An ex-hedge fund manager who spent a decade trading interest rate derivatives is now jumping headfirst into the world of the blockchain with his newest venture, Clearmatics, a clearing and settlement technology for financial OTC markets based on a distributed ledger.
Robert will be speaking at Finextra Future Money, 21-22 April, London on the 'Blockchain and beyond' session.
What did you learn from your time as a hedge fund manager?
That markets are very social creatures. They are fundamentally unpredictable and that any system which is based on economic incentives - which cryptocurrencies and the blockchain clearly are - will be vulnerable to a number of different failure vectors.
I learnt that anything that can be exploited, inevitably will be. There's enthusiasm in using a decentralised approach to price discovery, a decentralised open order book. But that's a hard problem to implement as it's different from a distributed ledger - time-stamping of orders is crucial.
With crypto currencies there's a whole different type of attack vector that comes into play. There aren't any solutions available that can address them all.
So what's really 'beyond the blockchain'?
It's the concept of the distributed ledger. It's intuitively interesting to people in financial services - they see the relevance of it - even if nobody can exactly articulate what it is. At their core there's a fundamental difference between crypto consensus systems and blockchain crypto currency solutions.
Cryptocurrencies are about creating a censorship-resistant digital cash - there's a demand for that but its use case hasn't been found.
With the distributed ledger, what you want is a shared ledger that no-one controls, which can then represent a beneficial interest or legal interest in an asset or security. A ledger of ownership that's distributed and not controlled by any one party.
What's the future for the industry?
I envision a decentralised clearing network (DCN) - I see this popping up more and more. Markets that are being run along a distributed ledger-based clearing network, as opposed to a legacy system. There won't be a DCN that will run everything - instead a plurality of them. Taking one market after another. I also see more effort put into this space to make sure that DCNs are interoperable.
Banks will use it but probably won't be the first. The early adopters will be the buy-side institutions and custodians rather than the banks. I think the banks will follow.
Watch Robert speak at Finextra Future Money, 21-22 April, East Winter Garden, Canary Wharf, London. Register here.
With support from the UK Government's Trade and Investment body, leading innovators from across the European banking and venture capital industry will gather at Finextra Future Money to lead the debate and discussion around the evolution of fintech.