Blockchain allows opening new business models and monetization methods. But during the preparation for an ICO you can not prepare for everything – something just won’t go according to plan. That’s why a strong team is needed, thinks Arwen Smit, the co-founder & CMO at DOVU blockchain platform for mobility ecosystem. In an interview with Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Gibraltar, where she is going deliver a presentation, Arwen shared her opinion on the role of blockchain in people’s lives, and spoke about the difficulties in preparing for the ICO.
– Hello, Arwen! Why did you choose ICO as a tool for raising money for the DOVU project development?
– Rule no 1: If you can realize your business model with a centralized database, use a decentralized database. However, if your business model can benefit from decentralization and tokenized incentivisation, it’s worth to consider a token sale.
New ecosystems are based on value. DOVU uses tokenized incentivisation mechanisms to align stakeholder incentives to stimulate value-adding behavior. For example, you could earn DOV tokens by sharing data or through responsible driving behavior. In turn, you can spend your DOV token on services within the mobility ecosystem, such as parking or EV charging. With blockchain technology, you can leverage micro-transactions and micro-rewards to monetize previously unmonetizable assets, opening up new business models.
– Concerning the ICO: what was the most difficult thing for your team in ICO preparation? How did you cope with the difficulties?
– A token sale is a global exercise in a nascent industry with many moving pieces. You can’t plan for everything. There will be developments you didn’t anticipate and the only way to counter those obstacles is to have a talented, flexible team. If the reasons why you do a token sale are sound (i.e. core to your business model), and you are in the market to build a long-term business, your product should speak for itself. However, setting up a long-term business comes with certain responsibilities on a legislative and team level. A global community needs to be able to trust the team to act in line with the communicated vision. Before you invest in a token sale, do your due diligence.
Governments have a responsibility as well. In my mind, it’s more harmful for countries such as South Korea and China to be unclear about the current legislative environment and future developments than an outright ban. This amplifies market uncertainty and the corresponding volatility undermines widespread blockchain adoption on a corporate level.
– What measures do you take to protect personal data processed by DOVU protocol?
– Given upcoming changes in legislation, namely GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming into force on 25 May 2018, DOVU, together with its partners, is working very hard to make sure that all pilot projects will be built in line with the GDPR requirements. We are working on creating easy access and easy user experience with the necessary visibility. When the regulation was written it did not consider the vast variety of data that vehicles are collecting (especially when we speak about connected cars) and the fact that one piece of data might not be considered as “Personal Identifiable data”, but when combined with another piece of data, both could identify the individual. This leads to both pieces of data being “Personal Identifiable data”.
Various European automotive industry associations, EU Commissions and ECJ (European Court of Justice) are currently working on how to classify types of data and how to solve possible arising issues. DOVU is working with our partners to make sure all relevant measures are taken, and constantly make sure that we are aware of latest updates on legislation and where the industry is heading.
– The idea standing behind DOVU protocol can change the whole system of data processing in the transport industry. In your opinion, will you face opposition among major players of this market?
– Blockchain is taking the world by storm. Approximately 1-2% of US citizens have been exposed to cryptocurrencies. Coinbase is ranked the #1 app in the app store, and valued over $1.7 billion. Bitcoin is bigger than ever, but so is the total pie ($0.7 trillion at the time of writing).
It would be odd for traditional transport providers not to express an interest. However, these companies are not, and within the next ten years will not be, blockchain development houses. To test these new technologies the natural course of action will be for them to partner with companies with deep expertise in this space, such as DOVU. This is evidenced by the caliber of the companies DOVU works with, such as BMW.
– What do you think about the role that blockchain will play in the development of all areas of human activity?
– Tokens power decentralized applications. Within its native protocol, a token serves as a means of exchange, store of value, and unit of account. Looking beyond Bitcoin, tokens are capturing the world’s attention with their innate ability to represent socio-technological systems – norms and values expressed in code, native the blockchain protocol. Blockchain gives humanity a chance to create new economic, political and social systems, which are more transparent, resilient and empowering for the individual.
Cloud computing is used on a day-to-day basis. Every time you snap a picture, it is automatically saved to your Apple or Google cloud. Blockchain will follow a similar trajectory. If implemented well, the technology becomes invisible and embedded in day-to-day use.
Combining these two developments we will see a new generation of ecosystems and a revised definition of the value moving within these communities.
– Please, tell us more about your presentation at Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Gibraltar. What will you focus on?
At BBC Gibraltar, we will discuss what steps the industry needs to take to bring blockchain to the masses, and discuss what role transportation can play herein.
If you’re interested in supporting widespread adoption of blockchain technology, or in mobility and transportation sector, we look forward to seeing you there!
Register to Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Gibraltar and ask your questions to Arwen Smit in person.
Q&A with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder, Centropy PR
Clare George-Hilley is the co-founder of Centropy PR
Global Banking and Finance Magazine recently caught up with Clare George-Hilley, co-founder of fintech and financial services specialist PR agency Centropy, as the company toasts to three years of trading. We asked Clare about what life is like running an agency in the city, the trends she is seeing in the financial services space and what the future holds following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Why did you decide to set up Centropy PR?
I was looking for an opportunity to launch my own agency, both my husband and I had been in the public affairs and public relations industry for over a decade and we thought the time was right to go out on our own.
We could see that the financial services industry was surging, with challenger brands and new technology transforming traditional banks and setting new standards of customer service. There was a huge market opportunity to create and launch a PR agency that could provider first class comms support, alongside a deep understanding of complex regulations such as AML, KYC, and the GDPR. Likewise, many traditional technology firms are diversifying their offerings, to tap into the growing market opportunity posed by the fintech boom.
So, we worked on a business plan, designed a strategy for winning clients and officially launched in September 2017. Within a few months we had a growing portfolio of clients and a thriving business, since that point, we have never looked back!
How is Centropy doing now and what are you plans for growth?
The last three years have flown by and our client portfolio has grown and diversified quickly. We now manage PR campaigns for clients on everything from cryptocurrency, wealth management to payments and trading software.
We’ve also hosted parliamentary debates with key industry figures, including Members of Parliament (MPs) on topics such as the future of the financial services industry and the impact of challenger banks on traditional providers. The team is expanding quickly and we’re investing heavily in the latest training and support to ensure our team members are equipped to reach their full potential.
How do you see the next 12 months?
The Covid-19 outbreak has crippled the economy, forcing millions of people to work from home due to the very serious health risks. The knock-on effect of this crisis will lead to companies cutting costs where possible to save jobs, so tech will play a vital role in ensuring many businesses stay afloat.
We are already working with contactless payments specialists and other fintech companies that offer solutions to help companies survive and thrive despite the inevitable challenges ahead.
We aim to continue building our portfolio of expertise, testing ourselves with new challenges and delivering the best possible service to clients
This is a Sponsored Feature.
Lessons from past recessions and advice for business owners during the coronavirus pandemic
By Neil Davis, managing director and co-founder of Sterling Networks
What is Sterling Networks?
“Sterling Networks is a professional organisation founded in 2014 which facilitates networking events for businesses across the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and the South West. Over 300 members attend our fortnightly breakfast and lunchtime meetings.”
What is your background prior to establishing Sterling Networks?
“During the 1990s, I worked in the corporate team for Halifax. My wife, Tracey, and I went onto own a manufacturing business, which was also called Sterling, and produced a range of gifts, merchandise and promotional items.
“We soon realised tradeshows were a great way to meet distributors and clients. From there, the business grew exponentially, and we managed to build a network of around 500 distributors. Eventually, we became ground down by the manufacturing business – in part because the local manufacturing sector was being devastated by competition from China – and took the decision to sell the business and relocate to Spain.
“After spending several years living abroad, we moved back to the UK to set up Sterling Integrity (EXPO’S) & Sterling Networks (Networking) We were inspired by a desire to help businesses make meaningful connections with one another, and we haven’t looked back since.”
The UK has recently entered a recession, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What have you learned from past recessions and how are these experiences helping you to navigate the current crisis?
“I’ve lived through a number of recessions and have seen the pain that insolvency causes companies on a large scale. It’s taught me that there are those who win and sadly those who lose, and that businesses must adapt to a rise in demand for certain products or services at a time of financial crisis.
“Given the nature of what Sterling Networks offers [an opportunity for business owners to connect and grow together] I decided we could build upon the brand due to the demand for new business during the pandemic. We therefore moved our networking events from face-to-face to virtual via tools like Zoom and have gained a steady stream of new members in recent months, reaching an overall total of well over 300.
“On top of that, we’ve taken new staff on during the crisis and have launched a number of new regional groups across the country. I was determined that Sterling should come out of the pandemic with a head start, so my attitude to the recession has been much more positive than those who are forecasting nothing but doom and gloom.
“We can’t pretend high street retail wasn’t suffering long before the pandemic came along, and thousands of new businesses are sure to start up to meet the demand for the products and services that people require at a time such as this. In order to develop and grow businesses need to focus on where changes need to be made to meet this demand.”
Sterling Networks has been providing emotional support to its members throughout the pandemic. What advice have you been giving to members that could be useful to other business owners?
“I try not to be too opinionated and respect other people’s views when giving advice to members, as there are always two sides to every circumstance. I’ve been careful not to say to people that they should be doing one thing or another, as I don’t know their business and its needs quite like they do. The only thing that I have been telling members is the importance of setting up one-to-ones with one another. By doing so, they can listen to the needs and concerns of other, like-minded business owners and work out ways that they might be able to help one another.
“The pandemic has meant we all have a bit more time on our hands, so the advice I would give to people is to use this extra time wisely. Not having to travel physically from one meeting to another means there is a greater opportunity to connect with more people. It’s important to remember that individuals outside of your business can be just as valuable as those within it.”
What makes you hopeful for the future and are there any words of encouragement you can give to budding entrepreneurs?
“The key events that have happened to this country during my lifetime – whether wars, recessions, or the pandemic – have enabled me to take stock of things. While these experiences are certainly challenging, we all become stronger for living through them, and it gives me great confidence that the world will ultimately improve as a result of the pandemic.
“The whole world is effectively rebooting right now, as is the business community. I like to think entrepreneurs will recognise this opportunity to take better care of their peers, and this translates to greater collaboration between organisations. Speak to as many people as you can, ask all the questions that you need to and do your homework. This might well be a difficult time for us all but planning for the future must start now if it is to become as prosperous as I know it can be.”
Exclusive Interview with Ugo Loser, CEO of ARCA Fondi SGR
Arca Fondi SGR is a mid-sized Italian active asset management company. Founded in 1983 by a consortium made up of 12 regional banks, the company has grown in time, expanding its network of distributors and its client base. Nowadays Arca manages Mutual Funds, Pension Funds and Institutional Accounts with total AUM exceeding 30 € bln, reaching more than 100 banks and financial institutions and serving more than 800,000 final clients.
What are the key contributors to ARCA Fondi SGR’s success over the past 35 years?
Arca has always put clients and distributors first. That is to say we have always privileged fair pricing for funds and developing high quality products and services for our customers. This requires constant innovation as an objective and looking for people’s talent to be free to produce its effect
Why are people the founding element of ARCA Fondi SGR and how have you sustained this vision over the years?
We work in small teams, people are young and motivated and can perform duties with a high level of autonomy and responsibility. Innovation is asked to everyone, everyday
What makes Arca Fondi SGR different from other asset management firms in Italy?
Arca is a company focused on doing what it can do very well, that is to say mutual and pension funds, services for clients and banks. We never follow short term trends but always look for long lasting impact on the industry, like we’ve done may times in the past
What products/services has ARCA Fondi SGR pioneered?
Arca has been the inventor of “Arca Cedola”, fixed-horizon, coupon paying funds, which have been with no doubt the greatest product innovation of the past 12 years on the Italian market. This type of funds, at first strictly based on bonds and later as a balanced product, has encountered an enormous success both with clients and distributors due to its simple and effective value proposition. Arca is a market leader also in the “PIR” segment of funds, a range of product focused on mid and small sized companies, that have been the best performers in the Italian stock market for the last few years. In services, Arca is a leader in technology applied to asset management. Our website, app and digital services for clients and banks are award winning, state of the art combination of data, technology and channels, and the best is yet to come on this side.
What strategies do you have in place to sustain your market position and withstand professional competition in the country?
As I mentioned, we do not waste resources on projects with dubious results, instead we constantly invest on people, products and services. The high level of profitability that Arca has been able to maintain even in difficult years for the markets of the banking sector is a further testimony that this strategy works very well
How do you use technology to create meaningful experiences for your customers?
First of all, we have created a whole new division, Arca InnovAction Lab, dedicated to technology, data and processes. This ensures projects are delivered quickly and they are free to leave bad past practices behind. Arcaonline.it, Arca’s website, provides distributors with detailed information on clients’ portfolios, asset under management and subscription/redemption requests. It monitors aggregate selling data offering to our partners a suite functions and analytics to track commercial campaigns. And if the banks branches need assistance, they may ask Sara, our digital chatbot. A broad and timely multimedia production, covering exclusive reports, comments, presentations, videos, webinars and newsletters is also available on the website.
Customers, subscribing Arca’s funds through its distributors’ network, may access Arcaclick, a dedicated area on Arcaonline.it. With Arcaclick the client can easily browse through her portfolio of funds, analyze its characteristics, view transactions and historical funds’ performance in customizable views. Arcaclick is also a powerful source of information on Arca product range: Prospectus, KIIDs and other literature is easily accessible along with news, comments and reports. Arcaclick may also be accessed via Arca Fondi App, a free application for mobiles and tables, running on both iOS and Android. Available 24/7 and in mobility, Arcaclick gives clients the opportunity access information, news and details of their personal portfolio anytime and anywhere.
What key trends will drive pension growth in 2020 and beyond?
The Italian market for pension funds is still very small and therefore there is a great opportunity to grow. Arca Fondi manages the biggest open ended Italian pension fund and it’s been constantly at the top of its rankings. As people and workers are looking for yield and to weather short term volatility, the pension fund is very well poised to profit from this trend.
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