There is growing recognition of the revolutionary potential of the blockchain technology, which first saw the light of day as the software underpinning bitcoin. The Economist has run a cover story describing its “distributed ledger”, which potentially renders all sorts of intermediaries redundant as the “great trust engine.” Yet even as there has been a surge in startups looking to build businesses using the bitcoin blockchain, there has been growing concern about the strength and efficiency of that blockchain, and various attempts to design alternative blockchains that are not connected to bitcoin. Some of these efforts have been led by incumbent financial firms, either individually or in consortiums, whilst there has been a growing number of partnerships between blockchain startups and incumbent financial firms.
Which blockchain, if any, will come out on top? Will partnership strategies play a big part in determining this? Will partnerships actually increase the spread and size of the benefits generated by adopting blockchain technology? Will billions of dollars of revenues currently generated through financial intermediation be wiped out by more efficient blockchain technology, benefiting consumers? And which types of intermediation are most at risk of creative destruction? Or will partnerships and/or acquisitions allow incumbents to become more efficient and profitable while protecting their traditional intermediary functions?
Michael Novogratz, Former president, Fortress Investment Group
Todd McDonald, Co-founder, R3
Jeremy Allaire, Founder, chairman and chief executive, Circle
Moderator: Matthew Bishop, Senior editor, The Economist Group