Moving industries on public blockchains
Recording and transcript from live event on 9th of March 2023
For this episode of Metaco Talks, we are joined by Paul Brody, Global Blockchain Leader at EY. Based out of San Francisco, Paul is responsible for driving EY’s initiatives and investments in blockchain technology across consulting, audit, and tax business lines, including the build out of EY’s first global SaaS platform Blockchain.EY.com.
Privacy-first, permissionless, open blockchains;
Blockchain, digital asset & DeFi use cases in financial services;
Mass adoption & use cases for corporates across all industries.
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With Brody at the helm, EY was the first Big 4 firm to commit to public blockchains such as Ethereum. Since then, it has launched public blockchain solutions, including participating in the creation of the Baseline protocol alongside ConsenSys and Microsoft, which aims to help enterprises adopt the public blockchain. He also helped build the industry’s first smart contract testing platform and first on-chain audit platform. Paul also led the pioneering efforts in creating Nightfall, a breakthrough technology that brings the benefits of privacy to the Ethereum network and Starlight, a prototype private business logic compiler. Both technologies were open sourced to boost awareness of public blockchains as well as confidence in their security and transparency.
Brody is an established thought leader in the blockchain space and has been a regular contributor and author to CoinDesk since 2018, with c.50 published blogs on a broad range of blockchain topics.
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 the 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 35th episode of Metaco Talks. Today we’re speaking with Paul Brody, Global Blockchain leader at EY based out of San Francisco. Paul is responsible for driving EY’s initiatives and investment in blockchain technology across consulting, audit, and tax business lines, including the builder of EY’s first global SaaS platform, www.blockchain.ey.com.
With him at the helm, EY was the first firm to commit to public blockchains such as Ethereum, and since then it has launched Public Blockchain Solutions, including participating in the creation of the baseline protocol alongside Consensys and Microsoft, and has also helped build industry’s first smart contract testing platform and first on chain audit platform, as well as being responsible for other industry leading technologies including the Nightfall and Starlight platforms.
Paul, welcome to Metaco Talks.
[00:01:00] Paul: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:03] Seamus: Okay. Well, let’s dive right in. Can we start with a little bit of your background? I’m mean full-time, EY blockchain leads since 2016. It’s pretty early from an institutional perspective to make that bet. How’d you get there?
[00:01:14] Paul: I got there actually because I went down this like blockchain rabbit hole all the way back really starting in 2013. I was working at IBM as the VP and the head of Global Electronics industry, and we were starting to talk to clients about handling the complexity of large scale IoT networks.
One of the things we realized, we had these a-ha moments, hey, these smart devices that we’re carrying, they’re idle most of the time. The same chips that power smart devices are going in light bulbs and doorknobs and washing machines. I had a client, Samsung, they said, “We just need fundamentally a cheaper way to run our large-scale computing business for all these IoT networks. These devices are going to be in service for years, it costs money. It’s not a big deal when you have like $1000 smartphone, but it starts to be a really big deal when you have say a billion light bulbs that are likely to last about 10 years.” They were starting to think very strategically about the future. We started to think about distributed computing infrastructure where these devices would manage themselves.
As you know, there’s quite a lot of these different distributed computing infrastructures out there. We started to look at Bitcoin and a couple of other things, and we were interested in Bitcoin. We used to sit around, we used to joke, we said, “The cool thing about crypto and blockchain systems is, in some ways they’re very inefficient. But does it matter if they’re inefficient?” Because you know, you’ve got all these devices, they’re idle. We would always joke with like, “Hey, I don’t know what anyone’s going to pay for with the internet of things, but somebody will figure it out and when they do they’ll be so happy they have payments and accounts.”
About halfway through the project, sometime in 2014, one of my colleagues came to me and said, “I’ve met this guy, he’s a little strange, but I think you’d really like him. He wants to do Bitcoin, but for computing.” I was like, “Well, this sounds really interesting. I want to meet him.”
I met Vitalik Buterin. In fact, I met him a couple times. Funny thing was it was actually in Switzerland, he came to the IBM lab I think in Zurich, and we worked together a little bit. He worked with our team as well. It was eye-opening and it was a lot of fun. We switched over from thinking about Bitcoin to really focusing on Ethereum, and we built this prototype platform for Samsung based on the alpha version of Ethereum. Then we added some other features like messaging and BitTorrent. We integrated BitTorrent in there because we wanted large file transfer.
We showed it off in January of 2015 at CES. I went down that rabbit hole and I knew, once I had really understood it, I was like, this is transformational. This is transformational, this is on a par with the arrival of mobile data or ERP or supply chain planning. I knew at that point that was something I wanted to go really invest my time in. I left IBM in large part because IBM didn’t want me to really focus on that. They wanted me much more focused on mobile, I wanted to do blockchain. I went to EY where they expressed a great interest in mobile and IOT and blockchain, and EY was trying to become much more tech-centric and tech driven. It took me about a year after arriving at EY to convince our senior leadership that we shouldn’t just do a little bit of blockchain stuff, we should take it very seriously and it should be one of our foundational technology plays alongside AI and 5G.
[00:04:46] Seamus: Fascinating journey. Particularly moving from IBM, which now is fully embracing this space, to EY.
As you said, you made some personal bets in this space, and then you’ve been driving some of those, let’s say institutional bets in EY. Are you able to give us a background of what those issues are and how EY’s position, the value chain, what kinds of solutions they offer, and particularly how did you convince them about public chains and permission chains? That was completely out of the ordinary in 2017.
[00:05:13] Paul: We’ve been zeroed in on public chain for a while. Here I think some of my background as a bit of a history nerd and a technology nerd, and a strategy guy, had some roles to play. I’ve had a lot of experience. I started my career at McKinsey. I spent a lot of time at IBM, which is a tech company that’s steeped in history. My mother was a mainframe software developer, my father was a nuclear physicist. I have a lot of this tech history in my life.
I started to look at blockchains, and I’m a big believer in this idea that history repeats. It doesn’t repeat exactly, but as they say, it rhymes. We went through this before. In the early days of the internet. People were like, wow, the internet’s crazy, it’s chaotic. But in the end, open networks do tend to triumph over closed networks. There were several key insights I had. Number one, open networks tend to triumph over closed networks, because people don’t want to join somebody else’s proprietary closed network.
Secondly, network technologies are natural monopolies. One of these standard articles of faith you will hear people in the world of blockchain say is, oh, we’re going to live in the multi-chain world. No, we don’t live in the multi-network world. TCP IP started out as a system to connect networks, but in the end it ended up as the network, as the dominant network protocol. Network technologies are just fundamentally natural monopolies. If you’re going to have a natural monopoly, that means there’s going to be just one winner.
Historically, by the way, that single winner has tended to emerge within about a decade of the start of a platform ecosystem. Here we are in, and we were there in like 2016, 2017, 5 or 6 years into the world of blockchain ecosystems, and Ethereum was absolutely dominant, and continues to be very dominant.
Then finally there was a bit of the strategy consultant in me who said, do I want to be pretty good at 10 different systems, or do I want to be the best at one? Taking a page from that GE mentality, I said, there’s only going to be one probably big winner in the long run, it’s going to be a public network. If we are going to play in this business, we should be the best at Ethereum, not pretty good at 10 different chains. When I took that logic to our senior leadership, they were like, “Yeah, we can get behind that.” I will not lie however, it was brutal. I spent, I feel like a lot of the last 6 or 7 years often being the unpopular guy in the room saying, “No, we’re not doing it on Hyperledger. No, we’re not doing it on this. We’re not doing it on that.”
Some of the companies that run these private blockchain ecosystems, they went to the trouble of tracking down the Chairman of EY at home on the weekend to complain about me. I’m deeply honored by that. But at the end of the day, and I’m so grateful to our senior leadership, they response always was, “Listen, we’ve made our play. We’re doing something a little atypical for consulting firms who love to say that they’re completely agnostic. We’re not agnostic. We’ve called a play, we’ve built some solutions.”
Then lastly, very importantly, the last big play that we have is we looked at Ethereum and we said, what’s missing? Everyone’s trying to make Ethereum more scalable. But if you come from an enterprise software background as I do, the first thing you look at when you see Ethereum is, no privacy, right? Privacy is foundational for enterprises. Individuals don’t see the care as much, but Enterprises must have it. We have been really laser focused on one key contribution to the ecosystem as a whole, which is our privacy technology.
That’s just a little bit of the history and how we got.
[00:09:05] Seamus: Fascinating journey. I want to dive into privacy, but before we do, you mentioned something about typically an analogous look at other technologies, typically takes about 10 years for a network to dominate. When you think about that in our space, are you thinking Ethereum or it’s a broader EVM ecosystem?
[00:09:19] Paul: I’m thinking Ethereum. The reason I’m thinking Ethereum is when you hear people say EVM compatible, one of the things that I think a lot about is these compilers that used to exist, these cross-platform compilers that would exist for like mobile applications. What I observed, and you heard really top-notch people in the Valley talk about this, which is, cross-platform application tools produce mediocre applications. Because they’re driven to the lowest common denominator, they don’t perform well. Indeed we’ve really seen that the top performers, if you go look at the mobile space, they use cross platform tools. They build natively on Android and they build natively on iOS. I really think if you’re going to make amazing applications, you’ve got to build natively in the stack. By the way, EVM compatible isn’t an absolutely perfect guarantee. If you want EVM compatible, you should really just be doing it on an Ethereum or an Ethereum layer two.
[00:10:21] Seamus: Good explanation. Going back to that the privacy angle, I recently listened to you, I think it was last month, on Bankless podcast, talked a lot about this. You’ve spoken about the biggest opportunity in the future and challenge is to have corporate data and processes in permissionless and open blockchains, but in a way there’s privacy first as you alluded to, and not attractive to bad actors obviously. Can you dive into that a bit more and expand on that?
[00:10:44] Paul: Enterprise transactions, if you think about how two companies interact with each other, it’s almost always that one buys something from the other. I would say the entire world of business boils down to, I’ve got money, you’ve got stuff.
Unlike financial markets where it’s a swap, in enterprise markets, it’s actually money for stop exchange under the terms of a business agreement. I need to do a couple things. First of all, I need to be very good at articulating what the money is and what the stuff is, and tokenization is fantastic for that. I do want to come back to tokenization a bit because tokenization is a step change in how enterprises can think about their money and their stuff.
But then also enterprises are very good internally using ERP. They’re good at setting rules and process, like, hey, we have a preferred shipping company, you’re always going to buy from them. Then the ERP enforces it, it makes it hard for you to pick from something else. With smart contacts, I could take that same process consistency and operational consistency, and I could apply it across my business ecosystem. I could do it in a way that’s very consistent and operational. I could make sure, for example, if we negotiated in a volume discount, I always get that discount because I can write it into the smart contract.
But no enterprise wants to be able to do that in front of everybody else. If you think about it, there’s two really important things. Number one, when you buy a device or when a company launches a device, everybody tears it apart immediately, and you know who’s making the parts in it, somebody’s got to guess at how much it costs. We know that not everything companies can do is secret. But it’s very sensitive, how many widgets did you buy? Where are they now? What’s your average price that you paid for them? Those are some of the most sensitive secrets in a business. Therefore you’ve got to be able to execute these transfers and you’ve got to be able to keep the rules of your business agreements really secret so that your competition cannot see them.
Those are the key strategic goals. Then we had a secondary goal, EY we’re like the boy scouts of this space. Like, we have to be cleaner than clean. There’s a democratic part of me, small democracy favor person who loves this idea of permissionless. This permissionless is so important. I really fundamentally believe, I have a phrase that says there’s no such thing as permissioned innovation. Doesn’t exist. Permissionless is important, but at the same time I do not want our systems that we’ve built, and we have built really great privacy systems, much better than just a mixer, we’ve built them to be as permissionless as possible, but we don’t want them to be attractive to bad actors. This is something that probably pushed back our whole launch by three or four months as we thought about.
Where we ended up was taking a page from the internet. On the internet, anybody can use the internet. But if you want to be reasonably trusted by other people, you need an SSL certificate. Every website has an SSL certificate. The beauty of SSL certificates and X59, they themselves are a public and permissionless open standard. Anybody can get them provided you can meet the requirements. You can get them. There’s no central controlling entity that’s in charge of these. Instead, there are many companies that issue them, and they all make the same efforts to follow the same procedure. What we said was for Nightfall, which is our layer two privacy enabled rollup that’s running on Ethereum and the polygon proof of state network, if you want to use it you have to have an enterprise certificate from one of these entities.
In this way, I believe we’ve met a requirement to remain fundamentally permissionless. But because you can’t get one of those certificates without showing your enterprise information, without showing your individual identity and having it screened against various sanctions lists, it’s very unattractive to bad actors. Because you get privacy in your transactions, but you don’t get anonym.
[00:15:04] Seamus: Interesting path where we’re going then. I can imagine a lot of applications that company A, as you said doesn’t want company B seeing what they’re doing. Then you can do this with confidence now in the public forum.
When we look at the space, it seems to us basically that the financial sector is the first really thinking about adopting this at scale. What use cases do you see the banks looking at? Banks and FIs, and maybe give some context to the projects you looked at. What problems are they solving, the incentives they have, and what are the challenges they’re facing in this space?
[00:15:32] Paul: There’s an incredible range. We’re having so many good conversations with financial institutions. Some of this stuff is very basic. It’s like, how do I do DeFi with privacy?
One thing that a lot of people don’t really love is the fact that a lot of the blockchain ecosystem, it’s really easy to figure out who’s doing what to whom. As an individual user, if I use a wallet that’s not linked to my ENS address, I can make a few transactions in a way that is largely anonymous. But if I’m a private equity investor, I’m a serious family office and I’m starting to buy a million dollars of stuff, it’s impossible to hide. People will track you down. You’re creating too much of a trail. Some of this is just people want to have their proprietary trading strategies kept proprietary. Some of this stuff we’re talking to is there’s just clients who want to do this that way.
Second thing is non-fungible and low liquidity items. Again, people don’t always want to disclose all the prices, but they want to have transactions. With Nightfall, you can do that. We’re talking to quite a few start-ups that are trying to do low liquidity, things like that. Anything related to an NFT if you want privacy, you’ve got to do in Nightfall. Mixers only work with like ERC 20s, and they also make you a bit of a target as well if you’re seen using a mixer. Non-fungible stuff in financial services.
Where we have a lot of interest is we are a little bit unique in that we’re still very interested in the industrial side of things, manufacturing, supply chain traceability, inventory management. A lot of the banks that we’re talking to have been trying to figure out how do we get in the business of financing assets, real world assets, that are on chain? We’re just at the cusp of a big growth in on chain assets, like real world assets. People are really starting to focus on how to build those out. Once those are out, if I’m tracking my inventory or my enterprise assets, why shouldn’t I be able to borrow against them, loan them out, put them to use?
We’re seeing quite a lot of interest there. It’s a little bit slower than the pure financial stuff because we not only need the privacy tools to mature, but we also need the real-world connectivity to get a little bit better.
[00:18:00] Seamus: Before delving into the bank issue, how do some of these, let’s say on chain analytics tools, how are they affected by these privacy solutions? Do you still have the same ability to track what’s happening?
[00:18:10] Paul: You don’t, no. In fact, it’s very funny, I was in ETHDenver last week, and if you walk around ETHDenver you’ll see there’s a ton of these on chain analytics companies. I’ve seen myself, if privacy really takes hold, and I hope it will, it’s going to completely transform their business. Because right now almost all these on chain analytics tools depend on the completely public nature of the data, and that’s going away.
We have a few bits and pieces that we’re working on for the next version of Nightfall. One is the ability to copy an auditor or a regulator on a transaction. You’d be able to copy your auditor on all your transactions, and they would be able to mesh them in. We we’re looking for ways to improve the reporting process. One of the cool things about Nightfall is, somebody can come to you and say, “Hey, I see that you’re using nightfall.” That’s the only thing you’d be able to figure out because you’ve got your SSL certificate. But what is cool is they could say, “I see that you took 300 million out of the Nightfall Smart contract. How do we know where that came from?” You can submit your transactional data, and with it you can submit the proof of the truthfulness of your transactional data.
Even though you won’t be able to tell what everybody else is doing, you will be able to prove that your transactional data is truthful.
[00:19:35] Seamus: Interesting. I think that interesting part of the start as well, having given the regulators effectively super goggles to see what happens if you want. Transparency where it’s required.
[00:19:42] Paul: Where it’s required. I want to be very clear, there’s no back doors in Nightfall, there is no regulator that has the ability to see everything.
Companies will have the choice over time to like do things like copy a regulator, an auditor. But there’s no backdoor key, there’s no magic key. There’s nothing, nobody should walk away from this thinking, regulators can see everything. Not at all. Absolutely not at all. Regulators have lawful access through the companies that are doing it, and the one thing we’re committed to is you will not be able to use Nightfall anonymously.
[00:20:17] Seamus: Thanks for that context. You mentioned the banks being on the cusp. Where would you say banks are with internalizing all this knowledge about how enterprises will interact with blockchain? Where are they in the considerations of the tech operating model? Do you see the blockchain teams already formed the majority banks, or is it still a case of in just investing and learning, experimenting? Where are they in terms of the business looking to adopt this?
[00:20:41] Paul: There’s really a whole spectrum. But if you talk about the most sophisticated banks, every major hyper sophisticated bank has a blockchain team, it’s a blockchain team that’s quite sophisticated. There is a gap between in a lot of banks between the people at the very top and the people who are a bit closer to the cold face. What I mean by this is, at the very top of a lot of banks you have a lot of senior executives who don’t really fundamentally understand blockchain. All they know is that, we can make cool new digital assets, we can sell some stuff to people, and there’s like a ton of crooks in this business. When they look at it, they don’t want to be associated with the crooks. This makes them reflexively opposed to public blockchains and cryptocurrency.
I’ve met with tons and tons of the people who are doing the implementations, and we get these really funny encouraging and discouraging message from them. They say, “Paul, I’m so glad that you’re talking about public blockchains. It’s really important. The secret truth is that almost all of us here at XYZ Bank firmly believe that we need to be on public blockchains, and it’s almost certainly going to be Ethereum, and we’re having trouble convincing our leadership. Our leadership wants to be in digital assets. They want to be on blockchains, but they’re still reflexively opposed to Ethereum because it’s a public blockchain. We have to work them through that because private blockchains are just like IT projects.” They’re just like little IT projects, they’re not real marketplaces and they’ll never be meaningfully sustainable.
[00:22:16] Seamus: Interesting comment. Let’s take that to the next stage, banks and DeFi, what’s the reflexive reaction there? It seems very much Wild West. But we have banks some of the largest global bank and some of the largest regional banks participate in Project Guardian, interacting with DeFi protocols. If it a defensive or offensive how the banks look at that space?
[00:22:33] Paul: It’s a defensive approach. I’ve argued that DeFi is to banking what app stores were to wireless network companies. You used to hear network companies and others talk about over the top, right? This idea that consumer can access entertainment and video and things like that, over the top of the cable TV system or the approved wireless network infrastructure. DeFi in a sense does that as well. DeFi allows you to access these niche applications. I’ve built a perfect little lending protocol, I’ve built a perfect little collateralization tool, I’ve built a perfect little liquidity tool.
It’s a little bit like the way app stores work. You want a task management app, there’s like a thousand of them in the app store, and everybody’s got the one that they think works perfectly for them. There’s this plethora of stuff. Banks are struggling with this question, a little bit like cable TV companies and wireless companies are saying, how do I want to deal with this? If I ignore it, my clients will start to go around me over time. For sure, by the way, banks that ignore it will delay adoption. But they never stop it. There are others who are looking at this and saying, is this an opportunity for me? Can I build a curation model? Can I be the gateway for access? Can I be the toll road?
I think a little bit like some of the very successful cable and wireless companies, the successful banks in the future are going to look at us and say, our customers are going to want this, we’re going to do two things. We’re going to be the on/off ramp, which is essential; and we’re going to have like a curation model and we’re going to make money on the traffic and the curation, and maybe we’re going to offer one or two services of our own for where we are really exceptionally good at.
I think those are the smart ones. They’re looking ahead at that, they see that parallel and they’re starting to think about it. But I think inherently, it’s starting from a defensive model. They’re aware that there’s this insurgency.
One of the arguments that you sometimes hear from those who are bitterly opposed to DeFi is they say it’s just regulatory arbitrage. There’s some truth to that, by the way. DeFi protocols are cheaper in part because many of them have no regulatory structure. But I would argue the same way that ride sharing, think about Ride sharing, it was illegal everywhere. Let’s be honest, there were very few praises where Ride sharing was technically legal. It was almost always a violation of some taxi lobbies, exclusivity program or medallion thing, whatever. But at the end of the day customers want it, and it produced a vastly better experience. What’s interesting to see now is that where Ride shares have been legalized and regulated, they’re still immensely popular because their value proposition includes regulatory arbitrage. But even when the regulatory arbitrage part goes away and they’re fully regulated, they’re still a better user experience.
I think the advantage that these DeFi protocols have is that they have no history in baggage. Even when they come into compliance, they can do it in a much more efficient, totally modern way. Banks have a huge advantage too. They know all about customers, they know all about regulation. Their major disadvantage is they’ve got a lot of legacy process and complexity that adds cost to their structure, and they can’t easily remove it. But they’re not sure how much of it is really necessary.
[00:26:21] Seamus: It’s interesting, it aligns very much the way our vision of the market and what we hear back more and more from some of the largest banks, is that indeed there’s a defensive element, but there’s a potential offensive element when you think about a bank’s main role as intermediate trust. They have this huge cost structure to do that, and potentially move to an algorithm that operates 24/7, 365, at zero marginal cost. Can they change that model from intermediation to a fee based? I think you said it exactly, a fee-based model and they’re the regulated bridge to this curated ecosystem potentially.
[00:26:50] Paul: Right. The curation part, I think banks really underestimate how much value can be created from curation.
If there’s a thousand lending protocols, offering the three or four that are top quality to your customers is worth money. Indeed, in many ways, if you look at search engines, one of the things that’s super frustrated, like the best newspapers and others, is that they’ve discovered that the search engines are better at making money off their content than they are because the search engines serve up this curated.
Now, I would argue, it seems like the curation process is being overwhelmed by the spam manufacturing process right now. But the power of curation, there’s an additional advantage in finance, which is that when you go to a search engine and you are looking for an article or something, it’s a low stakes activity. You don’t care so much about quality, and you might be willing to live with the possibility that every now and again you get directed to one of these link farms. It’s not like that with your money. With your money, with your investments, your tolerance for risk and low quality is much lower, and the value creation of curation becomes much higher.
I think there’s a much bigger opportunity here than many banks realize in the curation portion. A lot of them are saying, how are we going to offer all these DeFi services? My answer would be, you shouldn’t try to. You should think about offering one or two that you are exceptionally good at, and curating the rest.
[00:28:25] Seamus: We’ve seen what happens when everyone’s just chasing the highest yield in the market on their own without any guidance. Tthat’s been an education in the last year and a half. We’ve talked a lot about the banking space, what’s happening there, and obviously there’s a lot going on. Where’s the corporate sector in this journey? How far along are they, and what are the use cases they’re looking at, which industries are moving? How are they approaching the whole space?
[00:28:47] Paul: The corporate sector has been really slow. The main reason the corporate sector has been really slow is they went down this rabbit hole of private blockchains. Private blockchains don’t work. Almost every single private blockchain system out there has basically collapsed or failed. That was an expensive lesson.
I’ll give you an example. I talked to a company, they participated in one of these private blockchain consortia, and they’re like, “Yeah, we tried blockchain, it doesn’t work.” No, you didn’t try blockchain. It does work, but you didn’t really try it. That is a really tough thing because now in their minds, they tried blockchain, it didn’t work, it was a fad. It’s going to be like three or four years before that company revisits the topic.
I understand why so many companies tried private blockchains, because if you look at what’s doable on a public blockchain, the available set of use cases was very small. This was super frustrating. You can do like some level of product traceability on a public chain, but that’s it. Now with privacy, we can unlock all these cases. For the first time in quite a few years, we can go to clients and say inventory management, asset management, procurement. The priority over the next few years is to take these messages back to clients and systematically unlock more and more industrial use cases.
Now, the way that we’re going to go about that, and the way that I foresee this industry developing, is first we’re going to start with the things that are not overly complex. That means tracking items under privacy, moving them around, and engaging in relatively simple business logic. We are very confident that we can do those kinds of things with Nightfall and Starlight really well. We have our first prototype customers for inventory manage in the pharmaceutical industry, just one token per product. Easy stuff. The beauty of that is that you can start to have the operational data.
Our second thing that we’re going to show in May at our EY Global Summit is our first procurement system, where I can have a business agreement with you, we can agree upon something like a rebate or a volume discount, and the smart contract which runs as a zero knowledge circuit fully private on chain, will always automatically apply our agreed upon discount. We can start to show simple logic like that, and over the next few years we can ramp up the integration quality, the volumes. We know, for example, today we think we can do about 260 million transactions a day on the polygon proof of stake network. That’s good. But by the way, just the automotive industry alone, if we wanted to bring them on board, we need 4 billion a day. Some of the stuff that’s in the near term roadmap are things like EDI integration, EDI, moving people from the legacy business to business messaging into real supply chain coordination, tokenization.
I said I would come back to tokenization. That is a revolution for how companies can manage their asset and product stuff. It creates a standardized model that we’ve never really had before, and then allows you to create a token and move it around the supply chain and build it with value track carbon associated with it, buy it, sell it, borrow against it. It turns your enterprise data into real assets that behave like tokens and are managed with financial discipline.
[00:32:25] Seamus: Fascinating. I’ve listened to your comments about the number of transactions before. It sounds like scalability is one of the near term issues to really get the use case to these firms in place.
[00:32:36] Paul: I’m getting more and more comfortable. We’ve tasked our R&D team with giving us a roadmap to 4 billion transactions a day. We can see a path to 3.7 billion a day in the next couple of years. I think it will take us a couple of years just to even get close to the 260 million a day we can do now. But I want to have that roadmap, because at the end of the day, when you’re talking to an enterprise client, you need to tell them, “We’re building something that’s going to have a future. We have a confidence in the long-term roadmap.” We’ve got clients that for a single product line, need to generate 8 million NFTs a day.
[00:33:20] Seamus: I remember you making similar comments to the pharma industry, a huge number of discreet transactions per day. Is there a particular region, or let’s say country, where you see more activity on the corporate side where it’s moving faster than others?
[00:33:33] Paul: Yeah, there’s these very distinctive patterns. For the US, you’ll see some very sophisticated, bigger companies starting to pilot stuff.
In Europe, the thing I’ve been really impressed with our European teams is they’ve had a lot of success selling a lot of smaller projects. One that I’m really proud of is in Italy, we create a unique token for every article that’s generated by Italy’s biggest news agency, ANSA. Just very quietly over the last couple of years, we’ve generated a couple million tokens that prevent the falsification of their articles. They’re basically hashes and tokens attached to an article, and you can actually verify that the article you’re looking at isn’t been faked or spoofed.
Europeans are doing a lot of small singles. Americans, there’s a few American companies are doing some really mega deals in the industrial space. Then finance is moving faster in Europe because of the MiCa Law and the regulatory environment in Switzerland, both of which are giving people a bit more comfort that they can proceed faster than the less certain regulatory environment in the US.
[00:34:43] Seamus: Yeah, we’re seeing exactly the same thing. The US opacity slows innovation, but at least they can innovate internally. But obviously they need a clear view to build the ecosystem.
[00:34:54] Paul: Right. The good news is, as I always remind our industrial clients, there’s no regulatory review required for you to tokenize your inventory. You can just jump into that one.
[00:35:06] Seamus: We’re coming up on the end of the time here. What’s next for EY and what’s next for Paul Brody?
[00:35:11] Paul: My personal mission is to change how the entire world does business, to move everybody onto public blockchains. What’s next for us is a couple of things. Number one, we have to lead by example. We’re going to bring applications to market that use privacy and make it a standardized tool.
Number two, we want to create an ecosystem. One other thing everybody should know who’s watching this, Nightfall and Starlight are public domain and open source. EY has relinquished all ownership over these assets. They are fully public systems because we want other people to use them. I want to create a thriving ecosystem. Nightfall is the only layer two privacy solution that has any form of regulatory structure and compliance functionality. I want to see companies build on top of that. For me, the job is heavily entwined with the mission. I’m going to be here doing it until I feel like I’m not adding enough value to move it forward, which could be a while.
[00:36:26] Seamus: Paul, it’s been great having you here. It’s hard to listen to you and not get excited about the space, so we will follow your work closely. Thanks for your time today. Really appreciate it.
[00:36:34] Paul: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
[00:36:38] Seamus: To our guests, thanks for joining and hope you enjoyed the episode. Till next time. As always, see you next time. Thanks for joining.