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Hack Brief: Hackers Are Holding an LA Hospital’s Computers Hostage

Wired, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Hack Brief: Hackers Are Holding an LA Hospital’s Computers Hostage

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center can have its computers back for $3.6 million in bitcoin.

The post Hack Brief: Hackers Are Holding an LA Hospital’s Computers Hostage appeared first on WIRED.

Can LIGO test Quantum Gravity?

Forbes, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

LIGO has detected gravitational waves, or ripples in Einstein's spacetime. But can it go deeper, and probe the quantum nature of gravity itself?

IBM Goes Big on Blockchain

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

With a range of announcements, IBM has pushed for the quick adoption of blockchain technology among enterprise and multiple industries with several newly revealed initiatives and commitments. In a press release today, International Business Machines (IBM) has thrown its weight in fully backing and pushing distributed ledger or blockchain technology for real world applications. Chief […]

The post IBM Goes Big on Blockchain appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

7 Social Media Myths That Cripple Marketing Campaigns

Inc, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

If your social media marketing campaign just isn't working, it's probably because of one these seven misconceptions.

Paper Compares Blockchain to Uber and Airbnb as a Job Killer in Finance

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

In a paper titled “Field Confrontation, Between Capital and Labor – Emancipation and Alienation,” the future of blockchain is pontificated on and the main aspects of what it seems to offer. They talk about blockchain technology as a complete re-structuring or destruction event of the job market as we know it – especially in the world […]

The post Paper Compares Blockchain to Uber and Airbnb as a Job Killer in Finance appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

UN Working Paper Explores How the Blockchain Can Empower Global Communities

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

More and more high profile financial and political institutions are taking notice of the blockchain technology of distributed ledgers, starting internal investigations and issuing position papers.

In January, Bitcoin Magazine reported that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a paper titled “Virtual Currencies and Beyond: Initial Considerations” at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Similar papers have been issued by other mainstream institutions.

The RAND Corporation, an influential global policy think tank with strong U.S. defense and homeland security ties, released a report titled “National Security Implications of Virtual Currency.” A recent report issued by the U.K. Government Office for Science, titled “Distributed ledger technology: beyond block chain,” explores how distributed ledger technology can revolutionize public policies and advocates the use of blockchains for a variety of public services.

A recent working paper released by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), titled “How Can Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology Play a Role in Building Social and Solidarity Finance?,” explores the potential of distributed ledgers to help create a global world order fairer and more sustainable than the current one, and wonders how blockchain technology can be harnessed for community empowerment and solidarity-based finance.

The UNRISD is an autonomous research institute within the U.N. system that undertakes multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues. The author of the UNRISD paper, Brett Scott, is an independent researcher and consultant on alternative finance and financial reform. Scott is the author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money.

According to Scott, it’s important to test the potential of Bitcoin and blockchain technology for building truly empowering social and solidarity-based finance.

“This paper provides a primer on the basics of Bitcoin and discusses the existent narratives about the technology’s potential to facilitate remittances, financial inclusion, cooperative structures and even micro-insurance systems,” says Scott. “It also flags up potential points of concern and conflict, such as the tech-from-above ‘solutionism’ and conservative libertarian political dynamics of some of the technology start-up community that surrounds Bitcoin. As a way of contrast the paper considers ‘blockchain 2.0’ technologies with more overtly communitarian ideals and their potential for creating ‘cooperation at scale.’”

Scott suggests research on how blockchain technology could be implemented with sensitivity to the real struggles people face in implementing technology within diverse cultural and political contexts.

“One blockchain does not fit all,” notes Scott.

In particular, he suggests a research effort, presumably conducted under the leadership of the UNRISD, on the extent to which developing countries are actually adopting blockchain technology, the extent to which cryptocurrencies could interact with “blockchain 2.0” smart-contract technology to create alternative financial schemes, and the Bitcoin system’s potential to promote financial inclusion, including its use as a remittance system and as an alternative bank account.

For example, blockchain-based property title systems (such as land registries) could open up normal bank financing to people who otherwise cannot get access to credit from financial institutions.

The popular technology magazine Motherboard notes that “most Bitcoin startups are just too damn libertarian to take up the altruistic challenge of helping less privileged people,” according to Scott. “But there is some hope that Bitcoin’s underlying blockchain technology… might actually help developing economies.”

Scott describes the “techno-libertarian” message as “a technology-as-saviour and markets-as-saviour gospel alongside an anti-state message,” and outlines the disruptive potential of smart contracts and Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAOs).

It is, however, possible to build a communitarian anarchist reading of the same technology. Scott suggests de-emphasizing the focus on the trustless nature of blockchains, and instead characterize blockchain technology as trust-enabling.

Scott mentions Bitnation, a blockchain-based “Governance 2.0” initiative with a collaborative platform for DIY governance, as one of the most radical articulations of the techno-libertarian message, and quotes two Bitcoin Magazine articles (1, 2) about Bitnation.

Led by Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, Bitnation launched several pathfinders and proofs of concept including the first marriage registered on the blockchain and the first blockchain passport. The organization also developed and tested, as suggested by Scott in the U.N. paper, workable DIY land titles recorded on the blockchain in Ghana, where 70 percent of land lacks proper title, preventing investment and borrowing in real property markets.

“Bitnation has presented a vision -- at least in principle -- of hosting completely alternative state institutions (such as security and legal institutions) on blockchain systems, describing states as governance service providers that might be outcompeted by technological platforms,” says Scott.

At the same time, persuaded that that modern democratic states can represent the interests of all, Scott prefers a mixed, socially oriented “libertarian socialist” approach to the pure “stateless” libertarian model promoted by Bitnation.

Photo Tom Page / Flickr(CC)

The post UN Working Paper Explores How the Blockchain Can Empower Global Communities appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

ItBit Hires Former SocGen Exec to Lead London Initiatives

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

New York-based bitcoin exchange itBit has hired a securities services and technology veteran to head operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Why Forking Bitcoin Won't Land You in Legal Hot Water

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Pillsbury Winthrop blockchain lead Marco Santori rebuffs claims creating new versions of bitcoin's blockchain may create legal issues for developers.

THE PAYMENTS ECOSYSTEM: Everything you need to know about the key players and trends in the payments industry

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

BII Payments Processing Ecosystem 2016

The way we pay is changing dramatically. For example, people are beginning to use their smartphones for every kind of formal and informal transaction — to shop at stores, buy songs online, and even split their rent.

At the heart of these changes in how we pay are thousands of companies competing and collaborating to facilitate transactions.

To understand why the payments industry has faced so much disruption in such a short time, there's just one key thing to understand: Payments is about transferring information from one party to another, and nearly every stakeholder in the industry benefits when that process runs on digital rails.

But payments is also an extremely complex industry that few fully understand. 

In BI Intelligence's 2016 Payments Ecosystem report, we make it simple, explaining how it works, who the key players are, and where it's headed.

In this latest edition of the report, BI Intelligence drills even further into the industry to explain how a broad range of transactions are processed — including prepaid and store cards — and we reveal which types of companies are in the best and worst position to capitalize on the latest industry trends.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • 2016 will be a watershed year for the payments industry. Payments companies are improving security, expanding their mobile offerings, and building commerce capabilities that will give consumers a more compelling reason to make purchases using digital devices.
  • Payments is an extremely complex industry. To understand the next big digital opportunity lies, it's critical to understand how the traditional credit- and debit-processing chain works and what roles acquirers, processors, issuing banks, card networks, independent sales organizations, gateways, and software and hardware providers play.
  • Alternative technologies could disrupt the processing ecosystem. Devices ranging from refrigerators to smartwatches now feature payment capabilities, which will spur changes in consumer payment behaviors. Likewise, blockchain technology, the protocol that underlies Bitcoin, could one day change how consumer card payments are verified.

In full, the report: 

  • Uncovers the key themes and trends affecting the payments industry in 2016 and beyond.
  • Gives a detailed description of the stakeholders involved in a payment transaction, along with hardware and software providers. 
  • Offers diagrams and infographics explaining how card transactions are processed and which players are involved in each step.
  • Provides charts on our latest forecasts, key company growth, survey results, and more.
  • Analyzes the alternative technologies, including blockchain, which could further disrupt the ecosystem.

Companies mentioned in the report include: Visa, PayPal, American Express, Western Union, Gemalto, Oberthur Technologies, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, MasterCard, Discover, Chase, First Data, Stripe, Klarna, Braintree, Venmo, Moneris, Synchrony Financial, Green Dot, NCR, MICROS, Square, ShopKeep, Verifone, Ingenico, Starbucks, Apple, Samsung, Google, MoneyGram, Ria, Azimo, TransferWise, Xoom, Bango, Boku, Microsoft, R3 CEV, Jawbone. 

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store.» Purchase & Download
  2. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally.» Learn More Now



BI Intelligence DevicesPS. Did you know...

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Our subscribers consider the INSIDER Newsletters a "daily must-read industry snapshot" and "the edge needed to succeed personally and professionally" — just to pick a few highlights from our recent customer survey.

With our full money-back guarantee, we make it easy to find out for yourself how valuable the daily insights are for your business and career. Click this link to learn all about the INSIDER Newsletters today.

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Ukraine Government Plans to Trial Ethereum Blockchain-based Election Platform

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A group of Ukrainian officials signed a memorandum late last week to move multiple levels of elections to the Ethereum blockchain using E-vox, a platform developed by Ambisafe. The goal of this memorandum is to create "a decentralized, transparent and accessible system for group decisions making [sic] via blockchain-based instruments" for political primaries, elections and online petitions or referenda.

This new platform could serve as a beacon of transparency and accountability in a polarized country ravaged by the "Orange Revolution," a series of protests against corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud during the 2004 election of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The list of signatories includes the head of the state agency for e-government, the Head of IT of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, an adviser to the president of Ukraine, a group of NGOs, and blockchain companies such as Ambisafe, Distributed Lab and KitSoft.

While most blockchain and Bitcoin election platforms employ colored coins, E-vox will rely on smart contracts in order to fulfill a number of Ukrainian legal requirements. By involving major players in the Ukrainian government early in the process, Ambisafe CEO Andrey Zamovskiy doesn't feel regulations or laws will hinder the implementation of E-vox.

"The political actors participating in the negotiations and signing of the memorandum fuel our confidence that regulation won’t be an issue,” Zamovskiy said in a recent interview.

The platform will first be tested with generally unregulated types of elections, such as petitions and advisory votes. "As soon as the technology is worked off, the legislation will be respectively amended," according to Zamovskiy.

E-vox will work to integrate itself with current election platforms already used in Ukraine. The back end of already-functioning Ukrainian city council petition websites which are operated by KitSoft will be moved to the blockchain. In addition, Ambisafe is currently working on another online platform for nationwide elections and a mobile app.

To prevent voter fraud, E-vox will integrate multiple types of identity verification based on the poll or election, including government-issued digital signatures and bank-issued digital signatures called BankIDs, which are managed by Ukraine's three largest banks. Petitions and other less-strict types of polls will use phone number verification. National polls will use payment kiosks, found in bank branches and stores around Ukraine, to collect votes in person.

In a country that was torn apart by allegations of voter fraud and the subsequent protests, Ambisafe and E-vox are hoping to provide transparency for disenfranchised voters and make Ukraine the first to adopt a blockchain platform for both local and national elections.

Photo Perohanych / Creative Commons

The post Ukraine Government Plans to Trial Ethereum Blockchain-based Election Platform appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Asia’s Largest Stock Exchange Operator Partners IBM for Blockchain Applications

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Japan Exchange Group, operator of the Tokyo Stock Exchange will begin experimenting with blockchain technology for post-trade solutions such as clearing and settlement of trades. The operator will team up with IBM Japan for the project. The operator of Asia’s largest stock exchange is joining IBM Japan to run blockchain tests for clearing, settlement, and […]

The post Asia’s Largest Stock Exchange Operator Partners IBM for Blockchain Applications appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Ethereum Alternative Lisk Announces ICO With ShapeShift – New Open Source Dapp & Sidechain Platform

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin Press Release: Decentralized applications and sidechain platform Lisk is pleased to announce a partnership with the well-established crypto-currency exchange ShapeShift. Set to launch at the end of March 2016, decentralized applications and sidechain platform ‘Lisk’, is the next logical step in the evolution of blockchain technology. Lisk will allow rapid development of decentralized applications […]

The post Ethereum Alternative Lisk Announces ICO With ShapeShift – New Open Source Dapp & Sidechain Platform appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Bitcoin Price Hovering At $400

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin price declined below 1hr chart support in early trade, today, after which price has been drawing sideways. At the time of writing it appears likely that another wave of decline is on the cards. This analysis is provided by xbt.social with a 3-hour delay. Read the full analysis here. Not a member? Join now […]

The post Bitcoin Price Hovering At $400 appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Blockchain Based Dapps Expanse™ Project [EXP] Soars to New Heights in Community Growth, Utility and Volume

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin Press Release: Expanse volume hit a record high of more than $2.7 Million trading on Poloniex on 2/11/16. The Expanse blockchain enables a stable, borderless technology future featuring a flexible DAO, powerful dApp tools and community collaboration. The 2016 Expanse roadmap is now available, highlighting community focus and detailing new utility. February 15, 2016, […]

The post Blockchain Based Dapps Expanse™ Project [EXP] Soars to New Heights in Community Growth, Utility and Volume appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

The 21 Bitcoin Computer is Now Shipping to Canada

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

21 Inc has announced its bitcoin mining and micro-transaction device, the 21 Bitcoin Computer, is now shipping outside the US for the first time.

Blockchain startup itBit is opening a London office — here's what its CEO told us about its plans

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

itBit CEO Chad Cascarilla

New York-headquartered blockchain startup itBit on Tuesday announced it is opening a new London office to spearhead expansion in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

We felt that was a good excuse to re-run our interview with itBit CEO Chad Cascarilla, which was originally published at the start of the month.

Cascarilla told us why banks are so excited about blockchain technology — first developed to underpin digital currency bitcoin — how he thinks it will be adopted, and what the plans for itBit are.

Read the edited highlights of the chat below.

Business Insider: How would you define blockchain? I'm always interested to hear people describe it because everyone seems to have a slightly different take.

Chad Cascarilla: It’s just a database — that’s all it is. It’s easy to lose track of it amongst the buzzwords.

But it was a big innovation in databasing because it’s fully distributed. A normal database, someone’s actually running it. On the blockchain, nobody’s running it because everybody’s running it. From that perspective, that’s a real big shift. That’s actually hard to underestimate because normally you’ve got to pay someone to run a database for you.

BI: What’s the itBit story — where are you guys coming from and where are you going?

CC: My background is in financial services, I’ve spent my whole life doing that. About five, five and a half years ago when it was just at a nickel, we came across bitcoin. What was interesting to us was the underlying blockchain technology, which is the topic du jour now but certainly wasn’t back then.

The reason it was interesting to us is because we didn’t really know how succcessful bitcoin itself would be but we could tell that the concept of being able to create a distributed clearing and settlement network or a distributed payment network was a pretty big deal. Not from a computer scientist perspective per se, but from a financial services perspective.

Our view has been that we want to take blockchains and apply them to financial services problems. When we started itBit three years ago, moving things over the blockchain — ownership of real assets — was to us the really exciting concept. Not that you can’t use it for other things — you can put land titles, copyrights, patents, you name it. You can put anything on a blockchain to move around in a common way. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

What became clear to us was you really needed some kind of regulatory structure because if you’re moving regulated assets it’s hard to do that without a regulated entity.

How can you create the on ramps and off ramps? You can do that by partnering with financial services firms — that’s helpful — but the more partners you need the slower development cycles happen. We created a trust company and about a year ago now we were approved.

Wall Street GFCIBI: You guys were one of the first to get a license weren’t you?

CC: Yeah. We were the first trust company [in bitcoin]. There’s been one other created. I don’t think there’s anyone else who’s going to go down this route because we basically became a bank.

The concept was marry a bank with technology and then you can start doing some really innovative things with financial services. It’s hard to do truly innovative things with technology in existing banks because they have such complex systems.

BI: Especially at the moment when banks seem to be struggling to keep their head above water with existing regulation, let alone taking on any new technology.

CC: I think that’s exactly right.

Look at financial services: you have a trading layer where exchanges are — huge amounts of innovation have happened there. Then you have the layers below that — clearing and settlement, custody, depository.

Everything after the trading layer is sitting here run on mainframe computers programmed in the 1970s and 1980s — literally in COBAL [a mainframe programming language]. It’s a dead language. One of the biggest banks in the world only has five or six developers left who actually know how to programme these things.

One of the biggest banks in the world only has 5 or 6 developers left who actually know how to programme these things.

BI: Who’s that?

CC: I can’t say. But they’re all like that. They’re literally down to their last five or 10 developers.

In the late 1990s, that’s how trading was done too — on COBAL mainframes. But that was hugely innovated on.

But you haven’t had a reason to innovate on post-trade layers because everyone just thinks of those as costs. "Oh bookkeeping, that’s a cost, we’ll just throw some bodies at it."

Depending on the asset, people are still using excel spreadsheets, emails, PDFs to basically reconcile what’s going on in the back office. It’s still very much a bodies business. I would describe it as they’ve just digitised a paper process. They didn’t reimagine it.

If you think about internet 1.0, it’s kind of a digitisation of paper. But then you think about internet 2.0 — whether it be apps on your mobile or whatever — and it's totally, drastically changing the way we interact with information. That’s what needs to happen in the back offices of financial services.

That hasn’t happened because the switching costs are so unbelievably high because you’re regulated, you can’t innovate, and, frankly, the old systems work.

But now that capital charges are going up I think you’re getting into a different position.

BI: It seems from the industry perspective there’s also a bit of a herd mentality with blockchain that’s acting in its favour. Once one bank moves, all the others want to be involved too. How long have you been trying to pitch this to the banks?

CC: It’s a very long sales cycle. I probably started talking to them about this about February, March last year. It’s been a year. But the reason it’s a long sales cycle is these are big organisations — you’re working across groups and the technology is new.

I think the banks know that there’s a couple of things going on: you’re hitting the end of the usual life of these mainframe computers, at the same time that capital charges are going up, and revenues aren’t growing.

They need to figure out a way to cut costs that is innovative. They’re really taking a holistic look and saying: "OK, what are we doing here? Do we want the best version of yesterday’s technology?" They’re really trying to be thoughtful about it, some more than others.

goldman sachs american flagBI: And your main product is Bankchain, is that right?

CC: Correct. When we say we’ve been pitching the bank for a year, we’re now at the point where we have partnerships that are underway, proof of concepts, implementations that are getting underway. We’ve got to the point where the rubber hits the road. Bankchain is our product that we’ve built to address financial services needs.

BI: Is it tailored to specific products?

CC: The core technology can work on anything — use case agnostic. That’s not surprising, in some ways that’s good engineering. [But] then you need to go out and say here’s a good use case. That’s what has the front end that’s tailored to precious metals or syndicated loans or equities settlement.

It’s complex to build the front end and the data layer hooking into the core databasing technology. Then you have to hook it into the current system of the people you’re working with.

BI: Is there any particular use cause that’s more popular than others?

CC: Post-trade is pretty huge. Oliver Wyman said it’s like an $80-85 billion market. That’s about a third of capital market revenues. So of all capital markets, about a third is sitting in post-trade — it’s enormous.

It’s hard to say people want to address just one specific area because they’ve got to address this whole thing. But you’ve got to drill down — if you want to try and fix syndicated loans with blockchain, you could be doing that for years.

If I think of the use cases that I know firms are working on it’s everything from cross-border payments to OTC derivatives to syndicated loans to equities to repo to precious metals to trade finance. Those are just some of them.

BI: How many banks and financial services firms are you in talks with?

CC: About a dozen. We have three use cases we’re focusing on and within those we have different partners. In capital markets, there are 25, maybe 50 at most, institutions that matter in the world — repositories, exchanges, buy side firms, sell side like the banks. Depending on what you’re trying to solve, you need to partner with these people.

BI: Does this technology need a critical mass to go mainstream? Obviously, the point of this is it’s distributed and you need multiple parties for that.

CC: No one wants to show up at the club and nobody else is there. There’s two ways you combat that.

No one wants to show up at the club and nobody else is there.

The first is you create a system that’s fully interoperable with today’s world. Because we’re a trust company we have our own SWIFT code, we have access to all the infrastructure, we have a whole variety of ways to interact with the world as it is now.

We have a way to move people incrementally to tomorrow — you can’t just get to a future state. You have to make it so that if you’re on [the Bankchain] you can interact with everyone who’s off and you have to make it relatively easy to do.

Secondly, you have to make sure that you go out and make sure that people are invested in this product, meaning they’re helping you build it, you’re getting ideas from them, it’s solving their needs. You can’t just create something that you think someone wants.

BI: How do you see initiatives like industry-wide blockchain consortium R3 — do you see it has competition? Or is it such a big market that there's room for both of you? Is it good that things like R3 are raising awareness?

CC: Probably all of those. It’s good that there are 42 banks or whatever it ends up being that feel they need to be part of this technology. If you went out and said 'Hey I’ve got a new database lets build a consortium,' how many people do you think would apply? You say blockchain and suddenly you’ve got 42 banks paying and there’s going to be more. That’s great, that’s a really good sign for the industry.

I don’t know if anyone knows how R3’s strategy is going to evolve, it’s already evolved a lot from where they started. That’s not a surprise, that’s just the nature of new technologies and new groups.

Like I said, post-trade is a huge world. Some of the use cases the banks will be looking at will have no overlap with what we’re doing. It certainly seems that way so far.

David Rutter ICAP IEB[1].JPGBI: How are you guys funded?

CC: We’ve raised $32.5 million (£22.3 million) so far and it’s basically come from a combination of VCs and the management team. We’re going to obviously expand our funding base.

BI: Imminently?

CC: I’d say it’s something we’re spending a lot of time on because we want to grow the company and expand the use cases that we’re addressing. Digital Asset raised a round, others raised rounds — you need funding to be able to develop this kind of cutting edge software.

BI: And strike while the iron's hot.

CC: Yeah. You’ve got to be careful how you couch this stuff but yes we’re spending a lot of time thinking about this stuff.

BI: How long do you see industry adoption of blockchain taking?

CC: Again it gets down to use cases but lets just say people start doing proof of concepts and maybe even start having it rolled out in certain markets this year. I think you could see limited roll-out, we certainly hope to be rolling out in the precious metals market this year.

But I think realistically, this is a big upgrade cycle. It’s going to take a decade or more. If you’ve done 50 acquisitions as a bank, your capacity to just pull all those systems out and have confidence that it will all be ok — that’s really playing with fire. You can see why it would take them a long time.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Disgraced pharma CEO Martin Shkreli dissed a Wu-Tang Clan member in a hostile video

A top SocGen exec is joining a startup working with the technology behind bitcoin

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Societe Generale

Wall Street-headquartered blockchain company itBit is opening a London office to spearhead expansion to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

itBit's new London office, its first outside the US, will be headed up Jason Nabi, itBit says in an emailed statement announcing the move.

Nabi joins from Societe Generale, where he was Managing Director and Global Head of Global Broker-Dealer Services.

Since last August, Nabi has also been a member of a working group looking at how the technology that underpins bitcoin — blockchain — can be used in the post-trade stage of banking: clearing, settlement, and custody of things like shares or bonds.

itBit is one of several startups currently trying to bring blockchain technology to mainstream financial services. Blockchain uses complex cryptography and distributed databases, as opposed to centralised ledgers, to cut down on costs. Instead of working through a central "trusted middle-man" for things like trading and settlement, banks could use blockchain technology to deal directly with each other.

Founded in 2012, itBit is the first bitcoin and blockchain company to be regulated by the New York State Department of Finance Services and has developed an "off the shelf" blockchain-based product, Bankchain, that can be adapted for all sorts of uses in banking. The company is hoping to roll it out for use in the precious metals trading market by the end of the year.

Nabi is one of several executives to make the jump from traditional finance to so-called "fintech" startups looking at blockchain technology.

The most high-profile soa far has been Blythe Masters, the former JPMorgan executive who now runs blockchain company Digital Asset Holdings. Digital Asset Holdings also recently opened an office in London.

itBit CEO Chad CascarillaitBit founder Chad Cascarilla is himself a former mainstream finance guy, with stints as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America under his belt according to his LinkedIn profile.

Announcing the new office and Nabi's appointment, itBit CEO Cascarilla says in an emailed statement:

London is a major financial services hub, with a concentration on blockchain innovation, technology and transforming fintech services worldwide.

We are pleased to bring an industry veteran like Jason Nabi onto the team, given his leadership in blockchain applications for post-trade services and his deep understanding of financial markets globally.

Nabi says in the same statement:

The industry is at a turning point with distributed ledger technology, and I believe that itBit is the best-positioned firm to be a leader in this area with its Bankchain offering.

Business Insider recently caught up with Cascarilla during a visit to London — you can read the full interview here.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The surprising things that cost more than gas right now

China Central Bank Chief Speaks Digital Currency & Blockchain Tech

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The head of China’s central bank, the People’s bank of China (PBOC) has provided more details about the bank’s significant recent revelation. Less than a month ago, the PBOC announced that it will try to launch its own digital currency “as soon as possible.” In a wide-ranging interview with Caixin Weekly, PBOC governor Zhou XIaochuan provided more […]

The post China Central Bank Chief Speaks Digital Currency & Blockchain Tech appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

Martin Shkreli Tries To Buy “The Life Of Pablo” for $15 Million in Bitcoin

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Martin Shkreli claims to have been swindled of the $15 million he intended to send to Kanye West to own the exclusive rights to the rapper’s new album, “The Life Of Pablo.” The beleaguered American entrepreneur also claims to have spoken with Satoshi Nakamoto. There’s been no link given to the sizeable Bitcoin transaction, which […]

The post Martin Shkreli Tries To Buy “The Life Of Pablo” for $15 Million in Bitcoin appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

7 Asian Banks Investigating Bitcoin and Blockchain Tech

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CoinDesk looks at activity from Asia's biggest banks in the bitcoin and blockchain space.

EU Targeting End of 2016 For Virtual Currency Controls To Fight Terrorism Threats

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The European Council of the EU has set forth guidelines in which it will seek to regulate virtual currencies and curb terrorist funding opportunities. In light of several high terror attacks within the EU in  2015, many regulators and citizens called for tighter surveillance and anti-terrorism operations. Calls for tighter control over virtual currencies after […]

The post EU Targeting End of 2016 For Virtual Currency Controls To Fight Terrorism Threats appeared first on CCN: Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News.

FINTECH BRIEFING: UK Treasury on fintech legislation — Industry group explores blockchain's impact — Legacy firms begin embracing fintech

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Welcome to Fintech Briefing, a morning email providing the latest news, data, and insight into disruptive fintech in the UK and Ireland, the Continent, and beyond, produced by BI Intelligence.

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UK TREASURY CAUTIONS EUROPEAN COMMISSION ON FINTECH REGULATION: In September 2015 the European Commission put out a call for comment on whether the EU’s financial services legislation contains regulation that could potentially stymie economic growth. The consultation is part of a larger review of post-crisis financial regulation. In a response to this call for comment, the UK Treasury recently provided five suggestions aiming to encourage fintech growth. 

  • Update legislation to account for advances in technology. The Distance Marketing Directive, which governs how financial products are sold via distance communications such as online or over the phone, references outdated technologies including fax machines and floppy disks. The Treasury suggests this legislation should be updated to account for advances in technology and new legislation be “future-proofed” by implementing technology-neutral language that is broad enough to account for the rapid advances taking place in financial technology.
  • Avoid prescriptive legislation to leave room for growth and innovation. This will allow start-ups flexibility in communicating with their customers which could help the hundreds of fledgling fintech companies throughout the Europe to gain an edge in customer acquisition. 
  • Confirm anti-money laundering regulation for digital currency exchanges is not at the expense of legitimate businesses. Because digital currencies — Bitcoin, for example — offer a high degree of anonymity, businesses that allow people or organisations to exchange domestic currencies for digital currencies have the potential to be used for money laundering. But an overzealous regulatory approach could end up stifling these businesses, the bulk of which operate within the law. 
  • Avoid over-regulation on digital currency wallets. The European Commission had previously indicated that it would assess whether anti-money laundering rules should be applied to digital currency wallet providers. The Treasury argues that the burden of regulation on digital currency wallets would outweigh the potential risks associated with these transactions. 
  • Categorize E-money businesses as payment service providers to clarify legislative redundancies and contradictions. The Treasury asked the Commission to sort out redundancies and contradictions between E-Money Directive and Payment Services Directive (PSD), in particular. 

The UK’s support for fintech is no surprise considering that financial services or related professional services accounts for 7% of its workforce and 12% of the UK’s £2 trillion GDP. Fintech generates £20 billion in GDP, according to a fintech manifesto produced by Innovate Finance. 

UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently backed Innovate Finance's manifesto which outlines three goals for the UK to reach by 2020:

  • Become the most friendly environment for fintech investment globally.
  • Become the global center for fintech with at least 25 leading fintech companies.
  • Generate 100,000 new fintech jobs. 

bii top fintech adoption rates_12.23.15

INDUSTRY GROUP FORMED TO EXPLORE BLOCKCHAIN'S IMPACT: Financial services industry association ISITC Europe released a report on the first meeting of the Blockchain Working Group in London. The Blockchain Working Group specifically focuses on how blockchain technology will impact technology and operations of capital markets with the goal of setting standards and influencing regulation. The report argues that payments and currency are blockchain’s first major applications, with smart contracts and market facilitation currently in development stage.

ISITC believes that blockchain’s key innovation is “simply being able to transmit value at a distance without an intermediary.” The technology, which relies on a digital ledger to track transactions, could enable transactions to pass between two parties instantly and without the need for centralised authorities like clearing houses. This type of technology could streamline a variety of processes and increase transaction security. It could also lower infrastructure costs in the financial industry by up to $20 billion annually by 2022.  

Financial institutions are in the process of researching how blockchain could apply to their businesses. ISITC noted that current experimentation is teaching financial institutions about the technology itself as well as its security, governance and legal ramifications, interoperability and scalability of a blockchain system, and standards and data use. Currently, several startups, including R3 CEV and Chain, are working with a variety of global banks and financial institutions to test use cases for blockchain in areas like inter-bank transfer and cross-border payments.

Financial institutions willingness to experiment should not be taken as willingness to adopt. There are still significant risks that go along with adopting blockchain technology. MasterCard told Business Insider that it's interested in blockchain innovation, but wants to avoid being “blindsided” if security or other issues arise with the technology, for example. 

THE ROLE OF FINTECH IN EUROPE IS BECOMING CLEAR: Finovate Europe, an industry event which was held last week in London, showed that major players in the finance and payments industries are shifting away from seeing fintech firms as disruptors and towards viewing them as potential collaborators, according to Finance Magnates.

Initially, traditional financial institutions were threatened by fintech firms. That’s because fintech firms are often able to provide a better user experience with lower friction and cost of services. Because fintech services are offered digitally, that can also lower the cost of customer acquisition. That helps expand the market to customers that banks and other traditional institutions can't profitably take on.

But now, legacy institutions and fintechs are moving towards co-opertition. Rather than challenging the legacy players, fintechs are increasingly focusing on building robust SaaS platforms and white label products that larger players can buy or license. And this lucrative opportunity to sell into larger firms is driving fintech investment. In the UK, fintech investment increased by 215% year-over-year (YoY), and many major banks are among the investors contributing to the surge.

BI Intelligence predicted more partnerships between traditional financial institutions and fintech firms as banks try to cater to a younger, increasingly digital-savvy clientele. In the US, a similar market, 91% of millennials have a smartphone, and 65% use it for banking activities. By licensing or buying platforms from fintech firms, banks could remain competitive without having to invest in building their own platforms.


  • PAYLEVEN CLOSES SERIES D: Payleven, a Berlin-based mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) firm, announced that it raised $10 million in Series D funding, bringing the company’s total funding to $51 million. Payleven is currently working with Amex in Germany to provide small businesses with the opportunity to purchase a bundle that includes an EMV-compliant payment terminal and Amex Business Gold Card. It’s possible this partnership could be expanded into Payleven’s other markets throughout Europe.
  • PATCH OF LAND'S NEW FUNDING: A credit fund has agreed to buy $250 million worth of loans through US-based Patch of Land, a real estate marketplace lender. The unnamed fund will purchase the loans in increments over a fixed period of time. Patch of Land provides an online marketplace connecting borrowers with investors for residential and commercial real estate projects. 
  • FINTECH'S FOUNDATION IN SOUTH KOREA: Though fintech is still in its infancy in South Korea, it's ready to takeoff, according to Korea IT Times. This is primarily due to the March 2015 revision of onerous financial services regulations which made it difficult for fintech firms to operate both within and outside the country, according to a recent conversation between Doh Kyu-sang, head of the Financial Service Bureau of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and Kim Hyoung-Joong, head of the Korean Society of Fintech and a professor at Korea University.

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