This interview is the long-form version of a conversation with Jesse McWaters, Project Lead, Disruptive Innovation in Financial Services, Fintech and Blockchain at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Clips from the interview

Potential outside of financial services
“Real-world applications may leapfrog financial services.”

Getting into blockchain
“First I thought bitcoin is a terrible idea, but later I found out about its potential.”

Utility of blockchain
“Most executives don’t understand how they can use blockchain. But in a new iPhone, the tech is not important, only what you can do with the phone as a user.”

Killer app for blockchain
“Processes in financial services are not fully digitized and require manual intervention. They can be digitized, but also the governance reformed. Automate, remove intermediaries. But technology does not solve for you the problem of implementation.”

Value proposition for financial services
“Indelible records, transfer of value, automation with smart contracts. This means you can transform financial services. Trusted third parties can be reshaped.”

Requirements for adoption
“We’re still experimenting. Full deployment needs better solutions that are scalable, faster. Still mistakes happen. Stakeholder alignment is necessary, but not trivial. There is a strong governance component, regulators need to be comfortable.”

Transparency and privacy
“Blockchain is per default transparent. The direction of travel is backwards. Now you add privacy on, not transparency as before. More transparency is possible. Relying on information asymmetry is not a sustainable business model.”

“You can use blockchain in a lot of places, but where should you use it? Some companies need to change their business models. Many financial institutions seek to disrupt themselves to be drivers of transformation, rather than being disrupted by new entrants.”

A historic moment
“It feels we’re at the forefront of something that transforms our interactions, government, etc. I am most interested in identity. We need to move to digital identity.”

Know your blockchain
“We need to know about the technology and shape it to make sure it’s beneficial. Concerns about the Internet exist, and we need to iterate. What do we want? We should take steps as a society, governments, and citizens. Let’s make blockchain something that we want, not something that creates harm.”

“We need to give thought to governance. Especially with distributed organizations and protocols. Broadly thinking about the fourth industrial revolution where blockchain is just one technology. We need new thinking, step outside the box. Thinking about those things before tech runs ahead of itself.”