for working "closely" with leading banks such as HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds Banking Group.
Doubtless, I would feel like a Hillary Democrat at a Governor Rick Perry for President fundraiser.
Instead, what I heard from the front of the room was a frank questioning of the path on which banking is traveling, admonitions to the moneyed to pay attention to the power of social media...so effectively used by its critics, and his personal observations on the financial system ("money was invented to enslave the masses.")
He went on to celebrate both alternative currencies (bitcoin, et al) and renegade banking systems (Dwolla, as one example) for challenging banking and its place in society.
In this mini-lecture, he added a few more -- dare I say -- progressive-shaded points for his audience of bankers and attorneys to chew on. "Poverty will be gone by 2035." "Can we trust electronic currencies any more than paper ones?" Soon, "every single person on earth can have access to any piece of financial data in real time" -- "The planet is the network."
"Our digital age demands a digital bank," he declares, "banks designed for humans, not money. In a globally connected society in which people transact via mobile phones across continents as well as peer-to-peer, "making a payment becomes a basic human right."
What I believe I heard him say, was that in this brave new world, there will no longer be the "unbanked." Now, that would be a game-changer. But, only if these mediums are ethical, human-centered and regulated. That aspect wasn't discussed.
Show me the bias!
Does this man really follow a middle path, the famous "fair and balanced" which never is? My visits to his highly regarded blog uncovered interesting possibilities as exampled by an October 4, 2011 blog noticing (for the first time) the Zuccotti occupation.
"And how does the banking fraternity feel about this annoying development?" he asks, only to respond with song.
We don't need no occupation
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm from the government
Police leave them kids alone
Hey! Police! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just a brick in the Wall ... Street.
All in all you're just a brick in the Wall ... Street."
Along with this classic video of protestors mocked by champagne drinking bankers which Skinner promises will come back to haunt Wall Street.
I am detecting...this friend of the banker may just have an untamed side to him. Stay tuned as I cull through a few more of his Occupy-oriented blogs to confirm this.
In the meantime, if you can cadge yourself an invite or a ticket to one of his events, consider a breakfast discussion at the Boston office of Goodwin Procter this coming Thursday, October 2. I believe he is also appearing sometime during the "Dreamforce" conference in San Francisco being held from October 13-16.
So, does Chris Skinner qualify as a friend...given the company he keeps...which might even include occupiers? Let me know your thoughts.