Caitlin Long ’94 left Wyoming for Harvard Law School and the career on Wall Street that followed, but she’s never forgotten her home state or its only university.
She grew up in Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming, where her father taught electrical engineering for 40 years and where she herself attended college.
She’s served on multiple University of Wyoming boards during a career that took her from Salomon Brothers to Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. Most recently, she served as president and chairman of Symbiont, a financial technology startup where she evangelized for the digital ledger, blockchain.
So it was only natural that last summer Long tried donating to her alma mater using the virtual currency bitcoin to endow a scholarship for female engineers. When she found out Wyoming law wouldn’t allow the university to accept her currency of choice, Long didn’t take no for an answer. Instead, she decided to change the state’s laws.
Six months later, after Long spent most of the 20-day legislative session “camping out” in Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead signed a package of bills designed to make the state friendlier for cryptocurrencies and for digital asset businesses more generally.
She first saw the advantages of the financial technology during her last job on Wall Street, running Morgan Stanley’s pension business.
Long learned about bitcoin in 2012 and set up her first bitcoin wallet the next year. But given her position on Wall Street and how unconventional the cryptocurrency still was at the time, she felt it was better to keep her interest quiet. In 2014, Morgan Stanley’s chief technology officer asked Long to join the firm’s five-person blockchain working group that vetted all potential opportunities.
I haven’t worked this hard or done something so meaningful in years.
In 2016, after 22 years on Wall Street, Long jumped into fintech full time at Symbiont, which developed a platform for financial market participants to create digital contracts stored in a blockchain.
Long views blockchain as a way to ensure that financial institutions gain a better understanding of how much exposure they have to each other. “I understood pretty early on that blockchain could be a way to [do] this,” she said. It can speed up transaction settlement and give both banks and regulators the ability to watch markets in real time, Long adds.
Long believes blockchain can also help bring more transparency to the financial system. Registering shares on blockchain from the outset would make it possible to trace who owns shares of stock and more accurately count proxy votes.
She cites a 2017 class-action lawsuit in Delaware in which the plaintiffs asserted that 49.2 million valid claims were filed for Dole Food Co. shares even though only 36.7 million Dole shares existed. “These are inaccuracies that shouldn’t exist,” Long said. She points to unsettled trades as a root cause: “Wall Street’s accounting systems aren’t capable of tracking those accurately and in real time.”
She’d already worked on a Delaware bill designed to make it possible to issue stock shares on a blockchain when she learned that Wyoming’s money transmission law barred her donation to the University of Wyoming.
To help change the state’s law, Long enlisted Rob Jennings, a friend she’s known since college, along with Cheyenne accountant David Pope. In November, the trio of volunteers launched the effort they dubbed the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition. They convinced state lawmakers led by state Rep. Tyler Lindholm to introduce a package of bills during the state’s short legislative session this past winter.
The bills exempt cryptocurrencies like bitcoin from state money transmitter laws and they protect blockchain assets from those laws and securities regulations. Another bill tracks the initiative she’d worked on in Delaware and will allow official records of ownership to exist on a blockchain. Two other measures are designed to increase limited liability company registration in Wyoming, the first state to authorize the concept in 1977.
Together, Long says, the bills should help increase state revenue, create more jobs to retain the best science and math students, and boost Wyoming and its flagship university’s position as a financial technology magnet.
“I haven’t worked this hard or done something so meaningful in years,” Long said.