Joris Cramwinckel will start his PhD research on Blockchain applications for pensions

As of April 1 Joris Cramwinckel will start his PhD research at the Finance Group at the University of Amsterdam. The PhD project will focus on blockchain applications for pensions. The research will be interdisciplinary, mainly Finance and Computer Science, contributing to the feasibility of disintermediated pension plans. Prof. dr. Marc Francke (UvA) will be promotor, Dr. Andreas Peter (UTwente) copromotor and Dr. Maarten Everts (UTwente) co-supervisor. In addition, Prof. dr. Jaco van de Pol (UTwente) will fulfill an advisory role.

Blockchain for Pensions

Technical innovations are currently fueling financial disintermediation. Where artificial intelligence has already gained ground in several finance domains like robo-advisory, fraud detection and AI-driven trading strategies, blockchain technologies is yet scraping the surface of applications in Finance. This technology is, among many other applications, accelerating the application of peer-to-peer finance and risk sharing. Blockchain complements the current fintech era by providing ecosystems of distributed mutual trust which are key for autonomous financial applications.

Will blockchain technologies contribute to current global pension needs?

For pensions applications the long period between paying premium and receiving the benefit payment, combined with the amount of money involved necessitates the requirement of trust in the party that handles these transactions. Currently, this party is often a pension fund, government or an insurer. To maintain integrity of this process, a large amount of people are involved, involving a lot of regulation and validation.

Often the boards of these institutions make a lot of decisions for their participants, for example how to invest, or how risks are shared. In the Netherlands, a country that is recognized for its well-funded pension system, participants score their pension fund on average only a 6.1 out of 10 on trust. This is partly due to the lack of choices a participant is offered, communication about risks, and a lack of transparency of the solidarity. In addition, some countries have a pension system where current benefit payments are directly financed by the current working population and therefore eventually facing challenges because of the aging of populations. At last, many pension systems are affected by very low funding ratios in the US for instance the average 2017 funding ratio was around 60 percent .

Pension solutions for everyone

Despite the aforementioned issues from developed world pension systems, globally most people do not have any form of financial reserve for retirement at all and rely on social communities and family. Pension systems running on blockchain can be highly applicable in economies suffering from a lack of institutionalized trust. And can potentially offer retirement solutions to anyone with (mobile) internet access. In addition, due to the potential cost effectiveness, autonomous pension systems can act as a disruptive pension vehicle across all old-age income pillars in both developed and developing countries (in the form of micro pensions).

Work to be done

Prior hands on research results by Tech Labs demonstrated above all that, while Blockchain technology has the possibility to disrupt large sectors in the financial world, a lot of work still needs to be done to pave the way for a smooth implementation in the current pension system. Through this academic research in combination with hands on prototyping at Tech Labs, Ortec Finance remains at the forefront of technological innovation in financial decision making.

The project will include actuarial studies on peer to peer sharing of longevity and actuarial risk in blockchain based agreements. Furthermore, the pension application will act as a use case to pin point the more fundamental aspects of hosting autonomous systems on blockchain technologies. Governance, security and sustainability of autonomous financial systems will be subject of the research.

Sources:

1. OECD (2017), Pensions at a Glance 2017: OECD and G20 Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/pension_glance-2017-en

2. In the World Bank’s report “Averting the Old Age Crisis” (1994) a multi-pillar system for the provision of old-age income security is proposed.

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