To many, cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain technology that underpins them, can seem complicated and intangible, and this apprehension is often made worse by common misconceptions which simply aren’t true. Dispelling these myths is a crucial first step in building a better understanding of digital assets, like cryptocurrencies, and increasing confidence in a technology which has the potential to revolutionise entire industries, including banking and finance.
‘Bitcoin and blockchain are the same thing’
One of the most common misconceptions about cryptocurrencies stems from the assumption that digital assets and blockchain are one in the same.
In the decade since its launch, public awareness of Bitcoin has grown at a far quicker pace than that of blockchain – it’s root technology – leading many people to confuse the two.
Blockchain is a decentralized public ledger, which uses complex cryptography to record digital transactions. Originally devised to underpin Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, the technology can be used to record the exchange of anything of value. At present the technology is primarily used to verify transactions of digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple, however by inserting code into individual blocks on the blockchain it is possible to record and verify virtually anything of value using distributed ledger technology.
‘Cryptocurrencies aren’t safe’
Cryptocurrencies are often viewed with a degree of caution due to supposed security vulnerabilities and ties to criminal activity. However, by design, blockchain is built be secure and traceable. Many people fall under the false assumption that the anonymity associated with Bitcoin, and similar cryptocurrencies, attract dark-web criminals.
However, the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies functions by creating immutable records of transactions between peers, meaning the transactions can never be falsely altered. The majority of cryptocurrencies are also not entirely anonymous and have a layer of transparency that sets them apart from cash and commodities. Unlike cash, which cannot be traced and provides an unparalleled level of anonymity to criminals, blockchains are – by design – traceable to source. This level of accountability actually makes the prospect of trading in cryptocurrencies far less desirable to lawbreakers.
‘Digital currencies have no real value’
To many, the concept of attributing a value to an intangible digital asset is a confusing one, making it hard to recognise the usefulness of investing in cryptocurrencies. However, the idea that intangible assets have no real value is categorically incorrect. Cryptocurrencies are global, borderless currencies, that fluctuate depending on supply and demand, and can be used to pay for tangible goods in the same way fiat currencies are.
As we transition to an increasingly cashless society, digital currencies will continue to become even more widely used than they are today. Though some consumers might be concerned over the lack of a physical denomination, economists are already estimating that just 8% of the world’s currency currently exists as physical cash. Despite their perceived volatilities, cryptocurrencies are also not easily manipulated by external sources like fiat currencies, leading a number of industry experts to argue that they are better store of wealth than fiat currencies which are often artificially inflated.
‘Cryptocurrencies aren’t legal’
As with many emerging technologies, there is no predetermined regulatory landscape when it comes to cryptocurrencies – however this doesn’t mean that the trading of digital assets is illegal. Cryptocurrencies are currently only banned in just one of the G20 nations, and the international forum is currently discussing recommendations on how to implement effective global regulation to make the classification of digital assets clearer.
The layer of additional protection and trust that regulation intrinsically adds to a market would not only benefit cryptocurrency investors and contributors, but also the ever-increasing number of cryptocurrency projects underpinned by blockchain technology.
‘Coins and tokens are the same thing’
One of the most common misunderstandings when it comes to navigating the cryptocurrency landscape is the assumption that ‘coins’ and ‘tokens’ are interchangeable terms. Broadly speaking, a coin is exactly that, a single unit of currency, whereas a token generally had a wider functionality.
Coins generally take the form of native blockchain tokens such as Bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH), their purpose is to act as a form of currency, and their value changes over time – much like a fiat currency. Tokens , on the other hand,are designed as a utility and are hosted on another blockchain. Their functionality goes beyond that of digital currencies, and they often deliver value to investors beyond the speculative returns of a currency such as granting access to services based on the blockchain.
The early mysteriousness that surrounded blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and digital assets, led to a number of myths swirling and being mistaken for truth. Dispelling these misconceptions and understand the difference between key concepts is the crucial first step in helping cryptocurrencies become mainstream.
Staying connected: keeping the numbers moving in the finance industry
By Robert Gibson-Bolton, Enterprise Manager, NetMotion
2020 will certainly be hard to forget. Amongst the many changes we have come to live with, for many of us it has been adapting to a new style of working. Whatever your take on it is, remote working, working from home or even agile working, one thing remains clear – for many of us, this could be the new-normal for the foreseeable future. The professional services sector is no different. For example, many finance practices around the world are now allowing staff to work from home part of the time. In addition, a recent KPMG report found that half of the UK’s financial services workforce want to work from home after COVID-19.
Will this therefore become the de facto working practice for the finance industry too? We can’t say for sure, but this agile approach to working has certainly caused a major rethink for many firms. And as they evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a different way of working, firms need to ensure that their workforce can seamlessly interact with each other and their clients – this is key if they want to continue to deliver exceptional client service. Whilst financial services organisations everywhere are busy adopting innovative new technologies to better reflect the ‘work from anywhere environment’, they need to ensure secure access to resources and strive towards enhancing the end user experience. Success will be replicating the office working experience at home or wherever else they may be.
It’s all well and good for a firm to boast about the ability of their staff to work successfully from home, but how do they also establish that their people are just as productive as they were before? Whilst the IT department will have to grapple with security and compliance issues that arise from agile and remote working, they must also ensure that their people can connect securely, without eschewing user experience. And it needs to be completely seamless, without compromising the service level provided to clients.
Why all the fuss?
Which brings us nicely to persistent connectivity. Persistent connectivity effectively allows you to do more. How frustrating for the user when connectivity drops, or when the device that they are working on can’t find a network to connect to (or if the device switches between different networks). When connectivity drops, and re-connection is required then there is that small period where the user is not connected at all. And the user might have to re-authenticate or log into their VPN again (most VPNs are rubbish when they lose connectivity). All of these different scenarios ultimately disrupt the user experience – persistent connectivity provides the flexibility to overcome these challenges. When you enjoy consistent connectivity, you are making sure that the technology works as it was designed to work, allowing staff to rely on optimum user experience, anytime, anywhere – in effect, supplying them with that office-like experience, wherever they are. Just think about how many hours might be spent on a train, in a hotel or even on a client site. Consistent connectivity is key here – consistent in any of these locations.
Connectivity will be a fundamental component for successful remote working as firms try to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. Ultimately, they need encrypted and reliable connections that enable them to quickly and easily reach business applications and services. Working in a disconnected environment can lead to frustrated workers, hardly fitting given all the new remote working policies in place.
Getting the user experience spot-on
When you fine-tune connection performance so that essential business applications run reliably across networks, you are essentially talking about traffic optimization. Mobile traffic optimization ensures that applications, resources and connections are tuned for weak and intermittent network coverage and can roam between wireless networks as conditions and availability change. When connections aren’t performing well, applications that are crucial for job performance can experience packet loss, jitter or latency that can make working on the hoof extremely tricky. Compared to wired networks, wireless networks operate under highly variable conditions, including such factors as terrain or congested mobile towers. When you optimise the flow of traffic, you are helping to manage packet loss. Effectively, packet losses are data loss, which happens very regularly when you’re on the move or transitioning between different networks. Applications that require a lot of data tend to become fairly unusable when you hit even minor packet loss, which can be a common occurrence for many on residential broadband or on local Wi-Fi. conversely, NetMotion can enable critical applications to work and prevent disruptions at over 50% packet loss – in this way, employees can rely on technology performing well in situations and locations where it simply could not before. That is incredibly powerful for firms.
The finance industry is facing many of the same challenges presented to other industries. It is a question of balancing the requirement for more sophisticated ways to ensure secure access to resources with the need to enhance the end user experience (key team members in particular). For finance firms everywhere, adopting the right technologies will ensure that their people can enjoy a ‘work-from-anywhere’ environment.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific warns of capacity cuts, higher cash burn
(Reuters) – Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd on Monday warned passenger capacity could be cut by about 60% and monthly cash burn may rise if Hong Kong installs new measures that require flight crew to quarantine for two weeks.
Hong Kong’s flagship carrier said the expected move will increase cash burn by about HK$300 million ($38.70 million) to HK$400 million per month, on top of current HK$1 billion to HK$1.5 billion levels.
Hong Kong is set to require flight crew entering the Asian financial hub for more than two hours to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks, the South China Morning Post reported last week, citing sources.
“The new measure will have a significant impact on our ability to service our passenger and cargo markets,” Cathay said in a statement, adding that expected curbs will also reduce its cargo capacity by 25%.
The airline, in an internal memo seen by Reuters, requested for volunteers among its crew who could fly for three weeks, followed by two weeks of quarantine and 14 days free of duty, adding it will be a temporary measure and not all its flight will require such an operation.
“We continue to engage with key stakeholders in the Hong Kong Government,” the memo said.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Separately, a company spokeswoman said the airline could not detail the impact on vaccine transport specifically in terms of cargo shipments.
The aviation industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as many countries imposed travel restrictions to contain its spread.
In December, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.7% compared to a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 32.3%.
($1 = 7.7512 Hong Kong dollars)
(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong; Editing by Bernard Orr and Arun Koyyur)
Travel stocks pull FTSE 100 lower as virus risks weigh
By Shashank Nayar
(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 fell on Monday, with travel stocks leading the declines, as rising coronavirus infections and extended lockdowns raised worries about the pace of economic growth, while fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS gained on merger deals.
The British government quietly extended lockdown laws to give councils the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17, the Telegraph reported on Saturday.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index dipped 0.1%, with travel and energy stocks falling the most, while the mid-cap index rose 0.1%.
“Stock markets are crawling between optimism around the rollout of vaccines and worries that a jump in virus infections and fresh local lockdowns could further affect recovery prospects,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.
Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of COVID-19, the health minister said on Sunday while urging people to strictly follow lockdown rules as the best precaution against the country’s own potentially more deadly variant.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier warned that the government could not consider easing lockdown restrictions with infection rates at their current high levels and until it is confident that the vaccination programme is working.
The FTSE 100 shed 14.3% in value last year, its worst performance since a 31% plunge in 2008 and underperforming its European peers by a wide margin, as pandemic-driven lockdowns battered the economy.
Online fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS surged 4.8% and 5.9%, each. Boohoo bought the Debenhams brand, while ASOS was in talks to buy the key brands of Philip Green’s collapsed Arcadia group.
Recruiter SThree Plc gained 0.9% after its profit, which nearly halved, still managed to beat market expectations and the company said it had resumed dividends.
(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)
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