How Chris Giancarlo Helped The Futures Industry Get Its Groove Back

Jim Kharouf

Jim Kharouf

Freelance Writer

Chris Giancarlo will go down as perhaps the most popular regulator in industry history. The CFTC chairman, who will step down this year after joining the agency in January 2017, gave his farewell address at the FIA Boca conference this year with a focus on the agency’s achievements during his term.

Giancarlo breathed new optimism and life into the industry at the FIA Boca conference two years ago with a speech calling for a practical and cooperative approach to regulation. His approach, a stark contrast with prior CFTC chairmen, drew what is thought to be the first ever standing ovation for a CFTC chairman. And his final speech to the audience at FIA Boca that year garnered a second standing ovation.

He recounted several accomplishments, including CFTC’s Technology lab, aimed at working with the fintech community, the agency’s ongoing work on swap execution facility rules, and international cooperation on greater rule harmonization. He was a big proponent of his so-called Project KISS, aimed at simplifying and streamlining many of the rules and reporting requirements.

“We wanted to look at not just big policy decisions like swap rules, but also small things that are irritants like redundant reporting rules,” Giancaro said. “We were willing to ease burdens.”

He also secured an increase in CFTC funding for the agency, the first in six years that he said was “solely on the merits of our funding request.” Giancarlo said more money for better technology is absolutely critical for the agency as markets become more technologically driven and complex.

“To become a 21st century regulator is just dollar and cents,” he said, referring to the investment needed to keep up with the pace of change in today’s markets.

Giancarlo is also pragmatic about what he was able to accomplish and about the things on his list he will not finish before he leaves.

“Some rules have been in place for 15 years,” he said. “They take time to undo.”

He has strongly endorsed the next CFTC nominee for chairman, Heath Tarbert, who is undergoing the Senate approval process.

Ultimately, Giancarlo will be remembered as the CFTC chair who changed the tone of the agency and its interaction with the industry. Should Tarbert be approved, he will have a tough act to follow.

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