With the recent outbreak of the Panama Papersearlier this month, security and transparency on wealth management have prompted a global discussion on the future of financial technology.
The progression towards utilizing digital platforms for financial transactions and global trust funds brings with the potential risk of the invasion of privacy, theft, and public scrutiny — however, digital platforms backed by blockchain technology has sparked the interest of organizations looking to mitigate these potential risks involving remittances and settlement.
While blockchain is most commonly known as the backbone technology behind Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, it has the vast potential for improving the transactional efficiency for gambling, auditing, events and ticketing, as well as luxury goods — and not just for monetary transactions.
With the potential for blockchain technology to be utilized in a myriad of industries, Victory Square-backed Blockchain Technology, the first publically-listed blockchain company under the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSXV:BTL). With offices in London, UK and Vancouver, BC, BTL has offered blockchain solutions through their back-end remittance platform Interbit, and their recent acquisition of Xapcash Technologies, utilizing Xapcash’s front-end remittance product.
We sat down with Guy Halford-Thompson, CEO of BTL to get his insights behind how blockchain technology can truly revolutionize how people make global transactions.
Q: How would you describe blockchain technology?
A: In its simplest terms, blockchain is a distributed ledger of immutable information. It’s a system which allows us to add information to a database in effect. Once such information has been added, it can never be changed or removed. We know to a very high degree of confidence who added that information, when they added it, and where that information is going.
The analogy to use is that the internet revolutionized the way that we communicate whether it’s via email or WhatsApp or Skype. If you digest or dissect the Internet, all it is really is it allows us to communicate in new ways. The blockchain is revolutionizing transactions in the same that the internet created web classification.
The key thing to understand is that the transactions are not necessarily financial. A lot of people associate or have a very close association of blockchain with Bitcoin — for me saying, Bitcoin is to blockchain would be what email is to the Internet. You need the Internet to send an email, but sending an email is just one of the many things you can do on the Internet. Bitcoin in its relevance to blockchain is that it needs blockchain to function and to some extent, blockchain needs Bitcoin. But Bitcoin is just one example of the many applications in blockchain technology when transferring monetary value.
Q: What other ways can blockchain technology be used for?
A: Blockchain could also be transferring a contract, storing information, keeping a very secure audit log of who’s accessing your medical records, or issuing concert tickets on the blockchain.
When we created BTL, the first idea we had was around remittances or money transfer. Even today, if you want to send money through traditional financial institutions, it would cost you anything from about 7% to in some case, 15% to 18% to send that money. It’s very expensive, and it can take a long time for that money to arrive. Interbit was the first platform we worked on, and it connects various partners and companies in the blockchain space to reduce these transactional costs.
When we launched Interbit at the BC Tech Summit in Vancouver, we picked a few charities to send money to, because not everyone knows someone in the Philippines or Mexico who could receive the funds. This allowed people to come up to the stand and send $5 for free. This was to exemplify that it would be $5 for rates of around 1% versus where the ability to send $5 from Canada to Mexico to the Philippines had never been done before. Even if you were to transfer a few thousand dollars, it will be a fraction of the rate of what you’d pay on the high street when you use blockchain technology to facilitate the transfer.
Q: How has operating in both London and Vancouver benefitted the growth of BTL?
A: London is considered to be the fintech centre of the world, so we get a lot of exposure being in London. A lot of our clients are in London, and the fintech space is moving very quickly there. But in Vancouver, we have access to an incredible talent pool of developers and entrepreneurs that we wouldn’t have access to in London. We are also able to work closely with the fintech community here in Vancouver, whereas in London because it’s so fast moving, it can be very cut-throat in the startup space. Being in Vancouver, we can be a part of the startup community and help build the fintech community here in Vancouver.
Q: What are you most excited about for BTL this year?
A: 2016 is a big year for blockchain. It’s very exciting to be working with such cutting edge technology and to be working with such an incredible team. We have great people, great energy in the company, work with some fantastic companies, and it’s exciting to see how this technology is developing so fast.