Five in Five
Five key facts at a glance!
- Public and private blockchains are revolutionizing many facets of modern life: the Financial Services Industry already uses it for fraud detection and tax records.
- Business and government can leverage blockchains to operate more accurately, efficiently, and securely while reducing the number of intermediaries.
- Decentralized finance (De-Fi) and digital wallets can enable the people currently excluded from traditional financial systems to hold funds and transact.
- Any asset, from services to tangible assets, can be tokenized (recorded as a digital representation of the value or a portion of that asset’s value); this is enabling new services and democratizing investment and ownership.
- Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a specific type of unique cryptographic asset that can digitally represent either real-world assets or digital assets, and can be bought and sold, collected, or traded, like Bitcoin.
Welcome to the first edition of our new blog on “Future Finance”!
Everything related to the world of finance is moving in a direction that currently has very blurry boundaries as new technologies emerge creating ever more possibilities.
The Internet-fuelled trend to digitalization continues to generate innovative new tools and more complicated technologies that promise to make our lives easier – both personally and professionally.
As we all know, this growth was given further impetus by the Covid-19 pandemic and the global lockdowns which accelerated the need to perform more actions and activities remotely and digitally.
Some of these technologies and elements are becoming better defined day by day and they represent completely new ways of interacting with money – with suppliers, partners, customers and potential customers.
Your business needs to be ready to capitalize on these future opportunities.
To help you stay a step ahead this blog will examine the emerging trends and technologies that are beginning to define both the flow of money and the way we will work with money in the future, to help you identify areas you need to be aware of to future-proof your business.
It is not our intention to be exhaustive – there are many excellent resources available on the Web to provide you with more detailed guides – but to help you orientate yourself and begin to understand the opportunities they offer.
Our hope is that this will help you perceive how you could begin to explore incorporating them into your business over the coming years to ensure your company’s stability and fuel your growth.
This edition will provide an overview of one of the most important technologies of recent years that underpins many of the new trends: blockchains, along with the possibilities it enables including decentralized finance, digital wallets and currencies, and crypto tokens.
Blockchains and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)
A blockchain is a technology (not a program or programming language, nor artificial intelligence, nor a cryptocurrency) that offers enormous capabilities.
In very simple terms, a blockchain:
- consists of blocks of time-stamped, immutable data records about anything of value, including transactions (a digital ledger)
- chained together (each block is dependent on the one before) using cryptographic encryption, and
- stored across (distributed) a network of computers (peer-to-peer nodes) instead of in one central place (decentralized) and where there is
- no centralized control or intermediaries – all users collectively control the records so they cannot be changed, copied or erased from the network
- multiple participants validate the authenticity and integrity of each block in the chain
- any transactions or interactions are indelibly recorded and transparent to everyone while the identities of the parties to the transaction are encrypted and, therefore, private.
Blocks of immutable data records form a chain with each block dependent on the one before
A blockchain can be public, like the Bitcoin blockchain, where all global participants use the same open-source software; or private, where a single owner or group of owners create a proprietary blockchain for their own purposes, such as to track the movement of and interactions with cargo along a supply chain.
These characteristics create an undisputable audit trail and represent a capability that is already revolutionizing many facets of modern life. The Financial Services Industry (FSI), is one sector where services and applications are developing rapidly, not least for fraud detection, but also for tax registration and collection.
According to Investopedia, the “blockchain stands to make business and government operations more accurate, efficient, secure, and cheap, with fewer middlemen”.
Decentralized Finance (De-Fi) and digital money
Decentralized finance (De-Fi) (financial transactions conducted, validated and recorded via peer to peer digital exchanges), which began with the launch of Bitcoin after the 2008 financial crisis, is garnering growing interest and attention.
This is particularly due to its promise to enable the masses of people currently excluded from traditional, centralized financial systems to store economic value and transact around the world.
DeFi offers the freedom, immediacy and cost-efficiency of low-cost services and ‘borderless’ bank accounts.
Digital wallets, such as PayPal, CashApp, Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and so on, which allow users to inexpensively hold or transfer funds with anyone, immediately, and without the use of intermediaries, over a mobile or internet connection, is further fuelling the explosion in the adoption of these technologies and are propelling us forward into a fully digital world of finance, where money itself becomes digital.
Digital and cryptocurrencies are set to become the new protagonists of global finance. Bitcoin is the oldest and best known, but there are more than 16,000 different cryptocurrencies in use around the world, with more in the pipeline – each one created with different purposes or communities in mind.
A “token” or crypto token is a crypto asset built on an existing blockchain (frequently Ethereum) and which digitally represents a unit of value.
Tokens can be used to provide services or functionality via decentralized applications built on the underlying blockchain, or they can be bought, collected, held, sold, or exchanged like cryptocurrencies.
Cryptocurrencies differ from tokens because they have their own dedicated native blockchain, e.g. Bitcoin or Ethereum.
The verb “tokenize” means to create a crypto asset that represents a unit of value of a native digital asset, or of a physical “off chain” (real world) asset.
Any asset can be tokenized, including services like data storage, utilities, or processing power, or tangible assets like securities, stocks, bonds, artwork and collectibles, or property (real estate).
Ownership of less liquid real-world assets can be fractionalized (broken down into smaller units of value) using tokens registered on a distributed ledger which can then be held or traded.
This aspect of tokenization is democratizing investment and property ownership by making access to these investments more accessible and therefore more fair.
NFTs (Non fungible tokens)
There are two types of tokens:
- fungible tokens such as cryptocurrencies are assets that can be easily exchanged for something else of equivalent type and value
- non-fungible tokens are unique cryptographic assets on a blockchain that cannot be replicated nor exchanged at equivalency, but they can be bought and sold.
Built on a blockchain with its benefits of tamper-proof security and disintermediation, users can prove and authenticate ownership, and rapidly and inexpensively exchange these different types of assets (i.e. the asset may have a high perceived value, but the cost of exchanging it will be low because the intermediaries are eliminated from the loop).
NFTs biggest advantage is that they enable digital representation of real-world assets like real estate, collectibles, or fine art, or of digital assets like art, music or video.
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