A Review of CMC Markets Connect guest panel on Blockchain and the Future of Digital Settlements

CMC Markets undertakes a range of initiatives to explore the topical themes which are impacting our industry. These include the commissioning of research papers, authoring of e-books and hosting bespoke events. In March 2021, as part of our celebration of International Women’s Day, Camilla Boldracchi of the CMC Markets Connect team, coordinated a virtual panel discussion looking at the role the blockchain is likely to play in the future of digital settlements. Below, Camilla summarises the panel discussion and also provides four key points she took away from the event. 

It was great to see so many people dialling in to attend the virtual panel discussion we hosted on March 11th. Not only was this to celebrate women in the Fintech space, but it also gave us a valuable opportunity to look at the trending topic ‘Blockchain and the Future of Digital Settlements’.

I’ve seen a number of attempts to address this subject in the past, but all too often they end up straying into the domain of cryptocurrencies. Even if the recent hype surrounding the volatile price action of Bitcoin means that perhaps this should be no surprise, it doesn’t really help us get to grips with the challenge and possibilities that lie ahead. 

We were fortunate to be able to attract a panel of talented women who were exceptionally well versed in the blockchain. The breadth of their knowledge certainly gave all the participants the opportunity to learn something new in what ended up being a fast-paced, one hour session. With such a short time, it only gave us the ability to scratch the very surface of what is clearly a fascinating subject, but I just wanted to share what I saw as being just a few of the key takeaways. 

“Remember, 25 years ago, the internet was dominated by domain name speculation.” 

I think this should give us cause for hope, that the blockchain conversation won’t always be dominated by the cryptocurrency debate. Whilst the two are intrinsically linked, and “crypto-hype” is arguably helping educate an ever-wider audience as to the potential of this new technology, we shouldn’t be too disheartened. The narrative will likely settle down soon enough.

“The blockchain can play a critical role in banking the unbanked.”

We’ve already seen the popularity of cryptocurrencies in developing countries where mobile phone penetration is prolific, yet many are unbanked. Not only does this provide a good way of making payments, but the ability to switch efficiently from a local currency to something seen as more stable – such as Bitcoin – is hugely powerful. 

“The blockchain is no longer powering a haven for money laundering”

There’s a common assumption that cryptocurrencies are the perfect vehicle for criminal gangs to launder money and commit fraud without any prospect of recourse. Whilst that may have been the case a few years ago, it’s no longer the anonymous venue that many claim, with reports that the vast majority of crypto wallets now have some kind of identifying data attached. We heard of instances where fraud had been committed and whilst the coins can’t be recovered, they have been traced and blocked. Quite literally they are too hot to handle – anyone moving those coins will identify themselves to the police – and they know it. 

“The blockchain will be the future for money”

It may feel as if it’s been a long time coming, but with mainstream companies either looking at or already accepting payment supported by the blockchain – we’re talking about entities as varied as Pizza Hut and Tesla – momentum will start to build from here. In the year 2000, over 50% of all transactions in the UK were made with cash. By 2019 that figure had fallen to under 15% and it continues to decline. 20 years ago, few would have believed such a dramatic change would ever be possible, but with 60% of Central Banks now reported to be talking about starting their own digital currencies, a revolution is coming. 

Once again, I’d like to thank our panellists Alessandra Sollberger, Lavinia Osbourne and Christine Gschwend and also our host for the session, Katie Pilbeam. If you were able to join us, I hope you found the session valuable and it’s our ambition to run more sessions like this in the months ahead.  

Camilla Boldracchi