Fintech Disruption Summit in Copenhagen Showcases a Variety of Blockchain & Fintech Projects

On 28 February, a group of professionals active in finance, fintech and blockchain, came together in Copenhagen for the Fintech Disruption Summit. Held at Singularity University Nordics, the attendees discussed blockchain and the finance industry — and what the one could mean for the other.

Organized by tokenization platform Digishares, one of the topics discussed was tokenized securities. As writer of this blog and co-owner of Infloat, I was invited to speak in Track 2: A Deep Dive into Tokenization. A summary of my presentation (on the fundamentals of tokenized securities) will soon follow on this blog.

Although the summit was quite a bit smaller than the Security Tokens Realised event in London last month, there was a professional atmosphere, with attendees coming from the National Bank of Denmark, Deloitte, IBM, MakerDAO, Oracle, Bird&Bird, and many more. What follows is a short review of the summit, including an overview of interesting projects we encountered.

Lasse Meholm, Head of Blockchain & DLT Strategy at DNB

Blockchain Pilots in the Financial Industry

During the day, several banks and financial institutions presented their views on (the benefits of) blockchain technology. For instance, we saw Lasse Meholm, Head of Blockchain & DLT Strategy at DNB (Scandinavia’s biggest bank), give a presentation on DNB’s blockchain projects. He discussed their initiatives related to KYC, document authorisation for trade, and smart contracts-enabled real estate deals, using R3 Corda, Hyperledger Fabric, Ethereum and IOTA.

As a showcase of blockchain technology, such pilots are interesting. But more often than not, they are exactly that: pilots. So the question is:

To what extent is, can and will such pilots be realized?

As expected, not all of the pilots mentioned during the event will in fact go live. In part, this may be due to a new technical infrastructure that does not fit with current legacy systems. But more interesting is another explanation that Lasse provided, relating to the culture and mindset of an organization like DNB. Generally in such companies, management is not very open to these new types of technology, and may not see its exact benefits. This means that it is difficult to acquire a budget for a pilot — let alone for full implementation of a specific proof of concept.

Showcases of Blockchain: Enterprise vs Startups

So one thing that marked the Fintech Disruption Summit is the large contrast between enterprises and smaller companies. From the very first presentation, it was clear that the mindset and way of working of such startups is entirely different than that of these large financial services firms.

Consider for instance MakerDAO, which for the first time has enabled anyone to acquire a loan without a counterparty. You can now get a loan using digital assets as collateral, without any party on the ‘other side’ of the contract. Or take Hallex, a Danish startup offering proofs of data integrity for files of any size.

Simply put, the way such startups speak about their project and lofty goals is very different from the projects (and often, proofs of concept) that companies like IBM or DNB work on. And yet, while I personally prefer the ‘can-do’ and ‘everything is possible’ attitude of startups working in the blockchain space, we must not forget that large institutions are in fact working on interesting projects. Consider the presentation by Bo Hembæk Svensson, member of the EU Blockchain Observatory, who said:

There is an emerging realization in the EU that blockchain is here to transform, change and challenge (the way we understand processes).

And indeed, according to Bo, the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel expects all public services to use blockchain technology in the future. Similarly, large institutions like the World Economic Forum also foresee a large transition to blockchain and DLT taking place. The point being, this is more serious than we think — and if we look at bigger institutions from within our own startup bubble, we may sometimes forget this.

Bo Hembæk Svensson, member of the EU Blockchain Observatory

Leaseum Partners, e-Money and Blocktrade

Nonetheless, what I find most exciting about conferences like Fintech Disruption Summit, is the opportunity to talk to companies I haven’t met yet. For instance, Julianne Sloane from Leaseum Partners gave a talk about their tokenized real estate fund. The UK and US-based company is currently raising up to $250 million to invest in New York real estate. In her presentation, Julianne drilled down into specific benefits of tokenization for their fund, such as enhanced liquidity, cost reduction and a larger potential investor base.

Another company that presented at the event is e-Money. Co-founder and CTO Henrik Aasted Sørensen (who is also the inventor of Adblock!) gave a presentation on their stablecoin solution. e-Money allows their clients to create a custom stablecoin by locking in place fiat currency. Interestingly, the company uses the Cosmos network instead of Ethereum. The reason being, as Henrik put it: “If you use Ethereum to buy a car, that’s impossible, because you would have to wait around for 2 hours to make sure your transaction is confirmed”.

Other interesting presentations included talks by organizer and CEO Claus Skaaning on the Digishares tokenization platform; CEO Luka Gubo on the security token exchange Blocktrade; and Liechtenstein lawyer Thomas Nägele on the Trusted Technology Law.

Summary of the Liechtenstein Trusted Technology Law by Thomas Nägele

Next Year: Fintech Disruption Summit #2?

With the first Fintech Disruption Summit, organizer Digishares did a proper job in bringing together the old and the new. On the one hand, the summit showcased the contrast between (legacy) financial institutions implementing an innovative new technology in their current way of working and new companies who relentlessly focus on bringing their blockchain solution to market. But on the other, it also demonstrated that the amount of blockchain projects, and number of people working in the ‘blockchain industry’ (for lack of a better name), is ever growing — and that DLT is certainly here to stay.

Keep an eye on this blog for a summary of the Infloat presentation at the summit, titled “The Fundamentals of Tokenized Securities & Tokenized Security Design”.

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Infloat is a research and advisory firm specializing in tokenizing businesses and developing innovative funding models. We fuse our business, financial, and blockchain know-how with market research to develop solutions for over 20 forward-thinking clients from 7 countries.