- Negativity surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be obstructing blockchain’s full potential
- More collaboration in the financial services industry is needed to allow businesses to fully reap the benefits of blockchain
- Banking and finance experts claim that blockchain should not be regulated in order to thrive
- 24% of businesses believe their company is on top of the developments that blockchain can bring
The impact of blockchain within the financial services industry could be significantly delayed by the damaging PR currently associated with cryptocurrencies, new research suggests.
Insight gathered in a report by international law firm Gowling WLG reveals that financial services experts are fearful that if the negative headlines surrounding the likes of Bitcoin impacts industry opinion about blockchain software, it will perpetuate the common confusion between the two.
The report, entitled ‘The ultimate disruptor – how blockchain is transforming financial services’, states that an estimated US$2.1 billion will be spent on blockchain solutions during 2018 and, by 2021, levels are expected to reach US$9.2 billion. In order for the system to reach these levels of growth and its benefits to be realised, it’s essential for businesses to understand the capabilities of blockchain and other distributed ledger technology (DLT) beyond Bitcoin.
Dean Elwood, CEO of blockchain company Umony and contributor to the report, said: “Bitcoin is creating so much noise, much of it negative, that the genuinely useful and practical side of blockchain is getting buried. I think there is a real pressure on the industry and people like me, to make sure that everyone really understands the difference between blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.”
The report features insight from specialists including NEX Exchange, Blockchain Hub, BTL Group and AgriLedger.
Many of the contributors believe that the development of blockchain technology will happen much faster if the industry collaborates and regulators are involved in the development process. This is because the very nature of DLT revolves around sharing information, not only internally, but also with customers and, in many cases, with competitors.
David Brennan, partner and co-chair of Gowling WLG’s global tech team, said: “The business community has been quick to grasp the numerous opportunities blockchain solutions afford, but the key challenge will be communicating its significance to both the public and policymakers. Collaboration between governments and the private sector is key in order to facilitate widespread acceptance and adoption of the technology.”
The firm’s research also suggests that the appropriate industry regulators need to catch-up with the technological developments within blockchain and DLT, yet the majority of those interviewed do not believe that the technology itself requires regulation.
Andrew Gardiner, founder and CEO of Property Moose, said: “Cryptocurrencies need regulating, absolutely, 100%. But you can’t regulate blockchain itself. It’s just a piece of tech. For example, do you regulate Microsoft Word or Google for emails? They all have to be ISO compliant, so you’ll have industry standards, but these are not regulation.”
For a full overview of the research conducted with financial services experts, including insight on who will be affected by blockchain, the opportunities and threats facing the technology and the level of investment now going into blockchain development, see Gowling WLG’s white paper ‘The ultimate disruptor – how blockchain is transforming financial services’.
 1 Worldwide Semiannual Blockchain Spending Guide, International Data Corporation, 2018.
Sunak warns of bill to be paid to tackle Britain’s ‘exposed’ finances – FT
(Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will use the budget next week to level with the public over the “enormous strains” in the country’s finances, warning that a bill will have to be paid after further coronavirus support, according to an interview with the Financial Times.
Sunak told the newspaper there was an immediate need to spend more to protect jobs as the UK emerged from COVID-19, but warned that Britain’s finances were now “exposed.”
UK exposure to a rise of one percentage point across all interest rates was 25 billion pounds ($34.83 billion) a year to the government’s cost of servicing its debt, Sunak told FT.
“That (is) why I talk about leveling with people about the public finances (challenges) and our plans to address them,” he said.
The government has already spent more than 280 billion pounds in coronavirus relief and tax cuts this year, and his March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown.
He is also expected to announce a new mortgage scheme targeted at people with small deposits, the UK’s Treasury announced late on Friday.
Additionally, the government will also announce a new 100 million pound task force to crack-down on COVID-19 fraudsters exploiting government support schemes, it said.
(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)
G20 promises no let-up in stimulus, sees tax deal by summer
By Gavin Jones and Jan Strupczewski
ROME/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders agreed on Friday to maintain expansionary policies to help economies survive the effects of COVID-19, and committed to a more multilateral approach to the twin coronavirus and economic crises.
The Italian presidency of the G20 group of the world’s top economies said the gathering of finance chiefs had pledged to work more closely to accelerate a still fragile and uneven recovery.
“We agreed that any premature withdrawal of fiscal and monetary support should be avoided,” Daniele Franco, Italy’s finance minister, told a news conference after the videolinked meeting held by the G20 finance ministers and central bankers.
The United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies through lockdowns.
But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new coronavirus variants mean the future path of the recovery remains uncertain.
The G20 is “committed to scaling up international coordination to tackle current global challenges by adopting a stronger multilateral approach and focusing on a set of core priorities,” the Italian presidency said in a statement.
The meeting was the first since Joe Biden – who pledged to rebuild U.S. cooperation in international bodies – U.S. president, and significant progress appeared to have been made on the thorny issue of taxation of multinational companies, particularly web giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the G20 Washington had dropped the Trump administration’s proposal to let some companies opt out of new global digital tax rules, raising hopes for an agreement by summer.
“GIANT STEP FORWARD”
The move was hailed as a major breakthrough by Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire.
Scholz said Yellen told the G20 officials that Washington also planned to reform U.S. minimum tax regulations in line with an OECD proposal for a global effective minimum tax.
“This is a giant step forward,” Scholz said.
Italy’s Franco said the new U.S. stance should pave the way to an overarching deal on taxation of multinationals at a G20 meeting of finance chiefs in Venice in July.
The G20 also discussed how to help the world’s poorest countries, whose economies are being disproportionately hit by the crisis.
On this front there was broad support for boosting the capital of the International Monetary Fund to help it provide more loans, but no concrete numbers were proposed.
To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by Trump.
“There was no discussion on specific amounts of SDRs,” Franco said, adding that the issue would be looked at again on the basis of a proposal prepared by the IMF for April.
While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.
The recovery is fragile elsewhere too. Factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter.
Some countries had expressed hopes the G20 may extend a suspension of debt servicing costs for the poorest countries beyond June, but no decision was taken.
The issue will be discussed at the next meeting, Franco said.
(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington Michael Nienaber in Berlin and Crispian Balmer in Rome; editing by John Stonestreet)
Bank of England’s Haldane says inflation “tiger” is prowling
By Andy Bruce and David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane warned on Friday that an inflationary “tiger” had woken up and could prove difficult to tame as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially requiring the BoE to take action.
In a clear break from other members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who are more relaxed about the outlook for consumer prices, Haldane called inflation a “tiger (that) has been stirred by the extraordinary events and policy actions of the past 12 months”.
“People are right to caution about the risks of central banks acting too conservatively by tightening policy prematurely,” Haldane said in a speech published online. “But, for me, the greater risk at present is of central bank complacency allowing the inflationary (big) cat out of the bag.”
Haldane’s comments prompted British government bond prices to fall to their lowest level in almost a year and sterling to rise as he warned that investors may not be adequately positioned for the risk of higher inflation or BoE rates.
“There is a tangible risk inflation proves more difficult to tame, requiring monetary policymakers to act more assertively than is currently priced into financial markets,” Haldane said.
He pointed to the BoE’s latest estimate of slack in Britain’s economy, which was much smaller and likely to be less persistent than after the 2008 financial crisis, leaving less room for the economy to grow before generating price pressures.
Haldane also cited a glut of savings built by businesses and households during the pandemic that could be unleashed in the form of higher spending, as well as the government’s extensive fiscal response to the pandemic and other factors.
Disinflationary forces could return if risks from COVID-19 or other sources proved more persistent than expected, he said.
But in Haldane’s judgement, inflation risked overshooting the BoE’s 2% target for a sustained period – in contrast to its official forecasts published early this month that showed only a very small overshoot in 2022 and early 2023.
Haldane’s comments put him at the most hawkish end among the nine members of the MPC.
Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden on Friday said risks to UK inflation were broadly balanced.
“I see inflation expectations – whatever measure you look at – well anchored,” Ramsden said following a speech given online, echoing comments from fellow deputy governor Ben Broadbent on Wednesday.
(Editing by Larry King and John Stonestreet)
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