Accelerating financial inclusion with blockchain

An interview with Pavel Bains, CEO of Bluzelle

Hi Pavel. First, tell us, how did you get involved with blockchain?

In spring 2014, after hearing about Bitcoin and wondering what it was all about I started reading everything I could on it. I was enamoured with the underlying technology and its beauty in mathematics, cryptography, AI and economics.

I saw all these ideas I had in my head five years earlier now at a point where this technology could make them happen. I used to wonder, how could that woman living in a village in India making saris make more money by sending it to my wife than going through so many intermediaries. That woman just wants to trust she gets paid, my wife wants to trust the product gets to her. Blockchain can eventually make that happen.

What is Bluzelle?

Bluzelle is an international mobile wallet network. Mobile wallets are the way the underbanked are currently entering the financial world. However these mobile wallets are like islands to themselves. They aren’t interoperable and have limited services. We’re building bridges between those islands so they can grow their services for consumers. Our goal is to accelerate financial inclusion and this is how we are doing it.

Where does Bluzelle sit in the overall blockchain infrastructure?

We use blockchain as an enabling technology for the Bluzelle Network. It provides one part of our rail for clearing and settlement but we also have many other components running on top such as payment switches. For some of our other products we leverage Ethereum around insurance and KYC.

“I used to wonder, how could that woman living in a village in India making saris make more money by sending it to my wife than going through so many intermediaries…Blockchain can eventually make that happen.”

Throughout 2016, Bluzelle was doing a lot of work with banks and other financial related companies. Can you share some of the experiences and some of the customers?

We are very well versed in different blockchain technologies and saw a need for financial institutions to “future-proof” themselves. As a result we delivered several pilots and POCs. One was with Temenos, a global leader in banking software solutions. We integrated our payments product, Bluzelle Altitude, into their core banking software. By demonstrating this, we enable any bank using T24 to start doing payments internationally in real time over the blockchain.

You recently relocated from Vancouver to Singapore. Do you see more potential for blockchain in this region?

As one of the top five financial centres of the world, it made sense for us to set up operations in Singapore. We see huge potential for blockchain technology because the Asia Pacific region consists of many financial services businesses operating in multiple countries. Plus, with more than half the world population in the region, people and businesses will need faster and cheaper ways to move money. So with mobile technology adoption and more population movement across borders, blockchain is ideal to power the financial infrastructure and products that will be required.

Aside from banking, are you looking at other industries such as insurance? Can you describe the use cases you are interested in?

We can’t divulge names but we also delivered smart-contract based insurance products for global insurers and have a KYC-shared ledger system being deployed with real banks. People need new insurance products that have lower premiums and better reflect their lifestyles. For example, dynamic pricing for health insurance. Why should a person always pay the same fixed amount for years? With current technology we can measure if a person’s health has improved or declined then cross-reference the data with their insurance smart contract on the blockchain and adjust the premium in real time. Blockchain helps achieve this whereas previously it would have been too expensive to do so.

The future of banking will be a more fluid system of different entities communicating with one another like a neural network.

How do you envision the future of banking 10 years from now?

Unlike most, I don’t see banks being overthrown like the record industry. I see them evolving. The future of banking will be a more fluid system of different entities communicating with one another like a neural network. It will really be banking without borders as multiple products, services and businesses will be connected seamlessly. With everything connected, companies will have to better themselves by offering better customer service and experiences.

Look at communication. Before going on a trip, I used to have to think about roaming packages, getting cash for the local currency, etc. Now I just get on a flight from Singapore to Spain and treat it like a domestic trip. I land and can pick up a SIM card at a low price. I call anyone through WeChat, WhatsApp or FaceTime. I pay for everything electronically. I don’t need to give the local number to anyone since we communicate through apps. Sending money, signing off on waybills for international trade, insurance for using car-sharing services will all happen in real-time without needing more than a couple of minutes of planning.

This interview is part of Nest’s Unpacking Blockchain series.

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Pavel Bains (@pavelbains)is an entrepreneur, futurist, designer and investor in exponential technologies. Besides being CEO of Bluzelle Networks, Pavel is also an investor in FinTech startup Bench and virtual reality startup VR Chat. Pavel is part of 500 Startups and contributes to Fast Company, Venture Beat, Forbes and The Huffington Post.