Practitioner’s view: digital asset business models for banks and corporates
Recording and transcript from live event on 27th of July 2023 | 16.00 CEST | 10.00 EDT | 22.00 SGT. For this episode we were joined by David Creer, Global DLT & Crypto Lead at GFT.
– Real-world digital asset use cases from banks and corporates
– Technological, operating and implementation models
– How to get to market fast
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David brings a nearly two-decade experience working in corporate innovation teams, and more recently on DLT and blockchain related enterprise projects. He has a wealth of first-hand information in all emerging technologies (Cloud, AI, DLT etc.) and expertly knows how these can be applied to a number of industry specific verticals. David is a global leader in the Enterprise DLT field, being heavily involved in the both the strategy defining and technical implementation of banking and enterprise projects. David is also a thought leader in the space and a prolific speaker on digital assets and blockchain.
Seamus has extensive domain expertise in investment banking, wealth management, commodities and crypto markets that spans market structure, regulations and technology. He spent 20 years building and managing trading operations across all the global financial centres with JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
*Disclaimer: The accuracy of this transcript is not guaranteed. This is not investment advice, and any opinions expressed here are the sole opinions of the individuals, not of the institutions they represent.
[00:00:11] Seamus: Welcome to the 40th episode of METACO Talks. In this episode we’re focusing on real-life examples of digital asset use cases and business models in the banking and corporate world. For this, we are joined by David Creer, who leads the DLT in crypto practice. GFT is a digital transformation pioneer that develops enterprise solutions and is a METACO partner that delivers end-to-end and efficient institutional digital asset custody, and tokenization solutions for banks and corporates globally. That’s a mouthful.
David brings a nearly two-decade experience in corporate innovation teams, and has a wealth of firsthand information from DLT and blockchain related enterprises projects across a number of industries. David, welcome, great to have you here.
[00:00:54] David: Thanks, Seamus.
[00:00:55] Seamus: It’d be great to hear as usual your journey, how you got into this space, and also to tell us a bit about GFT for those who are not familiar with the organization.
[00:01:07] David: Yeah, thanks. Really happy to be here, it’s really great to be on this talk. We watched a lot of them, so they’re really good to be speaking at.
How did I get into the DLT and crypto space? When I joined GFT, which about seven years or so ago, I was basically working as a capital markets innovation lead. I was working around any innovative projects for financial services, but specifically focused in on capital markets out of Spain where our innovation lab is, and a lot of the time working with the city, working with Germany and also New York as well.
I was covering all technologies. I was covering cloud, I was covering AI, I was covering DLT and crypto. At that point in time it just happens to be almost like blockchain 2.0 smart contract revolution. There was a person who was sitting here in London, I’m actually an assist today, who was quite inspired by this, by what smart contracts could do and how they could revolutionize capital markets. He decided that he wanted to start doing this and he was using that to be able to get his contacts going and get the first projects that we had. That was in 2013, 2014.
I was just lucky enough to be in that innovation technical consultant role at that point in time. Previously it was more on the engineering side, and very much involved in the first projects that we had. From there I just got the bug, just really enjoyed it and saw that there was immense potential in this. It is a very much an untapped area as well.
I started working there. At that point in time, probably up until maybe about 2018 or so I pretty much involved in all of the projects at GFT in some way, shape or form. Now in GFT we’re doing probably about eight or nine ongoing DLT projects. Of those ongoing eight or nine, maybe I’m involved with two or three of them. Even at early stage sales.
We’ve grown a lot over the years and very happy to have been part of that journey. I think part of it is luck, and part of it is what you do, how you make that luck. Happy to be in the right place at the right time.
GFT I suppose more generally we’re a technology services company. We provide value added services for our clients, and do a lot of technology consultancy. We’re doing a lot of development work, but also we can do technical architecture. We can do design and delivery. We can do all the maintenance and support afterwards. We typically work with financial services institutions, so all of the tier banks are our clients. We also work with a lot of exchanges, asset managers, and so on and so forth. But we also work with quite a few industry players and things like automotive as well. I might touch on that a little bit later.
We are 10,000 people worldwide. We’re not one of the big four or whatever, but we’re definitely quite a significant organization and can scale to be able to deliver for things.
We have a big focus on innovation. When I started the GFT was really very much a delivery place with an innovation lab. I was very lucky to start in that innovation lab. Then in the last seven or eight years since I started at GFT, innovation has become one of the core parts of our business. Our cloud, our AI, our DLT and our blockchain offerings are something that we go to clients with. That’s a big differentiator for us, especially some of the more mature areas like data and cloud, for example, which were part of the innovation lab when I joined. They’re part of the core offering now and a significant part of our revenue.
We think about the future, we think about where technology is going, how that affects our clients, and then we go and build stuff for clients based around that. That’s what we do, and that’s how I started.
[00:05:34] Seamus: Super intro. For you as an engineer turned consultant, it was, as you say, in the right place at the right time over the last seven, eight years. It’s notable that you’ve been working with us or our clients for the last, I think five plus years.
What are the changes you’ve observed in the space in terms of the shift in focus, utility approach? Because you have a lot more context than most to comment on that, I think.
[00:05:56] David: Yeah. I think there’s been a big shift in focus from let’s say experimentation. It’s taken a long time to get out of that experimentation and into thinking about live projects. A lot of our clients now are actually not even bothering to think about experimentation. The experimentation is basically done on a theoretical level. There’s very little POCs going on, especially in the big financial services institutions. What they want to do is they want to get something and put it live and then get the value from it.
It’s been quite good that there’s not so much buzz around crypto, to be honest with you. The crypto winter and also the rise of AI and so on and so forth has meant that people can get projects done, and there’s less random, oh, let’s just go and put blockchain in there, which I always thought was not really a good approach.
The other thing was that people have changed as well. In inside of these big corporations, we found when we started that we were going in and we were speaking to them around blockchain DLT, and often it was a case that we were very much more informed than the people that were actually in these big banks and organizations. They didn’t have big teams. There was maybe like one person, usually in the CIO or the CTO office, that was quite involved in DLT and crypto. They would be given this thing, but actually they didn’t really necessarily have experts. We came in and we helped them to be able to design and develop their solutions.
Now all of the large financial services institutions and a lot of the smaller financial services institutions have matured in the way that they think about it and the way they staff their innovation labs to have specialists. This is not just in the financial service institutions itself, but also in the regulators, and also in other governing bodies as well. For example the BIS, we worked with BIS for quite a long time. A lot of people that are now in the BIS are people that came from Circle or came from other crypto backed industries. This is a very traditional financial service institution.
We also see that people are thinking less about the technology and thinking about more about the problems as well. Often when we go in now we don’t have to explain what is blockchain, what are the benefits of blockchain, what is a smart contract, what is a transaction? Now it seems that most people at least in the technical teams, but also on the business side teams, know this. Now we’re talking about, what is the problem that you’re facing? And how can we work around this to be able to share, to be able to work out on specific solutions to that?
That makes sense. That’s quite good, and that makes our life a lot easier really. I think that’s been a big change.
[00:09:16] Seamus: We’ve described a long journey, and we’ve come a long way. But as you said, it sounds like we’re still very early in that journey despite how far we’ve come.
Given that shift you’ve described from technology to use case or from technology to opportunity, where do you see the highest-level adoption? What are the use cases there they’re focusing on, looking across different segments that you cover?
[00:09:38] David: I would say that we’re very early on still. We’re really like 1% adoption, maybe not even that. I think we’re very early stage. I think we’re getting things to production, which is good, but we are not fully adopting the technology. Because the way that I see this technology is that this technology could underpin the internet of the future potentially. It could also underpin, for example interactions in smart cities or your digital passports or whatever it is. We’re a long way away from being at the level of which it’s actually underpinning the majority of transactions that we do.
In an DL Maximist way of thinking about how can we actually leverage this technology to be able to enhance the security of transactional of any transactional process, I think that we are not very far along in that journey. I think it depends on which area you’re looking at. I think the financial services industries have been the area which has most evolved. That’s obviously because of the fact that they want to be able to provide new services to their clients, and they want to be able to also to a certain extent, future proof themselves against competition from other types of organizations as well.
If you think about the way that you have the open market on the crypto side, and then you have the financial services integrated in the financial services industry, it’s clear that the banks need to also offer similar services that a decentralized exchange might offer, for example. They have to protect themselves to be able to do that. They have been very forward thinking in the way that they have approached this, when you compare them to an industry player or something like that.
There are some significant things that need to happen if they want to use DLT and smart contracts and blockchain to be able to completely move away from the current model though. A lot of the time when we were going into financial service institutions, we were speaking about, Hey, you could replace your ledger. I think this is the ultimate goal a lot of the time when you think about banks, is how do we reimagine the ledger? How could we reimagine how we interact for the settlement process, for example.
But to be able to do that at a large institution and to be able to change all of the interaction points that has with all the other different systems, and convert all of those across to a DLT smart contract based system, that a huge systematic change. We are at probably the start of that where bits of it are getting changed, but not the whole thing. The idea of taking away all of that and replumbing the whole thing, getting into a DLT smart contracts system, is probably too difficult.
But you do have some interesting advances, especially in the security space where they have managed to build these kinds of smart contract enabled exchanges, this like D7 from Deutsche Börse, where they have managed to but these kinds of exchanges and actually use that as a plumbing and have an alternative which is quicker, more efficient, better. They can say, actually if we do use this system then we’re going to get these benefits from it. I think that’s really important.
Don’t take the big picture view, because that will probably never happen. Try and do something that you can use on the side and then show the value from it, and eventually you’ll probably move over to the new thing.
The other thing is that we have different types of organizations doing different things. The large established banks are very much on the road to production. They’re thinking about global infrastructure, they’re thinking about the long-term thing. Some of them have hundreds of people working on these projects, and they’re doing it across different areas as well. Some of them are working in fx, a lot of them work in securities, asset management, whatever. But if you compare them to, for example, challenger banks, some of the challenger banks are thinking about it in a very different way. They are thinking about, how do we diversify the type of products that we can offer? How do we create something that’s maybe a little bit more like a DeFi product?
Again, some of the smaller asset managers and even some of the bigger asset managers and the wealth managers, even the private banks, they are thinking about how to produce different products for the market. But maybe for a very large systemic bank it might be difficult for them to be able to get something bigger off the ground like that because that would be a big change for them.
I think the other thing that’s interesting is that outside of the financial services area, as I said before, we’re getting more traction and just generally. So things like supply chain, automobile, even treasury, people are taking Bitcoin or Ethereum, and being able to make payments through that. Taking the Bitcoin effort onto their books. I don’t think we’re quite there yet with that. I think that we’ve got a few very brave companies that are going out and doing that, but I don’t think we’re a million miles away from that being a reality. I think that it’s completely possible, because it’s really just an accounting and technology change. It’s a change of shift in the way that people are thinking about things.
From an integration point of view and from a migration point of view, it’s not that big a change to be able to say, Hey, look, we also support payment in crypto.
Those are the things that I’m seeing. I think we’re probably going to see a lot of new products coming to market and probably things that we haven’t even thought about. That’s the beauty of smart contracts, is that you can think about different models and different ways of working and different products. I’m sure we’re going to see more of that.
[00:16:13] Seamus: No doubt that’s true. Going back to your comment about how we’re still early, let’s stick to banks for a second. You mentioned the larger banks or initiatives like the D7. What sounds like a simple problem is resolving ledgers in the organization and focusing on ledgers. But it sounds simple and it sounds, the objective is great, you simplify a single source of truth. But I was speaking to one large bank last week, and just a single division in their security services division, they had 75 different ledgers.
I think it’d be interesting to talk a little bit given of experience with different types of banks, how do you get started? That sounds like a simple objective, but it sounds like a Herculean task when you’ve got 75 ledgers and you’re trying to have one ledger to rule them all. How do you start? What are the milestones dependency to go to market to commercialize this stuff? Or is that even the point, commercialized, or is it just about cost reduction?
[00:17:09] David: That’s a really good question, and it’s a real challenge for these banks, not just in the DLT and crypto space, but just in general. To be able to manage all of the systems that they have, and make sure that all of these systems are connected and that any new thing that you’re trying to introduce does not have a negative impact on all the systems that are already running. You can’t break what you have. That’s right, you’ve still got to carry on with the day-to-day business.
You talked about 75 ledgers, but actually you have maybe 300 systems. Some of these are external systems as well. That complexity, you will never get rid of 100%. But I would almost twist this round sometimes, because when you think about the 300 systems that you have to maintain and keep, then you have to reconcile all the data across all of these systems.
Reconciling the data across 70 ledgers or 70 different data sets is very difficult because you have to wait until the end of day, you’ve got to bring all the information, you’ve got to understand where your data’s coming from, understand where the position is at and who has the responsibility in the operations role to be able to basically deal with any issue is if there is any issue. These reconciliation processes take hours to be able to do, because a lot of the time you’re talking about legacy software that is not quick to be able to do reconciliation.
That’s become better because of technology. A lot of the time now they’re extracting data from legacy, putting it onto new systems, and then they’re doing the reconciliation. They still have to extract that data, there’s no way around that. They have to get it somehow, and it takes time. That is time that can’t be used for trading and therefore we’re losing money because we can’t do 24-hour trading like you can with crypto.
I would say that yes, it’s a big challenge, and yes, you have to plan to be able to deploy into production and change the way that you’re working, especially for a settlement system to move over to smart contracts. But the benefits are that you will have something which is more secure and you’ll have the golden source of truth that all of the other systems can use. At the end of the day, the reconciliation process won’t potentially even be necessary. It might be necessary in some places, but not across the board because you should know that as a consumer of the ledger, of the DLT, that this is where the position is at when you’re making the trade. That’s really important.
The other thing is about risk. When you’re talking about bringing any of these things to production, you have to think about risk. Risk is really important. This is something that, when working in the innovation lab a lot of people don’t really think about how the risk of working with particular technology, bringing a new project to light, the effect of using a new type of currency would have on the original business, for example, and this means in terms of the financial risk as well. Not even just the technical reputational risk of the bank, but also the financial risk of maybe using some of these cryptos, for example.
The interesting thing is there’s really good risk people now that are working with these large institutions. They are taking it upon themselves to make bulletproof de-risked solutions so that when they do go live and they do go to production, there’s no complications and issues with them, that maybe there would be if you didn’t have actual risk specialists in the crypto area. That’s something that’s quite new. That’s something that we are seeing. You always have risk people involved, but they weren’t crypto risk people. Now there’s quite a few crypto risk people who are really good. I think the large banks are looking at that.
A lot of the challenger banks and the asset managers and all of these guys, for them it’s a little bit easier because they have a ledger. They might have a handful of systems, maybe 20 systems, something like that, that they link into. But it’s a lot easier for them to be able to get something off the ground. Therefore, they can move a lot quicker as well. I think we’re seeing a lot more interesting new types of tokenization coming from these challenger banks, new types of products, all of that stuff. Also from the small private wealth banks as well. Even if they’re spinoffs of some of the bigger banks, they can just move a lot more quickly. They have also an appetite from their clients to be doing new things in this area as well, including new products and adding more to that portfolio.
I think we are seeing more movement from the private wealth asset managers and challenger crypto banks. But the big banks will do it, but it just is more complicated.
[00:22:49] Seamus: I think the key theme you touched on is, and I think this goes back to how although it’s still early we’ve matured a lot, is that this asset class and this technology is not going away and it can no longer be treated as experiment outside the norms that the bank has to comply with otherwise. Not it has to be fully integrated, as you said. While the risk and control processes, there’s no exception because it’s shiny and new. Basically it needs to have the same rigorous compliance that you would expect across the rest of the bank, which is good. Some friction I suppose for those that want to move fast and break things, but that’s the nature of the beast in financial markets.
You’ve talked about the stages of adoption of different segments. It might be fun just to put some numbers on these, to make it more concrete. If we looked at the different stages of DLT digital assets in terms of percentages by segment, where do you think the most mature? If we look at live commercial offering and production prototyping, you say nobody wants to do POCs anymore, but we see a little bit of it still, business case creation or still interested but not doing anything or not interested at all. If we look at, let’s say, live commercial offering production, what percentage do we look across financial markets, banks in specific? What percentage do you think are live now?
[00:24:01] David: I think live production, maybe about 30% or something like that. I don’t think we’re much more than that.
I think banks are planning to do much more, and I think regulation is allowing them to maybe do much more in the future. This year and next year will be a big change actually for what’s going on. We’ve seen a lot more movement in the large financial services institutions.
I think at this point in time, it’s probably about 30%. It is positive, because there’s been people that have been working since 2014, 2015 on bringing things to production, and those have come to fruition. That’s not everything, but that is quite a lot of projects. I don’t think people quite appreciate that. I think that people still think that we’re in the experimentation phase, whereas actually we’re not.
Then prototyping and POC, I think there’s a lot going on. I think this is maybe another 30%, maybe a bit more than that. Maybe 40%. But a lot of that is building up to things which are going into production next year or the year after. I think we are still, maybe I should eat my words a little bit here, I think we are still prototyping and we are still building POCs. But they’re not POCs to, they’re not exactly POCs. They’re more for the sake of POCs. We’re not experimenting anymore. We’re actually building MVPs or prototypes to be able to evaluate it from a business point of view, not to see whether it’s possible, because we all know that a token is possible. We all know that we have a secondary market, the public blockchain networks. We all know that we can do DeFi products and we all know how they work. None of this is unknown anymore.
A lot of the time that we work with other innovation companies, and often they come in and say, let’s do something on an innovation budget. My thing is, is this really innovation? Because most of the time we’re just doing something which has already been done in previous areas. There are some things like ZK-rollups or maybe stuff with the metaverse or maybe things around different ways that you could be dealing with your keys, for example, which are very innovative and futuristic. But the actual use cases which you use on top of them are often not innovation in its own. They’re not research and development in the way that they were maybe five years ago. I think that we’re prototyping and we’re building POCs, but most of that is going towards production.
Then business case creation, I would say that most banks are doing this. I don’t think there’s any banks that are not interested at all. Every bank is doing a bit of dabbling. Like what would we do if, how do we do this? Most banks are taking it to that next level of looking at the different stages of what would it look like if we did do this as well from a investment project planning, just purely operational and functional perspective as well? I would say that there’s probably another good 40% of banks that are just whiteboarding it, trying to figure out what is our plan and our strategy for this? What are the next movers?
But it depends on the market. It depends on the regulators and on the market. In Germany, we’re a German company, all of the German banks practically are now moving forward with this, and have been for the past year or so, because the regulators made it very clear that they were going to be giving out crypto licenses. Therefore they can go and get licenses to be able to run their crypto. Banks, without going into the details of what you have to do to be able to do that, that gives them the green light to be able to do this. Therefore they can start to work in public networks. They can start to have crypto banks for their clients.
But if you compare that to some other countries, they just don’t have that clarity right from the regulator. There’s a lot of countries that are in between; I would say that the majority of countries are in between. When we get more clarity from the regulator and we get more regulations that are in place, like Mika will be in place next year, which has been a good thing for all the European countries, if we can have clear regulation and put that into place, then most of the banks are going to prototyping and projects in the end. It’s more about clarity of regulation than the tech worry, I would say.
[00:29:35] Seamus: That’s great to hear, because I think in 2018 when some of the projects we were jointly involved with, they were implementing Harmonize and implementing our solution, which was not called Harmonize at the time, but it’s now called Harmonize, they were pioneers to the degree they were taking some career risk and in this space. Whereas now where you’ve described particularly places like Germany or those markets where there’s clear regulation coming, it is career risk not being involved in the space, because it is no longer on the fringe. It’s front and centre for many reasons.
We’ve talked a lot about banks, but you also alluded earlier to the non-financial and what they’re doing. I keep thinking particularly in the context of the US, there’s been a lot of concerns about the lack of regulation at other markets. It’s evolving quicker, let’s say. But across the board, for non-financial to get involved there’s potentially an opportunity because they’re not encumbered by the same regulatory constraints that a bank might be. What activity you seeing there? Is that a fair assumption that the unregulated space potentially can move quicker and seize opportunities in this space? That the banks might need to take a much longer horizon?
[00:30:42] David: This is almost another talk. I think it depends on the industry. For example pharma, there’s lots of regulation. There’s lots of regulation around the processes in which you make the pharmaceuticals, around the ways in which the pharmaceuticals are handled, around all of the processes and how you get access to it, all of these kinds of things. Pharma, I think is highly regulated. But then you have other things like manufacturing, we do have regulation, but the regulation isn’t quite as full on. I think trying to put them all into one area is difficult. But you’re definitely right about the fact that certain industries like manufacturing are probably a little bit less regulated and therefore can move a little bit more quickly.
I would say that certainly what we’re seeing is a lot of stuff around retail, pharma, and probably automobile. I think those are also the areas where we’re seeing in general more focus on the use of technology, trying to push technology in general to be able to get better efficiencies, get new things out to their clients, etc.
I think that we will probably have more of that in the future. I think that we’re going to see more things that will affect the end users, not just people in who are using banks or financial traders or whatever. But actually Joe blogs, you, me, whoever, driving a car wants to be able to pay for our parking, maybe that car will have a wallet associated with it that will be able to pay for the parking automatically or maybe even entrances to buildings or paying for the metro or whatever it is. Eventually these things will come and we’ll have different kinds of a digital asset potentially to be able to underpin these transactions.
Interestingly, some of the car manufacturers are seeing this. People like Togg, I think you’re working with them. We’ve also been involved. They’re seeing that this is really the future. We’re seeing also that some of the other distribution companies as well are also seeing this. We’re been seeing a little bit of a mix match between distribution companies that are working with car manufacturers to be able to say, I want to be able to, for example, give you access to my car to be able to put something in the boot. I think it was Porsche and maybe it was DHL or something like that that were doing that.
We’re seeing a lot. I think it’s got a lot of potential. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. I think we’ve got a bit of a challenge in some of the digitalization of some of these things. Because for example, some of the more manufacturing supply chain type things, they are actually still using paperwork and we’re not even in a digital world. You then take three steps forward and move into a blockchain smart contracts world. That’s a bit of a challenge. But in the places where we already have a digital foundation, then I don’t see why not to be able to take them to that next level and be able to provide some more transactional security by using blockchain. Or even bring new items to market, the Metaverse, for example, is a big area for some of these types of clients, the retail clients, industry clients as well. I think we’re going to see more in these areas in the future.
[00:34:37] Seamus: You mentioned TOGG. I’m not sure everyone’s familiar with it, but that was one of for us the most exciting deals in the last year, given most people think of us as an infrastructure for banks. But now we’ve got this other application in the corporate space. You want to dive a little bit into who they are, what they’re doing and why? As much as you’re allowed to, speak to it.
[00:34:55] David: Yeah, no problem. TOGG is a Turkish electric vehicle manufacturer and mobility ecosystem provider. They’re not one or the other, they’re the two things. They’re on the high end luxury side of vehicles. Very perceived inside Turkey and also in the automobile industry in general, being quite revolutionary in the way that they’re thinking about the vehicle and also how it links into other ecosystems.
Everything that they’re doing inside the vehicle itself is quite different. They’ve got very good people who are working in their teams and they’re using a lot of other technologies, AI and cloud and data analysts and all of that stuff.
One of the interesting things about Turkey also is as a country, they’re very switched on to crypto and DLT. I think, out of Europe, they have the largest amount of retail investors in crypto in the whole of Europe, because it’s a big country. There’s a lot of people that are private investors in in DLT A lot of the general public are actually quite interested in the idea of working with blockchain, they understand the technology, and there’s a little bit of a different perception of it to other bits of Europe where maybe the day-to-day person on the street doesn’t necessarily have a wallet or anything like that.
The way that TOGG is, is it’s about the mobility ecosystem. They have a car, and the car is part of that mobility ecosystem. But they want to be able to provide a mobility ecosystem that they can use to be able to connect all of the different moving parts inside Turkey when people are traveling around. DLT is going to be underpinning part of that. For example, we are working with them on NFT marketplace, which will be used to be able to have NFTs which will have value inside the vehicle, so you can use it in terms of display or for other different purposes. I can’t go into the details of this. But also the way that they work with different companies and they find efficiencies through tokenization, through the processes that they are doing, and using tokenization to be able to do that. Again, I can’t go into too much detail about exactly what they’re doing. But the idea is to utilize DLT to be able to automate as much as possible, and have security in that automation space.
This is in a similar way to what you were doing in capital markets, but actually using this for flows, which are for automobile manufacturing or for mobility ecosystem usage.
[00:37:55] Seamus: You’ve made a lot of interesting points. I think as corporates get past that, NFTs became very sexy and it’s one and done, let’s move on; but you’ve described integrated this into core processes why security matters. That’s a very key takeaway as the corporate sector matures as well.
One of the things we see, and I think it goes back to the maturity of what you’re seeing is the DLT or the business units that want to embrace this technology still need to make the case, upward to management. Some of your experience, it’d be great to get your perspective on when they make that case, what are the pitfalls to avoid, what are the critical areas where not to underinvest, how should they think about prioritization, how to balance the need for testing versus the fast go to market as you described? Who are those that need to be looking to the key detractors in the organizations that they may be in, and how to face off with them, how to deal with them? It’s a loaded question.
[00:38:51] David: There is quite a few steps here. I would say that it’s really important that you understand your market. You understand where your market is and what you can do in terms of regulation and what is feasibly possible.
For example, you might not be able to make payments via crypto. That might not be possible. you wouldn’t build a whole team of people who are payment specialists who are looking to build out a POC around payments, for example. That would be very clear to you. I think the first thing is what’s possible based on your business and the regulatory landscape, and the legal side of things.
Then focus on the things that you can do and the things that bring the most value. There is no point in doing something if you’re not bringing value to your clients and you’re not bringing value to you as a business. It’s very nice to have your shop on the Metaverse, but actually if people are not going to be going to that shop or being able to buy an NFT from that shop or whatever it is, then that’s a lot of time that you spend building a shop that isn’t necessarily giving you any value other than saying, yes, you’ve got something there. It’s about understanding your return investment.
Then I would say the faster you can go to market in a secure way, so understanding the security risks, understanding the risk that we spoke about before, using good technology like METACO, using providers who understand how to use that technology, the quicker you can get to market the better, doing so in a secure way.
In terms of detractors inside the institutions, previously we always had things around data. like, all the stuff around how do you deal with like people’s data and all that. That was always a challenge at one point in time. But I think we’re way beyond that now. Most people understand that GDPR is a thing, you don’t put personal data on the blockchain and there you go.
I think that risk was also a thing that was stopping things as well. That’s why it’s good that we’ve got proper risks specialists working with the financial services institutes and also probably with other organizations as well. Because that was often the thing that was slowing things down.
It’s also about having the view of what the market is doing as well. If you want to be a fast mover then you’ve got to have an understanding of what’s going on, and there needs to be collaboration between you and other people in a consortium. That often is somehow a little bit difficult to be able to get off the ground, because not only do you need to get the technical people speaking to each other, but you also need to get the business people speaking, and also usually the upper management speaking to each other, and saying, yes, this is a good thing to do and we need to collaborate. Financial services institutions are quite good at that, surprisingly. But there is sometimes a little bit of a resistance there to be getting together and working on things, or it just takes a little bit of time to do. It’s not resistance as such, but it has to make sense. There’s got to be a return on investment. If there’s not going to be a return on investment in a significant period of time, then building a consortium and working in that consortium is a significant challenge or something that maybe isn’t giving you that much value.
What is the value of what you’re doing? Does it make sense to do that based on the investment that you’re going to be doing? If you have that and you can figure that out, then just try and go to market as quickly as possible, because you’re probably not the only person that’s also thinking that.
[00:43:12] Seamus: Exactly. If you’re thinking about it, other people are moving. It’s usually true. We’re getting close to time, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Thank you for that. We’ll just wrap up with a couple of short questions.
Often the best way to demonstrate value is show me, doing something yourself so you can show to clients why. Is GFT leveraging DLT itself and digital assets for itself?
[00:43:32] David: Yeah. We’ve got a couple of things that we’re doing ourselves. We have the universal digital payments network, the UDPN. This is payments network for stable coins and for CBDs in the future. That’s something that we’ve been building for the last three and a half years or so. We are working on that with a number of banks now as part of the consortium, but we very much built that. We were one of the first people to start building on that and doing a lot of interesting POCs there. That was definitely something that we brought to market.
The other thing that we are doing is to be able to help power banking clients accelerate their integration with core banking services. We are integrating into a lot of different core banking services and using them as accelerators. For example, with Thought Machine, we have built up an accelerator called Bank like X, which creates the almost like a bank in a box, but does all of the infrastructure side of things on top of Google Cloud, and provides the interface as well to Thought Machine.
On top of that, we’ve also basically been integrating METACO as well, to be able to have a crypto bank out of a box that can be used either by people that are using Thought Machine or to people that are building up new challenger banks and want to be able to do so with a very cutting-edge core banking service as well. These are the kinds, and we’re doing similar things but with other technology providers.
We are doing that. We’re not exactly a product house, but we do have accelerators and a few products, and quite a few initiatives like that. Another thing worth mentioning is we are merging with a company called Targens in Germany, and they have a product called DLT to pay. That’s like a connection link between DLT networks at Ethereum for example, and a payment networks like Swift as well. That’s probably something worth mentioning as well.
[00:45:51] Seamus: A lot going on. Sounds very exciting. Clearly the good news sounds like DLT/blockchain crypto is becoming a more relevant part of your practice on a global basis. Good to hear.
Anything we can expect from you next? Where will you be speaking? Where can people meet you? How can they reach out?
[00:46:13] David: I’ll be at a lot of the conferences I would imagine over the next few months. We’re not quite sure exactly which ones at this point in time, but probably a few of the bigger ones. Then we also will be having some events directly with METACO in Germany later this year as well. If you are based in Germany and you would like to join them, then please do. It’d be great to see any of the people that are here on that event as well.
[00:46:46] Seamus: Great. Thanks, David. I think we’re going to wrap up there. It’s been great to have you. We’ve covered a lot of ground, thank you for the insights. Always great to listen to people who are deep in this space with real world projects, as opposed to just hypothesizing about the potential. Thank you for giving us a very optimistic look on the way forward as well, and thanks for being here.
[00:47:05] David: Perfect. It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.
[00:47:10] Seamus: Likewise. Thanks David. Thanks for everyone for tuning in. we’ll announce when the recording and transcript on the conversation will be available on www.Meatco.com, as usual.
In the meantime, please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and let us know your feedback in the comments. Thanks again. See you soon. Enjoy the summer!