The implications of blockchain technology for financial services

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Wednesday April 29


  • Michael Mainelli (Z/Yen)

  • Dave Birch (Consult Hyperion)

  • Sean Andrews

  • Jamie Coleman (CodeBase)

  • Francesco Burelli (INNOVALUE)


I cannot pretend that I really understand Bitcoin – still less that I understand the distributed ledger technology (ie the ‘blockchain’) that, allegedly, underpins it. But, as they used to say, ‘I know a man who does’ – and I know that there are men (and women) in the financial services space who think that, whatever happens to Bitcoin, a secure, electronic public ledger that does not rely on a central authority could be revolutionary. It can be a transaction record, a store of documents, a warehouse for assets, a validator of transactions – and so on.

At the moment, the blockchain is rather like graphene – something that is awfully clever, but which is equally proving hard to commercialize. But that hasn’t stopped its proponents. In particular, Z/Yen produced a Long Finance report last December on how blockchain technology could transform personal insurance. In addition, the BOE’s Quarterly Bulletin, last Autumn, focused on the potential for distributed ledgers to transform the financial system more broadly. And there have been seminars and conferences up the wazoo on the blockchain’s potential in areas from wholesale markets to car leases to ‘smart contracts’ to FX trading…

It is all very terrifying, very mysterious and potentially transformative. I am, therefore, delighted that we have been able to put together a panel that (I hope) will shine a light on the blockchain world:

  • Michael Mainelli is a co-founder and director of Z/Yen, the driving force behind the ‘Long Finance’ initiative, an emeritus professor of commerce at Gresham College, a former visiting professor at LSE, and a former partner at Binder Hamlyn. He also plays the bagpipes, and owns one of the last sailing barges on the Thames (the ‘Lady Daphne’).
  • Dave Birch is the global ambassador for Consult Hyperion, and the CSFI’s technology fellow.
  • Sean Andrews previously worked as a US Air Force financial management and comptroller officer. His most recent activity at the US Air Force Cost Analysis Agency centred on providing blockchain expertise to various Department of Defense and other federal agencies (including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Sean will be joining a UK-based financial services start-up this year.
  • Jamie Coleman is managing director and founder of CodeBase, Scotland’s largest technology incubator. He is also the chief executive of GlycoSys and a board member at ScotlandIS.
  • Francesco Burelli is a partner in INNOVALUE’s payments practice. He is a payments and transaction banking expert who is looking at the impact of financial technology from a strategic and regulatory angle. Francesco is a Fellow of the Institute of Financial Services. 

I would like to have titled the round-table ‘blockchains for dummies’ (or ‘blockchains for blockheads’), but we at the CSFI are much too serious for that. Still, that’s the general idea.