Robleh Ali Joins the DCI

Foreign Currency and Coins” by bradipo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’m excited to share that Robleh Ali, formerly manager of Digital Currencies at the Bank of England, has joined the MIT Digital Currency Initiative. At the DCI, Rob will deepen and expand the research he led at the Bank of England into how to issue digital fiat currencies. The aim of Rob’s work is to determine how blockchain and distributed ledger technology can lay the foundation for a new financial system which is simpler, more resilient, lower in risk, and more open to all.

Until the emergence of Bitcoin, the structure of the financial system mirrored the older, analog structure even as sweeping changes in information technology evolved around it. The technology used in the financial system increased its complexity and opacity while obscuring systemic risk. Regulation also became increasingly complex, but the financial crisis in 2008 showed that the system had grown to a point where regulators were unable to detect the severe problems building up within it. Since then, more regulations have been put in place which require increased capital, restrict riskier activities, and implement new reporting requirements. Yet at its core, the financial system has not changed.

The financial system is fundamentally a set of digital records. Bitcoin shows us the possibility of a new system, where we can keep secure digital records without involving any of the incumbent institutions, and code can regulate that system and govern economic incentives within it. Rob’s work addresses how we can adapt these concepts and apply them to the existing fiat-currency financial system, in order to enable financial services for a wider group of people and companies.

Money is the foundation of the financial system, and so this reformation starts with money itself. How money works influences everything else that sits on top, from securities to loans to contracts. Rob’s work will address how digital fiat currencies might alter how money interacts with people’s lives and what tools central banks can develop so as to best respond to changing circumstances in an era of sweeping innovation. Creating a solid money foundation for the future financial system will be critical to its resilience, stability and capacity to serve a very large number of people — including those currently excluded from basic financial services.

Rob originally trained as a lawyer and early in his career worked in mobile telecoms before moving to Italy for a year to teach English. He returned to the UK and worked in the public sector, most recently the Bank of England from 2011 to 2016 . Throughout his career he has witnessed how technology can be transformational by creating better tools and putting them in the hands of everyone. He thinks the start of remaking the financial system to serve people better is creating a simple, universally accessible way of moving money over the Internet — inspired by what the Web did for information.

Welcome Rob!