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The Future Is Now: Christopher Harding of Civic Technologies On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

One of the things that I’m trying to do while I’m working in DeFi and interacting with the community is just to listen and understand how they conceptualize what the possibilities could be in the future for this entire industry. I hope to continue to get even more involved in that conversation, be open, listen, and really focus on the principles that people believe in so deeply, so we collectively can try and preserve these core principles as much as possible, but at the same time, bring regulators along with us. You know, I think that’s probably going to be the biggest challenge for the community.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Harding.

Christopher Harding is the Chief Risk and Compliance Officer at Civic. Chris brings more than a decade’s worth of global experience in high-level risk management roles. In his current role at Civic, he is supporting all areas of the business to develop and bring to market a compliance product for decentralized finance (DeFi).

After working as a business consultant for more than a decade with KPMG, a leading global accounting and advisory firm, he joined the largest marketplace fintech lender, LendingClub where he developed, formalized, and implemented new risk governance structures and risk management processes. Chris’ experience as a risk consultant and leader within the fintech industry complements Civic’s goal to permanently entrench the institutional mainstream into the world of DeFi.

Chris is passionate about fintech, cryptocurrency, DeFi, blockchain technology, and delivering new, innovative, and practical solutions that leverage cutting-edge technology to drive efficiency, security, and privacy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s a pretty long journey! It really started for me right out of university, when I joined KPMG. I was in the fortunate position with KPMG to come to the US in 2008 — unfortunately it coincided with the financial crisis, which was probably not the best time to come! Regardless, I spent a few years in the US and then KPMG tapped me to go to London to help establish a new practice there. I spent a year and a half in London after which I returned to the US in 2015 to focus my career on Fintech primarily. In 2018 LendingClub reached out and convinced me to take an Enterprise Risk leader role. It seemed like a perfect fit at the time because I wanted to stay in Fintech, and LendingClub is a powerhouse in the industry.

My crypto journey started while still at KPMG. I had my first exposure to Bitcoin in 2016 and was able to make a little bit of money during the 2017 boom. Back then the speculation was interesting, but I didn’t invest time to really understand it. Then, at the beginning of 2021 the crypto market started picking up again and, all of a sudden, there was massive interest and buzz around the space again. This time felt fundamentally different. Institutions were leading the charge and it seemed much broader than price speculation. I knew I needed to educate myself properly, so I picked up a ton of books and started really diving deep into the black hole that is cryptocurrency. By May 2021, I was spending all my free time learning or thinking about this wonderful industry. My friend Vinny, who started Civic, then suggested I join his company, and that was all I needed to make the career change. Why not join the smartest people I know and get paid to do what I was doing on my own anyway? And so, that’s really the short story of how I got here!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most formative experiences was probably about six months into my tenure at KPMG. My client was one of the largest banks in South Africa. I was there for a few months documenting their processes when I discovered that the CFO was allowing leveraged trades without the bank’s approval. There was also a new credit law that he didn’t comply with. I reported what I found, and this led to him being dismissed from his position and the bank being able to mitigate some of the risk that was presented to the company as a result of this scheme initiated by the CFO. As you can imagine, having just entered the job market straight out of University, it was a fairly intimidating position to be in! So, this was likely one of the events early on in my career that made me realize I was doing interesting work.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At Civic right now we’re effectively trying to bring a reasonable solution to a big problem that we see for DeFi, in that we know regulation is coming, and the regulation that is coming has the potential to effectively shut DeFi down completely for many individuals and companies that want to participate in those protocols. So what we are trying to do is effectively front run with a technology first solution that enables institutions and retail investors to participate in those protocols in an aboveboard, regulatory compliant fashion. We want to present to the regulators a solution that will allow DeFi to thrive, both here in the US and internationally. What got me really interested about working with Civic was this idea of protecting many of the core principles of DeFi, while at the same time putting in some safeguards that would make it more palatable for regulators and safer for investors. We want to be part of the DeFi success story one day.

How do you think this might change the world?

So the biggest area of how I think this could change the world is by allowing innovation in the DeFi space to continue, even in a regulated environment. This innovation will provide access to financial services to people that currently do not have access to those services. I’m from South Africa, and being from a developing country, access is a big problem and one that deserves solving. So I think what we are trying to do is, effectively, by enabling DeFi to coexist within a regulatory framework, we can give people access that they previously did not have.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

One of the potential drawbacks, specifically in DeFi, is opportunistic companies or opportunistic people coming into the space who do not have the right goals. I think there’s this huge frantic craze around maximizing your yields right now that convinces people to participate in some of these DeFi protocols at a very early, unsecure stage. As we’ve now found, many of them do indeed exist purely for the founders to make a lot of money and then disappear. I think that is a systemic risk to DeFi, and, as a crypto community, we should welcome reasonable regulation to put some safeguards in place. The trick is to find the right balance. The biggest risk to the future success of DeFi is people losing their money by making uninformed decisions. There will always be people out there trying to take advantage of other people. I also think many retail investors aren’t educated enough on the risk that they’re taking on. Consumer protection should be a priority for the crypto community.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

A balanced approach, with some give and take on both the regulatory side and the DeFi fundamentalist side. There is a big divide between these groups today. Compromise is required to see this innovation continue — there’s potential for a new financial industry that cuts out a lot of the traditional waste and actually provides a better solution for people. So there is a real need for the crypto evangelists to be collaborative on the fundamentals of this new economy and to say, Hey, you know what, we’re okay to give up a little bit on some of our hard lines so that DeFi can actually be a solution for real people. The same is true on the regulator side.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’re still very much in the product development space within Civic, working with key partners on building the best possible product, and there’s multiple reasons for that. Mainly, regulatory clarity around this space is still outstanding. We’re still waiting for one of the biggest international regulatory bodies, the FATF, to give clarity as to what KYC/AML rules will be approved. As soon as we have some clarity there, I think we’re going to be more active in marketing our solution.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think there are so many. I think one of the greatest gifts in my career has been the mentors that I’ve had along the way. And I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but most of my mentors have been South African and most of them I’ve had a really, really long history with for my entire career, at least in the US. So yeah, there’s two specific partners at KPMG. One who had left and is now with another company, one that’s still with KPMG. And then, the third is Vinny. Vinny really helped open my eyes into what is possible in the crypto space and I am forever grateful for him doing that. Without Vinny, I don’t think I would have necessarily dedicated the time and effort to figure out what’s really happening in this space and understand the future that’s possible.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The positive thing that I’m trying to bring to the world right now is through my involvement with Civic and trying to bring this product to market. I’m using my experience with financial services, Fintech and with regulators to hopefully help enable DeFi to thrive. I think at this point, that would probably be my greatest contribution to society.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

Five things before I started… Wow, that’s hard. It’s hard to come up with any at this point because to be honest, I think the team has been so open and so forthcoming as to the current state of the product, so I’ve had so much help along the way that I’ve graciously been taught and fostered every step of the way so far. The fact that I’ve known and been friends with the founder and CEO of the company for a while is kind of a unique situation, I guess then the main takeaway would probably be, know the company before you join, understand who they are, what their culture is and what their goals are in real, practical terms.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

One of the things that I’m trying to do while I’m working in DeFi and interacting with the community is just to listen and understand how they conceptualize what the possibilities could be in the future for this entire industry. I hope to continue to get even more involved in that conversation, be open, listen, and really focus on the principles that people believe in so deeply, so we collectively can try and preserve these core principles as much as possible, but at the same time, bring regulators along with us. You know, I think that’s probably going to be the biggest challenge for the community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s not a “Life Lesson Quote” but follows what we were just talking about. It is something that is very observable today in this world. I think, much like anything these days, you’ve got the loudest two groups sitting on polar opposite sides of an argument. But the answer almost always lies in the middle. Life is about making compromises and trying hard to find common ground.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Twitter handle is @ChrisHarding_US and you can also find me on LinkedIn. Thank you!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market

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