Articles about Blockchain appear daily, but it is largely unfamiliar to many board members and management teams, and the media focus has been primarily on applications supporting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Soundbites from the program:
On Thursday, February 15, a panel of experts at Montclair State University’s Feliciano School of Business elucidated the basics of Blockchain and its opportunities for broader use in commerce and industry.
Referencing a series of schematic diagrams, the panel laid out the architecture of Blockchain and its implementation in providing a fiduciary function within the network itself versus using a third party intermediary, through the ability of all participants’ nodes to perceive the same information simultaneously, as well as the creation of an essentially immutable record.
Our panelists from IBM, Broadridge, and KPMG noted that Blockchain is most appropriate in ecosystems that involve numerous parties and numerous hand-offs and reconciliations as it can offer “a single source of truth.” They also touched on the possible technology evolution of Blockchain, including its availability in an open source mode as a cloud service and permission or private Blockchain that might be more appropriate for highly regulated activities such as financial services.
They profiled some real-life applications of Blockchain technology, such as:
Documenting proof of identity
Establishing provenances such as with respect to diamonds or Conflict Minerals
Shareholder records and proxy voting
Supply chain was highlighted as one of the most appropriate use cases for Blockchain as it (1) provides “trust where trust is lacking,” (2) gives access to information not previously available, (3) can eliminate non-value add activities such as checking and re-checking and (4) can also benefit small and medium businesses via access to the global supply chain they might not have enjoyed previously.
Our panel also discussed some of the disruptive potential and risks that could be associated with Blockchain, including:
Security risks associated with Blockchain, which entailed a discussion as to the vulnerability of the Blockchain protocol itself versus the applications and exchanges utilizing Blockchain
Risks in the use of “smart contracts” if there are loopholes that can be exploited
Disruption to the workforce due to the elimination of reconciliation activities, such as audits, and the use of drones to interact with the Blockchain network
Exercising care in the selection of activities for the deployment of Blockchain, e.g., the current technology does not possess the speed to handle high volume/ high-velocity activities such as processing credit card transactions
The panelists had the following advice for Boards and management teams considering Blockchain:
Invest time in understanding the potential impact of Blockchain on your industry and your specific company – are there appropriate use cases?
The evolution of Blockchain is unpredictable—set up a study team to follow developments
Consider creating a “sandbox” to experiment with Blockchain before doing a live implementation
Blockchain is not something that your company must develop internally—there are and will be providers of Blockchain networks in the market which can allow for deployment of Blockchain with respect to a specific project or activity—in some cases, the ROI can be achieved in a relatively short time-frame
Be mindful of the security risks—understand governance of the network, who can see your information
If you are in a regulated industry, have you contacted your regulator as to its adoption or acceptance of Blockchain?
John E. Boyd Independent Director Boyd Operating Alliances
Over many years, John's operating background has included president/CEO of a Con Edison-backed energy supply and services company, president of AT&T’s international computer business, vice president for strategy and marketing of AT&T’s consumer products division, Chairman/CEO of a PE-sponsored BPO business and leader of an entertainment joint venture.
Currently, he is a director of a public secure communications business, executive chair of Documenting Hope, and a board member of NACD NJ.
Previously, John has served as chairman of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), president of USTSA, and advisory board chairman of the Pace University Business School.
Horacio Barakat Vice President of Corporate Strategy Broadridge Financial Solutions
Horacio Barakat is Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Broadridge Financial Solutions, a leading financial technology provider of investor communications and technology-driven solutions for broker-dealers, banks, and mutual funds. Broadridge has been piloting blockchain solutions for repurchase agreement markets and collateral management and re-imagining the proxy voting process on blockchain to increase transparency.
Prior to joining Broadridge, Horacio has held a variety of roles in investment banking at Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Sterne Agree, providing M&A and capital raising advice to financial services and financial technology firms.
An often quoted expert on blockchain, Horacio is a frequent speaker at significant events, including the NACD 2017 Global Summit.
Krishna Ratakonda IBM Fellow and CTO Blockchain Solutions
Krishna Ratakonda is an IBM Fellow and CTO, Blockchain Solutions. He is responsible for the architecture and technical roadmap for all IBM blockchain solutions. In this role, he has been engaged with a diverse set of industry players in areas including food safety, financial clearing and settlements, and container shipping.
Krishna has twice won IBM's top technical award for breakthrough technical innovations in solving client problems.
He has a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has 40+ patents and multiple best paper awards in signal processing and operations research.
Sigrid Seibold Principal, Advisory - Capital Markets KPMG in the US
Sigrid Seibold has more than 20 years experience in the banking and capital markets industry. After developing expertise in FX trading, she moved to IBM's strategy group for 10 years, and then in 2006 to Accenture for 9 years, where she became Global Digital Lead for Capital Markets and established Accenture's basis for its blockchain market presence.
Over the next several years, Sigrid worked across multiple geographies in European financial hubs and Singapore, before moving back to New York. Sigrid is an author of technology articles in a wide variety of major newspapers including the Wall Street Journal. Joining KPMG as Principal in the Capital Markets division, Sigrid has a core focus on technology and is a recognized KPMG expert in blockchain.