Slide 1
A French philosopher once said your view of the world is determined by which end of the microscope you’re looking through.  On Monday 13 June 2016, the microscope was turned completely upside down at a Long Finance conference entitled  “In Safe Hands. The Future of Financial Services Revisited.”

Kicked off by Professor Michael Mainelli of Z/Yen Group Limited, the session was intended to look at the broader cultural, political and economic issues that could come about in the future through the growing acceptance of what is being called the Valueweb or the Internet of Value, the primary component of which is block chain technology.

The context for the morning was delivered in presentations by Gill Ringland, CEO of Sami Consulting and Chairman of an initiative called Unlocking Foresight, and Chris Skinner, author of Digital Bank and acknowledged expert in the field of blockchains.

Using a technique called Futures Wheels, Patricia Lustig of Unlocking Foresight led the group in a series of breakout sessions that drew a wide array of connections that would be brought about as  immediate fund transfer continue to gain momentum.

And it was the result of that different view through the microscope that produced some interesting observations, among them:
  • The proliferation of participants in the blockchain space, resulting in added pressure on existing financial service firms, regulators and extant payment channels. 
  • The need for entirely different thinking by regulators to ensure the soundness of the system.
  • The security challenges, primarily the illegal use of blockchain to facilitate the movement of arms, drugs and “dirty money.”
  • The positive impact of the rapid movement of money in terms of emerging market remittance flows and micro finance.
  • The disruption to the work force.  Those currently in back office positions involving payments, clearing and settling will have to be retrained to master the new technologies inherent in these systems.
  • Tax. Not only will tax avoidance be made easier, but tax mitigation as practiced by larger corporations will undergo significant changes.
This list could go on, but the point was made that a seminal event in one part of the market is felt fairly quickly thoughout the rest of our world.

One of the more interesting comments made during the event came from Robert Woodthrope Brown, a retired senior executive in the insurance sector and a representative for the City of London. On the subject of whether the existing financial services firms will be completely disintermediated by the smaller, more agile FinTech players in the Value Web  space, Mr. Woodthrope said: “Some dinosaurs may fall by the way side, but at least a few will be around to show the way for the young ones.”

By John Anderson