The Future of Finance: Seeking Initiatives on a Fintech Policy Framework

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Picture Credit: Business Insight Intelligence

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fast-growing industry destined to transform homes, cities, farms, factories, and practically everything else by making them smart and more efficient. According to Gartner, by 2020, there will be more than 20 billion connected things across the globe, powering a market that will be worth north of $3 trillion. Fintech is one of the most compelling areas for IoT as it is driven by blockchain into the Internet of Value.

In a compelling book called The Business Blockchain, technologist  and Virtual Capital Ventures general partner William Mougayar champions blockchain as the tech world’s next killer app. In this study of blockchain’s potential (you can read or listen to on getAbstract here), “he outlines a future in which blockchain will seamlessly underlie banking relationships, store medical records and issue passports, all through a secure process. Mougayar acknowledges that blockchain has garnered ample hype, and details the obstacles stalling a blockchain world.  Mougayar argues convincingly here that blockchain holds a position similar to the Internet’s in 1997 – poised to unleash a massive, world-changing breakthrough.” Toronto resident Bill has a lot of credibility: previously a Mentor at The Next36, Evangelist at Influitive focused on Advocate Marketing, Founder & CEO of Engagio, Founder & CEO, web publisher Eqentia and an entrepreneur with 31+ years of Technology industry experience who offers a lot of free resources for entrepreneurs here at Startup Management.

Amazon explains why this book is important:

Blockchains are new technology layers that rewire the Internet and threaten to side-step older legacy constructs and centrally served businesses. At its core, a blockchain injects trust into the network, cutting off some intermediaries from serving that function and creatively disrupting how they operate. Metaphorically, blockchains are the ultimate non-stop computers. Once launched, they never go down, and offer an incredible amount of resiliency, making them dependable and attractive for running a new generation of decentralized services and software applications.

The Deutsche Bourse offered a definitive Fintech study this summer with its venture arm DB1 Ventures and Celent, a unit of global consultancy Oliver Wyman. DB1 is already investing in Fintech and DB awaits regulatory approval for the German bourse’s merger with the London Stock Exchange.  The Business Insight (BI Intelligence) graphic above illustrates that there is an enormous amount of investment flowing to this business process improvement space. Wealth and Capital Markets estimates for flows total $19B spread over 1200 deals in 2015 and over $40B YTD, according to Venture Scanner. Also, CB Insights offers a great series of slide decks free from their recent conference on blockchain.

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All this activity begs the question, how is the financial and regulatory policy framework responding to the broad adoption of blockchain? First, a number of open standards initiatives are emerging: the R3 Consortium, ISITC Europe, the Etherium Foundation, and on and on, as the creation of blockchain standards is a key step towards improving process and margins for companies that use distributed ledger technology..  Goldman Sachs and Santander Bank just left the R3 Consortium, as reported in CoinDesk, but most members are likely to stay. R3 was seeking to raise capital from its members but already charges them annual membership fees. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bank  notably intends to continue developing blockchain projects on its own as it remains an investor in blockchain technology startups Circle and Digital Asset Holdings.

Blockchain has polymorphic characteristics so its application will result in a multiplicity of effects. For policymakers, there will also be problems that cross organizational, regulatory and legal boundaries. The ITISC efforts at creating Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) standards features three “wholistic” benchmarks (governance, legal and regulation) and seven that are technological. Internet pioneer Tim Berner-Lee’s global Internet standards organization, the W3C is seeking member support to broaden the openness and interoperability mission to distributed ledgers. Blockchain industry leaders at a recent conference hosted by W3C discussed how to accommodate a range of specialty blockchains created for everything from credit default swaps to managing global supply chains.

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Ultimately, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), founded on 23 February 1947, will be involved to promote worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards in blockchain. Now is the time for professional financial credentials organizations like the CFA Institute to become involved in these debates as en element of their Future of Finance educational and policy framework. Right now, the Fintech adoption curve is not expected to be rapid but we disagree.  IAI has been a CFA since 1989 and their initiative here is critical to ensuring that trust is earned and retained in service to the public:

Together with our global CFA membership body of investment professionals, we are uniquely positioned to shape a trustworthy financial industry. Our goal is to provide tools to motivate and empower the world of finance to become an environment where investor interests come first, markets function at their best, and economies grow.

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