When Professor Yaacov Kopeliovich looks at blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, he sometimes sees “a hammer looking for nails.”
“There is a lot of vagary, a lot of ‘blah, blah, blah’ in this area,” he told the more than 80 people gathered for “FinTech: The Financial World of the Future,” an April 10 panel discussion on the topic on UConn’s Stamford campus.
“What is the benefit of this technology for the financial industry?” he asked.
For the next 90 minutes, panelists and audience members held a spirited discussion on everything from the emergence of bitcoin and other cybercurrencies to the future of blockchain and its many applications and implications.
UConn’s School of Business teamed up with the CFA Society Stamford to present the insight-filled evening that drew both students and professionals to the GenRe Auditorium. Kopeliovich, a finance professor, moderated the discussion with the panelists, including: Scott Matsumoto, chief information security officer for Circle; Danielle Martell, senior manager, Finance Services Strategy, at Accenture; and Alessia Falsarone, managing director of portfolio strategy and risk at PineBridge Investments.
The university has been at the forefront of discussion and innovation centered on emerging technology and its effects on business for some time now. In August 2018, the School of Business hosted the first-ever academic conference on blockchain, featuring research presentations from 25 international experts on the topic.
The following month, the School launched a DappDevs Blockchain chapter, attracting entrepreneurs and leaders from regional companies and startups who wished to share their knowledge, brainstorm and network.
UConn’s School of Business offered its first related courses this spring and has partnered with others to organize free workshops. The School played a prominent role in Stamford Innovation Week last fall, offering three timely programs for participants.
For the uninitiated, blockchain is a system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin or other cryptocurrency is maintained across many computers linked to a network. It allows digital information to be distributed, but not copied, offering a greater security than other forms of technology.
Faced with Kopeliovich’s hammer-and-nail analogy, Matsumoto said blockchain provides certainty to a business world still trying to shake off the malaise and fear born of an uncertain economy.
“There is inherently not as much trust,” he said.
Having the transparency that distributed ledger technology provides to data exchange offers an “integrity control” that financial leaders can trust, he said.
Falsarone, who works in capital markets, agreed, saying she sees digital ledger technology having promising applications in lending and credentialing.
The panel also considered how the rise of cybercurrencies might affect the future of traditional banking and tensions among financial institutions.
On one hand, bitcoin is a terrible method for payments because of its instability, Matsumoto said. Unlike the dollar, its value fluctuates wildly from day to day.
Robots and artificial intelligence will also affect the financial world and its employees, the panelists agreed. The rise of automation may disrupt the financial workforce.
“Some jobs won’t be needed but more tech people will be needed,” said Martell.
“We do need humans interpreting things,” Matsumoto said.
One thing upon which everyone could agree was the fact that the world is only beginning to touch upon the implications and applications of FinTech. The story is still unfolding.
“There are so many questions out there that have yet to be answered,” Matsumoto said.