Blockchain in Germany: insights from the Crypto Assets Conference
High trust in regulators and active corporates stood out from the event in the financial centre of Europe’s biggest economy.
Germany has embraced crypto at a slower pace than my native Slovenia, as reflected in its relatively modest crypto awareness and ICO activity. According to Elementus, Germany had had 1 more ICO than Slovenia by November 2017, despite having forty times more inhabitants. To understand the current situation and developments in the German market, we visited the Crypto Assets Conference in Frankfurt, which aimed to bring together participants from finance, academia, regulatory bodies and crypto enthusiasts. It attracted a predominantly German, male audience (90%) with a diverse understanding of blockchain. There were newbies and intermediates, but no self-declared experts in a quick raise-your-hands poll.
The attendees shared a cautiously optimistic outlook on blockchain, considering it a promising technology, but still at a very early stage. Germans don’t want their country to trail behind in crypto development and trust their regulators will act in the nation’s best interest. BaFin (the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority) is actively monitoring the space and its speaker attracted the most interest during and after panel discussion.
The main takeaway from the event was that German enterprises are quite active in the blockchain space: Commerzbank is experimenting with various blockchains and other promising technologies in its fintech incubator. Allianz and Munich Re are participating in an insurance blockchain initiative B3i while Deutsche Börse is developing the technology for transferring collateralised commercial bank money. A VC active in insurtech stated that the industry giants are in a better position to leverage blockchain in as they focus on backend operations and fintechs should in his view concentrate on the front-end, customer-facing applications.
We however believe that projects such as Etherisc with its decentralised protocol have the potential to redefine the insurance business and corporates will need to adapt. The bet on corporates was not universal: the main organiser repeatedly said that the lion’s share of blockchain innovation has come from the crypto community and not corporates. And nobody disputed that. Robert Bosch’s venture capital arm may have been acting on this realisation when it decided on its investment into IOTA tokens.