The panel at London Blockchain Week

London Blockchain Week kicked off today with discussions on the technology’s potential for a range of industries, including eSports, eyewear and even home heating. Yet, financial services is where (arguably) the most disruptive work can occur.

In a panel, exploring how the enterprise side can adapt to this new tech, Julian Cunningham-Day, co-founder and head of fintech at Linklaters, asked where the big challengers were coming from.

“Businesses are looking into the challenges of data,” said Marcus de-Wilde, enterprise lead at Applied Blockchain. “Data is the new oil. They’re looking at creating consortia and groups to generate new revenue through existing business lines. What they don’t want to do is throw the baby out with the bath water.

“A lot of companies are experimenting with tokenisation for internal purposes. There are some corporates that are venturing into the public token space,” added de Wilde. “The most famous is Kodak, which has been a lesson in ‘bulls**t’ amongst other things.”

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Richard Cook, head of emerging technology at Royal Bank of Scotland, took a more narrative approach. “2016 was about technical challenges, solving issues and challenging in the public space,” he said. “Decentralisation of the business model is far more important in 2018 because it’s about politics, people and policy.

“RBS set out to build a finance-grade ledger [using R3’s Corda]. On top of that one of the major problems we have is that as you get closer to go-live is not trying to replace one centralised business model with another one.”

Ajit Tripathi, a partner for EMEA at Consensys Enterprise, added that decentralised models are “a force of nature”. “It’s clear to a lot of people, including Mark Zuckerberg, that centralized systems have their limitation and that there may be a greater demand from consumers in having greater control of their assets and their data.”

The conversation switched then to regulation, a thorn in the side of many a crypto and blockchain evangelist. Cook took the lead, attacking the subject as you would expect a man from the banking industry would.

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“We have regulation for a reason, and that’s important to recognise. It’s there because someone did something in the past that we don’t want to happen again,” he stated. “In crypto, there is a third t[of the industry] hat doesn’t want to be regulated, there’s a third that doesn’t know and there’s a third saying ‘please do it, make this noise go away’.”

Cook added that he can “guarantee” that the regulators would clamp down on all three indiscriminately. “[RBS] has always pushed for “better regulation later” rather than “poor regulation early”. We have enough regulation – people just need to apply it, and get on applying it, if we’re not going to repeat past mistakes.”

De Wilde finished things off by stating that he felt like a “cynical millennial” about the idealistic opinions spoken thus far on the panel. “The impression I get is that these experiments are failing at the moment. These consortia, formed in 2013 in a panic, are now breaking apart. There will be small islands of decentralisation and we will depend on companies linking up their systems. We need to think about how we’re going to support and sustain the networks we do create.”

by Alex Hamilton
Alex is Senior Reporter at IBS Intelligence, follow him on Twitter or contact him at: