9 Months Ago

CPRAS and the BBFTA have launched the Fairer Finance Hackathon which runs from 1-30 September to hack the poverty trap and end the debt spiral so we can help some of the neediest in society get access to fairer finance.

Created to harness the brightest minds in tech towards one of our greatest social needs, programmers and technologists will be working virtually throughout September to re-invent access to credit by solving the following core challenge.

The challenge is to re-imagine Direct Debits as Direct Credits by combining three readily available technologies: An “open banking” service, a marketplace platform and a digital wallet into a single web application empowering people with a more natural and intuitive way to budget, plan and cope with day to day financial challenges.

We have some fantastic cash and other prizes offered by CPRAS and by our partners at the British Blockchain and Frontier Technologies Association including opportunities for revenue sharing for the most successful participants and a year’s mentoring.

Interested to sign up? All the hackathon details including pre-registration, technical specifications etc are at www.fairerfinancehackathon.com.

Business Opportunities
Social Change
Source: Helen Disney

A Year Ago

Lamborghini, the luxury car manufacturer, has turned to SalesForce and its CRM Blockchain platform to help prove the authenticity of its cars.

SalesForce, an IT giant valued at over $140 billion, trades on a heady Price Earning (PE)ratio of 136 compared to the S&P 500 average PE of 22.9. SalesForce, which is no stranger to high performance, launched its Blockchain platform in May 2019. At the same time, it announced that various diverse organisations, such as the University of Arizona,  IQVIA and the S&P Global ratings firm, were all using the platform. Now Automobili Lamborghini uses Blockchain technology to digitise its process of 1,000 checks to verify the authenticity of a car’s history, with a huge database of photos, service records, auction houses, dealerships, magazines etc. The new Lamborghini Aventador price starts at $432,321, so it is easy to see why buyers want to ensure they have bought the ‘real McCoy’ and not some fake Lambo.

Source: 24Carshop.com

When sold, each car will now have a full digital record of its service history, including information on any restoration work it has had and its prior ownership, thus helping the car’s value to be retained by avoiding any potential counterfeiting in the second-hand car industry. “Innovation has been at the core of our company since its founding,” said Paolo Gabrielli, head of after sales at Automobili Lamborghini. “Salesforce Blockchain will allow us to take our innovation a step further, accelerating the authenticity of our heritage vehicles faster than ever.”   

Using Blockchain technology to prove authenticity has been adopted in other sectors for a while. Everledger, which was established in 2015, has been using Blockchain technology to track the provenance of diamonds, as has De-Beers and the Hong Kong-based chain of jewellery shops, Chow Tai Fook. However, it is not just with luxury goods that Blockchain technology is being used to ‘track and trace’. Interestingly, the use of Blockchain technology allows consumers in London, or Paris, or New York (with the scan of a QR code on a product’s packaging) to see more information about the farmer who grew the coffee they are drinking and how sustainable the farmers’ methods are, etc.


There have been many articles about how Cryptocurrencies and, in particular, Bitcoin, are an uncorrelated asset i.e. it does not ‘go up and down’ at the same time as other investments such as equities and bonds.

Correlation of Bitcoin versus other asset classes

As the chart above illustrates Bitcoin has, in the past, proved to have minimal correlation with many other asset classes and so, on the face of it, could be an ideal investment to enable one ensures greater diversification in a portfolio.

Indeed, on a risk-adjusted basis by having just a small exposure of 1% to Bitcoin, it would have improved the risk-adjusted returns for an investor. Institutional investors often look at the performance of assets using something called a Sharpe ratio. In very simplistic terms the Sharpe ratio offers a way for investors to determine if they have been compensated. If they have their investment grow in value, for the amount of volatility (the degree to which the investment has gone up and down) that they experienced.

World Wide Web
Jet Token is “a blockchain-based booking platform for the 4,000 jets available for use if you don’t own it”, says Mike Winston, the CEO of Jet Token.

He estimates about 85% of chartered flights take place on aeroplanes like this, and his company will ‘accept any kind of crypto’ as payment to make it happen. “With 24 hours’ notice, we can have a plane ready for your desired flight, within its defined geographic area. Using a blockchain-based booking system makes the process more transparent and available to more people”, continues Winston.

Jet Token is looking to raise $10 million by selling shares in the company and will operate out of Las Vegas and build a Blockchain-powered platform, where bookings can be made using various cryptocurrencies or cash. According to the National Business Aviation Association NBAA:

  • The jet industry contributes $150 billion per year to the US economy.
  • The average private flight lasts 1.5 hours with 2-3 passengers and the estimated average cost to operate a US business jet is $5,000/hr.
  • Most private charters include the cost of the empty return leg, so a 1.5-hour trip typically translates to 3 hours of billed time, i.e.$15,000. 

Therefore, the market opportunity is sizeable and by using Blockchain technology Jet One is looking to improve the way jets are booked and hopefully avoid empty return legs, therefore cutting costs and being more environmentally friendly. But jet rental is competitive with forms such as NetJets, Jet Smarter, Felxjet, to name a few, all looking to offer similar services. Meanwhile, in the $3.7 trillion auto-industry, KryptoGraphe has reported on its top five firms which are using Blockchain technology to disrupt this industry too.

As we have seen greater regulatory pressure, fewer start-ups like Jet Token are using Initial Coin Offerings (ICO)s as a way to raise capital. However, they are still working to harness Blockchain technology and Digital Assets as core components of their business models.


Jet Industry
In a survey carried out by Deloitte, in 12 countries among 1.386 respondents, found that 53% of respondents said: “Blockchain technology had become a critical priority for their organization which is a 10% increase on 2018”  and “organizations seem now less concerned about if the technology will work and have begun to focus on what business models it might disrupt”.

Glassdoor, one of the world’s leading job-search websites, has found that the demand for Blockchain-related jobs has risen by over 300%, compared to last year. Furthermore, the average Blockchain-related job vacancy in the USA is offering $84,884, which is almost 62% greater than the average salary in the USA. The majority of US Blockchain-vacancies are in New York and San Francisco but globally, according to Glasshouse, over 60% of organizations advertising Blockchain jobs are outside of the USA with London, Singapore, Toronto, Hong Kong and Berlin being the most frequent locations being cited.

KPMG has identified four skillsets, it believes are required if you are looking for a job in the Blockchain sector, as it expects to see more and more companies hiring staff to work on Blockchain projects this year.

Source: KPMG


Mastercard has just posted 28 Blockchain-related positions at its San Francisco office, stating it is looking for “In-depth knowledge of the Blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystems, including in-depth knowledge of evolving cryptocurrencies and national digital currencies”.

The demand for Blockchain jobs has not gone unnoticed by universities, and here is a list of just 15 that are currently offering academic courses for people to hone their Blockchain skills. If night study or distant training is more suitable, then here is a list of 10 online Blockchain-certification courses you may wish to check out.

Undoubtedly, there are more and more job vacancies available for those looking to work in the Blockchain sector on a global basis, and the range of skills required are not just mathematical and programming. Higher educational establishments are responding and offering an array of residential and online courses to slate the thirst for qualifications to those giving a better understanding of how Blockchain technology works.


Job Opportunities
The US Department of Defence is currently looking at how Blockchain technology can be used to help to strengthen its cybersecurity, as outlined in a report called Digitized Modernisation Strategy.

Interestingly, in a recent US congressional session, Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo said that “As Cryptocurrencies are a global innovation it would almost be impossible to ban them”. Crapo seems to believe that the US ought to be encouraging debate and formulating the rules around Cryptocurrencies. He further said, “I believe that the US should lead in developing these innovations and what the rules of the road should be”.

Perhaps this helps to explain why the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is recruiting staff, intending to operate nodes for many of the major Blockchains. The SEC has stated that it wants to “support its efforts to monitor risk, improve compliance and inform commission policy concerning digital assets.” The SEC intends to have all the data from the first “Block” (genesis) of a Blockchain onwards. To do this the SEC will need to analyse the complete history of all the different Blockchains that exist - which is no mean feat. The SEC could contact Byte Tree, which has already spent six years doing this by creating a “clean” database of every Bitcoin mined, and all the activity on the Ethereum Blockchain!

Having a clean database is not only vital for asset managers, which is why Byte Tree have done this. It also enables one to see the % of Cryptocurrency held by miners which have not been sold and, more importantly, can enable one to track down when a wallet owned which Bitcoin, where it came from and where it went to. This granular data could assist those who wish to investigate the holdings of Cryptocurrencies, and so track down taxes due and the source of funds for those involved in nefarious activities. Hence the SEC and the US Government’s interest.


Government Relations
Repsol, the Spanish energy company, has recently invested in FinBoot, which is a business with offices in London and Barcelona.

FinBoot has been developing a Blockchain-powered platform to improve the efficiency of tracking the multitude of samples that energy companies need to continuously create. Repsol typically has over 60,000 samples it has to create, as refining and transporting petrochemicals requires products to be sampled and checked in order to meet Repsol’s clients’ requirements. “Currently, there is a lot of rework involved in these types of processes where we handle a large number of samples due to labelling errors, information losses, or incorrect connections between information” explains Tomas Malango, at Repsol, adding “it allows us to identify the samples correctly throughout their whole life cycle.” The existing system is largely manual and paper-based, and therefore subject to human error and mislabelling so is time-consuming, as paper records often go missing.
Repsol believes that it could save up to €400,000 p.a. using this new Blockchain platform and FinBoot is now looking at how similar technology could be used to help other industries, such as the fashion sector where it needs to trace the provenance of the materials used in making clothes.
Meanwhile, the co-founder of Apple, Jo Wozniak, has invested in a firm that uses Blockchain technology called ENFORCE project. Wozniak reportedly said “ENFORCE aims to bring money savings on energy, but it also helps the environment”, a factor he said was important to him. He further added, “Blockchain will bring improvements to energy use and reduce consumption without consumers needing to change their habits”.
Where Blockchain technology is being used in the energy sector.

Source: https://www.indigoadvisorygroup.com/blockchain
Indigo Advisory Group, in the chart above, keeps record of various ways globally that Blockchain technology is being used for different purposes, which is updated as it discovers new initiatives. 
Blockchain technology is increasingly been used in the energy sector as it potentially provides solutions across the energy trilemma: 1) it reduces costs by optimising energy processes, 2) it improves energy security in terms of cybersecurity, but also acts as a supporting technology that could improve security of supply, and 3) it promotes more renewable energy generation and low-carbon solutions.
In a survey of 140 Blockchain research projects, Science Direct has identified many ways that Blockchain technology could help the energy sector:

 Billing: Blockchains, smart contracts and smart-metering can offer automated billing for consumers and generators. Utility companies could benefit from energy micro-payments, pay-as-you-go solutions or payment platforms for pre-paid meters.

Sales and marketing: Sales practices could change according to consumers' energy profile, individual preferences and environmental concerns. Blockchains, in combination with artificial (AI) techniques, could identify consumer energy patterns and therefore enable tailored and value-added energy products provision.

Trading and markets: Blockchain-enabled distributed trading platforms could disrupt market operations, such as wholesale market management, commodity trading transactions and risk management. Blockchain systems are currently being developed also for green certificates trading.

Automation: Blockchains could improve control of decentralised energy systems and microgrids. Adoption of local energy marketplaces, enabled by localised P2P energy trading or distributed platforms, could significantly increase energy self-production and self-consumption, also known as behind the meter activities, which could potentially affect revenues...

The size of loyalty schemes globally has been valued at $1.94 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $7.305 billion by the end of 2022.

This represents a growth of 24.73% per annum, as companies desperately seek to attract and retain customers’ attention and their repeat business. Increasing online sales and the impact of technology, as millennials use mobile devices to shop, is helping to stimulate more companies to put additional resources into loyalty programs. But why bother?

Source: Shopify

As the above chart illustrates, if you can retain customers it can lead to a significant increase in revenue. This explains why loyalty schemes are seen as being an important part of the marketing mix for many organizations.

The concept of loyalty programs is thought to go back to the 18th century, with “premium marketing” in America. This was when retailers gave their customers copper coins with their shopping, which could then be used at a later date to make further purchases. However, it was not until 1958, when Green Shield stamps first started to appear in the UK, when those modern loyalty schemes took hold. We have now seen an explosion in the number of loyalty schemes which, in turn, has led to customers being disillusioned and feeling “why bother?”, as it results in them being signed up to a “cornucopia of programs”. However, how often can their loyalty points be redeemed for anything meaningful?

Blockchain technology can help us instead of signing up to dozens of different schemes, a customer can join a network that offers reward points which aren’t just redeemable at one company but are with any business in the loyalty schemes network.

Blockchain technology makes this possible by keeping a record of all of the transactions that can be accessed by the whole network. Instead of having separate accounts for all your airline miles and a wallet overflowing with paper-based cards, which get stamped every time you buy a coffee, a Blockchain platform securely holds and enables the sharing of the data, without breaching data protection legislation. While providing greater security and transparency for customers, for retailers this type of loyalty schemes can also be less expensive to create and maintain. 

Purdue University has developed X-Blockchain, allowing customers to buy goods and services, and be rewarded within a loyalty scheme and receive points. The companies that are part of these loyalty schemes and who pay for the points have access to “shredded data”—meaning any personal or confidential information has been removed. 

Source: Perdue University

Mohammad Rahman, an associate professor at Purdue's Krannert School of Management, and who leads the research team said. "This technology enables two people to confidentially exchange rewards points from perhaps a coffee chain for airline rewards points at a rate that both find acceptable and this is not disclosed to any third party, including our platform." In effect, technology is used to “code data” by removing sensitive information and enables access to the non-private data which is still very valuable for marketers.

Using Blockchain technology in loyalty schemes to collect and store rewards enables customers to redeem their points more easily, and therefore make loyalty schemes more appealing. 

If we are to see Cryptocurrencies being given...

Loyalty Schemes
Global warming and the connection between climate change and pollution would appear to be an incontrovertible fact.

Blockchain technology, according to Gold Standard, which is a founding member of the Climate Ledger Initiative, offers three key benefits when monitoring climate control.

  • the creation of an immutable transparent ledger

  • trust in peer-to-peer transactions – particularly important in the context of weak regulatory institutions

  • Smart Contracts – applications that can automatically execute the terms specified in a contract on a Blockchain, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing transaction costs.

Indeed, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that it would support a Blockchain platform to make use of the technology’s great potential. This is hoped to lead to better control and reduction of emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere, and increase the search for funds to finance environmental projects.


The Climate Chain Coalition (CCC), set up in 2017, and now with over 140 members globally, also believes that Blockchain technology can help to track climate change. CCC aims to support stakeholders to embrace Blockchain (along with other technologies e.g. IoT, Big Data), thus stimulating investment, enhance measurement, reporting and verification of climate change. An example of a global climate change initiative is the South Korean - based W-Foundation, which promotes global climate action projects, including compensation of greenhouse gas emissions, by using rewards in Cryptocurrencies. The W-Foundation is supported by the United Nations and is a Blockchain-based gaming App, which encourages people to take action to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every month 20% of the most active users are rewarded with W-Green Pay, (WGP) tokens. 

Other examples are projects being organised by Plastic Bank, which use Blockchain-powered platforms and rewards in the format of Cryptocurrencies, that can be earned by collecting plastic waste. Its first initiative was in Haiti, and Plastic Bank now has similar projects in several other countries around the world. The tokens that are given away for collecting waste plastic can be used to buy fuel for cooking, clothes, food or education vouchers.

Blockchain technology could be used to provide the following benefits to stimulate finance thus helping climate change, according to a report from the Climate Ledger Initiative

  • Reduce bureaucracy and the number of intermediaries and, corresponding transaction costs 

  • Avoid fraud and financial data manipulation 

  • Ensure that climate finance reaches beneficiaries while reducing overheads

  • Improve the legitimacy of climate actions funded 

  • Avoid misreporting and backpedalling from governments and other entities

Blockchain technology could dramatically help to track what steps are being taken to tackle climate change. It could create a secure database available for all to see and assist our understanding of different private and public climate commitments and actions which are being implemented, and what their results could be. By being transparent and secure Blockchain technology could help make the monitoring of climate change more inclusive and sustainable, and so hopefully slow down the impact of global warming!

Environmental Services
A project to use Blockchain technology in the city of Naples, in Italy, has been under development since April 2018 and is nearing completion.

The details can be found in a Facebook post published by one of the members of the ‘Votazioni Napoli Blockchain’ team.

According to the post, the project aimed at creating an electronic voting system in symbiosis with blockchain technology, which, interestingly, excluded the option of online voting to try and prevent rigged votes.

In Virginia, in the USA, a company called FollowMyVote is looking to offer a Blockchain-powered voting package. Adam Ernest, CEO of FollowMyVote said, “There is a common misconception that voting cannot be done online in a secure way. However, the introduction of Blockchain technology is changing the conversation,” FollowMyVote has a system ensuring each vote is recorded only once, and this is permanently recorded onto a Blockchain. Another company working on creating a platform that uses Blockchain technology to replace and/or enhance the current voting methods used today is BitCongress. Both FollowMyVote and BitCongress were cited and written about in a paper produced by Royal Holloway College, part of the University of London, where it looked at the pros and cons of digital voting.

Utah County, in the USA, has confirmed that it will be offering a Blockchain-powered mobile option for those serving in the military, and away on active duty, enabling them to vote in Utah County’s upcoming elections. This initiative follows on from West Virginia and Colorado, both of which had also already introduced voting based on Blockchain technology.

Finding alternative ways to encourage people, especially the young, to vote in certain countries such as the UK and Hungary, is a challenge given their apathetic voting as shown below.  

Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/2117/young-people-who-have-voted-in-a-political-election/

On the other side of the world, a company called Infoaddicts, headed up by Dan Crane, has been using Blockchain technology for elections. It has also been using the technology for community engagement (with a housing association that was being redeveloped in New Zealand), and with a trade association in Australia to elect committee members and pass resolutions. However, it is the work that Infoaddicts has been doing in the corporate sector which is most interesting as, in August 2019, a large publicly quoted company (yet to be disclosed, for confidentiality reasons) is going to run its proxy voting for its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on a Blockchain-powered platform.

If we see more successful case studies of Blockchain technology being used at a corporate or government level, whether it be local or national, there could be a very rapid adoption by other significant institutions.

As the world increasingly becomes more digital, one cannot help feeling that there will be greater demand to be able to vote electronically using mobile devices. If this is the case, then holding votes in a secure and transparent database is surely going to be the default choice - hence the use of Blockchain technology!


Information Security
Information Technology
“Fake News” is a rising problem and, given the huge quantity data being posted on the internet on an hourly basis, organisations are turning to technology solutions as simple human monitoring is not able to cope.

Video footage is dominating the content on the internet, with more videos being posted in 30 days on the internet than the major US television channels have created in the last 30 years! Video content looks set to grow as, by 2021, every second, 17,000 hours of video content will be streamed across the internet, according to Cisco.

There are various initiatives that have been launched. The Wall Street Journal has a project to root out “deep fake news” ahead of the 2020 Presidential elections. The Washington Post in the USA has developed a “visual explainer of manipulated video” to highlight some of the recent fake news stories, including Mark Zuckerberg, Trump and Nancey Pelosi (speaker of the United States House of Representatives). The most recent project trying to address “fake news” is by The New York Times, and it is using Blockchain technology, creating a website called “News Provenance”. The aim is to see if it is possible, using a Blockchain-powered platform, to identify what is fake and what is real media news.

It is hoped that Blockchain technology, which holds data using military-grade cryptography and gives access to the data in a very transparent way, will enable there to be more trust and engagement between citizens and governments, shareholders and companies, and society as a whole. This will hopefully lead to fake news being less prevalent.

Information Security
The USA tech giant Oracle is working with the World Bee Project to develop a Blockchain-powered platform that will offer assurance on the sustainability of honey production.

This will also offer comfort to buyers that the honey is from sustainable sources as it will provide full transparency of the honey-supply chains. This is welcomed by those involved in buying and selling honey due to the recent concerns over fake honey in Australia, as it has been found that some honey has had sugar syrup from cane or corn added.

Fake honey has proved to be a real challenge in Australia, but an Israeli firm, called Security Matters, has developed a solution using both Blockchain technology and an innovative process that can track honey at the molecular level. Security Matters has created a commercial version of a technology that was developed at a nuclear research facility by the Israeli government. This innovation can introduce a permanent and irremovable marker, or code, to any matter be it gas, liquid, or solid, thus enabling a product to be tracked. To further enhance provenance, Security Matters will record all the details in a Blockchain. This will ensure that every step in the supply chain of the honey is visible and traceable.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, coffee farmers will soon have access to a Cryptocurrency called “coffeecoin”. According to a report on Bloomberg, coffeecoin is being launched by one of Brazil’s biggest arabica-coffee co-operatives, Minasul. The coffeecoin will enable coffee farmers to buy machinery and fertilizer as well as non-farm products like cars and food. 

Coffeecoin is part of Minasul’s strategy to encourage farmers to embrace new technology. As a result, they will be able to sell coffee beans via a mobile phone thus cutting out unnecessary intermediaries and, by using coffeecoins, allow farmers greater transparency of the price of coffee beans.

Coffee beans are the second most traded commodity globally after crude oil, with estimated market size of $100 billion, and this is due to grow by a further 4.7% in 2019! The fact that a Cryptocurrency is being introduced into Brazil (which is the world’s largest producer of coffee) will no doubt mean other major coffee-producing countries, like Vietnam and Columbia, will be looking with interest to see how successful coffeecoin will be in making the coffee market more efficient and how much it helps Brazilian farmers.

If coffeecoin is a success, other commodity producers will probably look to create their own version - “wheatcoin”, “corncoin”, “tobaccocoin”, etc. - which, provided there is sufficient liquidity for these coins, could this then offer an alternative way for commodity traders and investors to get exposure to these commodities?

Potentially, Cryptocurrencies (backed by commodities), which could trade 24/7, could form part of the asset allocation for a global digital currency. Facebook’s Libra is reportedly going to be linked to a selection of just fiat currencies. However, a global currency may prove to be more appealing to different jurisdictions if the digital currency was linked to a variety of different assets, with less reliance on the US$!


Ultrain is a new type of public Blockchain that has been developed in China, demonstrating that China continues to be a world leader in this technology.

The company has an impressive team with Rui Guo, the CEO, being a former technical director at Alibaba Security and also an employee of IBM. Other team members come also from Alibaba, like the co-founder, Ning Li, who was technical director of the Alipay Blockchain team, and Yufeng Shen from AliOS and Google.

Ultrain Blockchain has been designed to be able to handle high volumes of data created by Internet of Things (IoT), while also utilising automated decision-making and employing Smart Contracts via Artificial Intelligence (AI). It claims that it will be able to handle 200,000 Transactions Per Second (TPS), this compares to Ethereum’s 10-20 TPS.

Ultrain issued its token (UGAS) in April 2019, and at one stage it was worth over $31 million. However, despite the recent rally we have seen in the Cryptocurrencies in the last few months, Ultrain is only valued at around $18 million. 

Recently, the Chairman of Asia Pacific for Nasdaq visited Ultrain, which is being widely used in travel, luxury goods, supply chain, sharing economy, medical, retail and media entertainment. It already has a strong global presence with partnerships in over 16 countries. 

This is a Blockchain to keep an eye on, given its very impressive tech team and its relatively high processing speeds (TPS), which is what a number of larger organisations like Nasdaq will require as they integrate Blockchain technology into their own businesses, more and more.


Data Warehousing
FundAdminChain (FAC) is looking to massively reduce the cost of administration in the asset management sector, thus making funds better value for their customers, which ought to improve fund performance at the same time.

FAC is using the open-source Blockchain platform, R3’s Corda, with which FAC would appear to have very close links. The new CEO of FAC, Brian McNulty, was a former managing director at R3. One of the advisors for FAC is the founder of R3, David Rutter, formerly CEO of the electronic broking division of ICAP- the world’s biggest inter-dealer broker. 

FAC, which will be based in London, claims the asset management industry is over $100 trillion. It is building a Blockchain-powered platform giving access to IFAs/distributors, transfer agents, custodians, and other intermediaries, who buy and sell units in a fund, to one common database which has military-grade security. FAC claims that for a fund manager who has £100 billion under management, its platform will save the fund manager over £30 million a year. The cost of registry, depositary, and transactions will be 0.5 basis points as opposed to the current standard 5 basis points, and FAC’s McNulty has confirmed that FAC is in discussion with 25 asset management firms ready to use its platform.

There are other companies also using Blockchain technology to reduce the costs for asset managers such as AMUN, Calstone, and Funds DLT. The potential savings of using Blockchain technology are massive, at $3.4 billion a year, according to Calstone which processes over $170 billion transactions a month.

FundsDLT was developed by Fundsquare, a subsidiary of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, carried out its first test in 2017, and now boasts a number of fund managers using its platform including Credit Suisse, Banco Best, in Portugal, and AcomeA SGR, in Italy.

Lowering administration costs is very much a focus for fund managers as they continue to be pressurised by regulators to ensure that customers are “being treated fairly”, and because we are seeing new types of fund pricing being introduced:

zero-fee Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) 
low-cost funds with performance fees.

In 2019, in a report from Deloitte on the asset management sector, State Street Global Advisors’ and Investment Company Institute’s data estimated that, globally, ETFs could grow to $25 trillion by the end of 2025, up from $4.8 trillion in 2018! This growth is partly being driven by the advent of “zero-fee” ETFs, which means that asset managers have a massive incentive to crush costs as they are, in effect, subsidising some funds in order to attract additional assets under management. 

Deloitte, in its report, also highlighted Allianz Global Investors have been one of the early adopters of a performance-based fee model in the United Kingdom. Investors are charged a base fee of 20 basis points and an incentive fee of 20% of any performance over the fund’s stated benchmark.

Another way that Blockchain technology is being used in the asset management sector is the tokenisation of funds, which Deloitte summarised as: “Tokenisation allows the creation of a new financial system- one that is more democratic, more efficient and vaster than anything we have seen”

Tokenisation of an existing fund enables it to be more relevant and suitable for younger fund buyers i.e. generation X and millennials, who...

Asset Management
Investment Funds
If Libra is widely used for payments, cross-border payments in particular, would it be able to function like money?

With the announcement of Libra, Facebook’s new Digital Currency, it was reported in The South China Morning Post that Wang Xin - a director of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) – said recently at an academic conference hosted by Peking University’s Institute of Digital Finance “If [Libra] is widely used for payments, cross-border payments in particular, would it be able to function like money and accordingly have a large influence on monetary policy, financial stability and the international monetary system?” China was one of the first countries to look at Digital Currencies back in 2015. Indeed China has enjoyed huge success replacing cash as its economy goes digital. Wepay (owned by Tencent) recorded 460 billion annual transactions in 2018, while Alipay (owned by Alibaba) recorded 197.5 billion transactions.

The widespread use of Alipay has created Yu’e Bao (Chinese for secret treasure), the world’s largest money market fund at $150 billion in size! Merchants use Alibaba’s fully digital C2C and B2C platforms which connect consumers and businesses while providing logistics, payments, and credit facilities. This means that merchants often decide to leave, in effect, their cash flow in Alipay’s Yu’e Bao’s fund.

Possibly, given the fact that daily life for many Chinese people is conduction without using cash, the PBOC does not wish to lose control and see a foreign Digital Currency, especially one backed by non-Chinese fiat currencies such as Facebook, gain too much traction in the Chinese economy. The PBOC, after receiving approval from the State Council, has been working with market institutions on creating a central bank digital currency, according to Wang Xin. However, there have been no public announcements of progress.

Cai Weide, a Chinese professor of Blockchain and crypto, who has worked around the world said “China was “lagging behind and that they should not underestimate the importance of Libra, an invention that, is (one of the) major financial technology reforms in the past 500 years”. 

There is no guarantee that Libra’s Facebook will succeed, but the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ causing many organisations and governments to take Digital Assets more seriously, as they begin to understand the challenges and opportunities these Digital Assets offer!


Digital Assets
The business of providing energy is rapidly evolving as the sector has to adjust to legislation to reduce carbon by decentralising, and we are seeing a rise of micro-generation suppliers entering the market.

Increasingly, we are seeing new business models being developed to hold, manage, and process data by implementing technologies such as Machine Learning, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence. With ever more data and the roll-out of smart meters, the “Internet of Energy” is slowly becoming a reality, increasing the need for data management even further.
In 2017, Cryptocurrencies fuelled interest in Blockchain technology, with many start-ups and pilot projects being funded by Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which seemed to be being launched on an almost daily basis! In the energy sector alone, there were over 150 projects using Blockchain, according to SolarPlaza, which it highlighted in a ‘Comprehensive Guide of Companies involved in Blockchain & Energy’. 
If you look at Google Trends to see the interest in terms of searches since December 2017, “Blockchain Energy” has fallen from 100 to 26,  so clearly, the hype has gone. However, we are still seeing a number of projects in the energy sector being developed in different parts of the world.
In France, Grenoble Ecole de Management conducted a survey to ask 112 experts from industry, science, and public administration in France about the role of Blockchain technology in the French energy sector. It wanted to understand how these experts thought Blockchain would be used in the next five years. Peer-to-peer energy trading and electric vehicle charging and sharing were the most popular choices.
Digisol, based in France, is a project designed with an objective to enable the sharing of solar energy between two apartments within the same building.
Meanwhile, in Japan, an Australian company has been using Blockchain technology to enable solar initiatives and working to expand the renewable energy market in Japan. Perth-based Power Ledger has announced a partnership with Japan’s Sharing Energy Company. Power Ledger is providing a Blockchain-based tokenised energy trading platform while Sharing Energy is a provider of solar installations and equipment.
According to Solar Market Insight, the USA installed 2.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV capacity in the first quarter of 2019. This brings the total amount of solar power installed capacity to 67 GW, which is enough to power 12.7 million homes. Furthermore, it is estimated that PV installations will double in the next five years, which will assist in reducing the impact of power generation on climate change. However, it presents some real challenges for power management and the electricity grid in the USA. In California, for example, solar farms have previously had to shut down on sunny days because the grid in the state was unable to handle the amount of solar energy being generated.
In 2012, Germany experienced industrial companies sustaining damages due to the instability of its electricity grid due to unprecedented solar and wind fluctuations. In Australia, there were major state-wide blackouts in 2016 for the same reasons.
This week a company called LO3 successfully gained funding from Royal Dutch Shell and Japanese giant Sumitomo Corporation Group. LO3 is looking at using Blockchain technology to track energy supplies, allowing users to select which supplier they wish to select so making peer-to-peer...

Emerging Tech
The announcement that this week SK Group (South Korea’s largest telecoms company) is going to invest $10 million into ConsenSys will come as no surprise, as South Korea has for a while been rapidly digitising its economy.

ConsenSys is a Blockchain consulting business set up by Joseph Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum. Although this is not the first time these two companies have signed an agreement, in 2018 they agreed to collaborate on technical training to help developers who wished to use the Ethereum blockchain.

SK group has been active in the Blockchain sector, having agreed to support Ok CashBag which is a Korean mileage loyalty program that has enrolled approximately 38 million people - 50% of South Korea’s population! The intention is to use Cryptocurrencies as part of the incentivisation program that Ok CashBag operates.

LG, the second-largest manufacturer after Samsung, has been developing a Blockchain-powered platform to help improve the transparency of information about food that is supplied to school canteens across South Korea. The intention is to have details about the production, processing, distribution, purchase, and consumption of products that school canteens use. As all of this information will be recorded on a Blockchain, it will become available for authorities, schools, and parents to see what is being consumed and who the suppliers are.

Samsung, which has dominance over the insurance, real estate, electronics, and payment sector in Korea, has been allocating most of the resources of its crypto and Blockchain department by developing its Cryptocurrency ASIC mining hardware. This hardware is used by people wishing to mine Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Hyundai, which is Korea’s leading car manufacturer, has been building a Blockchain-powered platform to monitor information about second-hand cars, such as mileage, age and service history.

The above examples are just a snapshot of the different ways that Korean conglomerates are using Blockchain technology, and how this technology is impacting on the day to day lives of Koreans. The Korean population is ageing quickly, as families tend to be smaller, meaning that there will be fewer workers to support its elderly retired citizens. This is one of the reasons why Korea is embracing new technology to ensure that it is able to create high-value exports and to be able to use technology as opposed to heavy manufacturing, which is arguably where much of its economic success historically came from.

MetLife, the US quoted insurance company with over 90 million customers worldwide, is piloting a project in Singapore called Lifechain.

The other firms involved with Lifechain are  Press Holdings and NUTC Income, which collectively are trying to simplify the process for relatives when someone dies. Once an obituary is placed in The Straits Times, these details are sent to LifeChain which forwards a consent form to the relatives and the deceased’s National Registration Identity Card is entered on to Lifechain. Lifechain will then search to see if the deceased had any valid life insurance policy in force. If a policy is found, then a claim will automatically be submitted so the claims process can commence.

It is estimated that, in the UK, there is over £2 billion of unclaimed life insurance, as relatives do not know that their loved ones had insurance policies, and the insurance companies are unaware that one of their insured clients has died. In the USA, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, over 24,900 people in the just the last 2 years have tracked down life insurance policies and claimed over $360 million.

Insurance firms are looking at a variety of ways that Blockchain technology can be used. In the UK BlockClaim, which was developed at Imperial College in London, has recently secured £500,000 of funding for a platform that uses Blockchain technology for claim management, and AI to help as a fraud filter. The platform scans phone calls and emails to search for irregularities in a claim to try and identify fraud, while also managing the claims process more efficiently. The intention is that claims can be paid faster, while spurious claims can be queried and rejected. 

Also in the UK, Legal and General has announced that it is going to use Amazon’s blockchain expertise to launch estua-re, the first Pension Risk Transfer (PRT) reinsurance platform. The intention is that estua-re will handle every stage of the PRT reinsurance process, including pricing, claims handling, financial reporting and collateral and utilising data stored on a Blockchain. Using this new platform, it is believed that costs-savings can be generated, as well as creating much greater transparency. It will enable a secure record of information that cannot be altered, but easily retrieved by different parties about annuities - potentially in 50 years’ time. Legal & General Group's PRT transactions include the largest U.K. risk transfer to date, in 2018, when British Airways insured £4.4 billion in liabilities of its Airways Pension Scheme.

Blockchain technology is being used in the insurance sector more and more, as organisations understand how to utilise Blockchains’ secure, transparent, real-time characteristics. Increasingly, more transactions are being digitised and Blockchain technology enables the insurance companies to offer products that are more suitable and efficient in our digital economy.


International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) is exploring how it can use a Blockchain-powered platform called Elenev01, from India, in an effort to see how small Indian farmers can improve their productivity and revenue from selling the crops they are growing.

These improvements are hoped to be achieved by reducing the number of intermediaries involved,and allowing farmers to have more information about price of goods and connecting them with potential retailers, which is increasingly vital as merchants are being asked to prove the provenance of the goods they are selling. 

Blockchain technology is also being used to record and share farm-data as, by having one trusted secure ledger of information, it eliminates the challenges that are so common in the childhood game of “Chinese whispers”. Data and information on crop yields, soil conditions, moisture levels, etc., can easily be misinterpreted, as records are passed from the farm through a chain of different third parties so that, after three of four times, this information can easily be misunderstood from what the actual real data is saying. The Kansa State University has produced a report that offers a summary of some of the above challenges and how Blockchain technology is able to address them. Blockchain technology is able to help agricultural supply-chains to track the provenance of agricultural goods and, using sensors and Internet of Things (IoT), it is possible to monitor the conditions that goods have been kept in, from farm to retailer.

In Sri Lanka, Aon, the global insurance firm, has teamed up with Oxfam and Etherisc to offer insurance to 200 small farmers so they can protect themselves from damage to their crops due to extreme weather. Bojan Kolundzija, the country director of Oxfam in Sri Lanka has said “Allowing farmers to access the blockchain platform is an important milestone that is bringing an effective and affordable risk transfer mechanism to a large portion of the Sri Lanka economy.”

Blockchain technology is able to automate much of the traditional claims process, as the farmer will not need to submit a claim and the insurer will not need to incur the cost of sending claims’ adjusters to inspect the damage. Therefore, the cost of processing and handling the claim is faster, cheaper, and more trust is generated. Thus confidence is created to encourage smaller and often less-sophisticated farmers to protect their livelihoods.

Netflix has produced a documentary to explain who some of the people who have been pioneering Blockchain technology and who are the early adopters of different Digital Assets. 

It is thought the Netflix documentary will help to inform most people who have no idea about Digital Assets, other than what they have heard about Bitcoin. Unfortunately, most people associate Blockchain, Bitcoin, Ponzi schemes, Money laundering, and other nefarious activities altogether. To be fair this may be due to Bitcoin being used as a choice of currency on the illegal and now closed “Silk road” website.

As Blockchain technology and Digital Assets are being used by governments and multinational corporations, we are all going to be exposed and I suspect using this technology and new asset class more and more.

To see this TV show go to https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80154500

The labour market in Asia is changing, and according to the headhunter Korn Ferry, by 2020 the Asia Pacific region (APAC) will face a labour shortage of 12.3 million workers at an annual opportunity cost of US$4.2 trillion!

Blockchain technology is playing an ever-increasing role in Asia, and this was highlighted in a report from LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s report has broken down what they understand to be the three most prevalent skills country by country compared to the average in the APAC region.

As the graphic indicates, Blockchain skills are required in a number of different countries.

LinkedIn analysed the skills listed by its members from the APAC region over the last five years to identify the top 10 rising skills. They found Blockchain to be the fastest growing skill in Singapore and among the top three in China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Although this ought to come as no surprise, as a report back in 2017 by Cognizant identified up to 88% of financial businesses in Asia Pacific who believed blockchain to be important to the industry’s future. This was further supported by Global Market Insights in 2018, who predicted that the Blockchain-based industry in Asia Pacific to be worth about $16 billion by 2024, with the healthcare market contributing at least $1.4 billion.

Currently, Singapore is 7th globally out of all the governments measured by the E-Government Development Index (EGDI). The EGDI has been designed as a way to measure how much governments are embracing digital technology to promote access to public services for their citizens. It is thought that Blockchain technology will be able to offer greater transparency and so help fight corruption and fraud.

As an article in Asian Block review summed up: “British politician Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, it may be preferable to trust technology instead of people.”


Labour Market
The Shoppers Drug Mart, which is the biggest drug store in Canada, has over 1,200 shops and has turned to Blockchain technology to help verify the provenance of cannabis supplies - as this is vital for patients using cannabis for medical purposes.

A Blockchain platform offers the promise of greater transparency of supplies while not compromising the privacy of users.

While medical cannabis has been legal since 2001 in Canada, using cannabis for recreational purposes was only legalised in 2018. According to government data, 5.4 million Canadians have bought cannabis since October 2018, and 600,000 have done so for the first time. However, the Canadian government is insisting that companies keep a monthly record on how much marijuana they have grown, harvested, sold, destroyed, used for research purposes or lost to theft. 

Cannabis sales are expected to reach over Can$7 billion next year and given the various data hacks and cyber-attacks the Canadian government are looking at how a Blockchain-powered platform can help both the private and public sector maintain confidence and reporting in this recently legalised industry. Canada is one of the first governments to legalise recreational use of cannabis, so no doubt other countries are monitoring the pros and cons in order to decide if they legalise cannabis for recreational use too!


Supply Chain