On the day of the bitcoin nosedive to the lowest price seen in 2018, LendIt Europe 2018 attendees heard former chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne reveal that the idea of a globally accepted digital currency is being advocated in political circles.
Just a day after fintech enthusiasts at the conference heard the FCA’s Christopher Woolard state that, as a regulator, he wanted London to be a welcoming place for ICOs, Osborne highlighted that in the long term, blockchain paved the way for a “fruitful direction of change”.
However, the former chancellor warned against irreversible transactions and declared them “not acceptable to society” despite the promise of security and said that the “blockchain world will have to find ways around”.
Osborne says that central bank interest in digital currency issuance shows that there is space for a new means of exchange and encouraged a move towards a cashless economy. He revealed that at the time he was chancellor, he was encouraged to refrain from setting a UK cashless goal because of “lower income people”.
He ended the fireside chat by saying that although he regretted not showing ambition, “cashless is coming anyway” and as the “tail end of maintaining cash is expensive, the cutoff point will come”.
Later in the day, the optimism for blockchain continued with Zeeshan Feroz, CEO of Coinbase UK, saying that he was “more excited about the space today than I have ever been” because the emphasis has shifted from the price to the technology behind the cryptocurrency.
Feroz went on to say that cryptocurrency is at the heart of the financial ecosystem and will drag banks “kicking and screaming” into the 21st century. In the next session, Jacqui Hatfield from Herrington & Sutcliffe riffed on this point and said that despite only having celebrated 10 years since the bitcoin paper was published, we are already in the third generation of blockchain.
Bitcoin resulted in hype around Ethereum and applications that were built with smart contracts but now, in this third generation, blockchain will be used to resolve issues that are already existing, for example, environmental concerns.
Robert Reoch from HSBC explained in a presentation on climate change risk that blockchain could play a huge role in verification because “with distributed ledger technology, it would be easier for end investors to verify if money is going directly to the green project.”