What's an ICO? 'Big 4' Consulting Firms Are Getting the Question

Major consulting firms are reporting that interest in blockchain is fast expanding beyond distributed ledgers to include more experimental ICOs.

AccessTimeIconJul 20, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:33 p.m. UTC

Clients of the world's four largest professional services firms are expanding their interest in the blockchain sector in line with its recent explosion of experimentation.

According to representatives from Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, both existing and prospective clients are beginning to ask questions about initial coin offerings (ICOs), the process by which public blockchain technologies can be leveraged to create custom cryptocurrencies that are subsequently sold to fund projects.

With the novel funding method grabbing headlines (and garnering criticism), Eamonn Maguire, who leads KPMG's Digital Ledger Services division, said he has even received requests to work with entrepreneurs seeking to become the next Tezos or EOS, both projects that have raised hundreds of millions by selling cryptographic tokens.

He told CoinDesk:

"We've seen a definite uptick in the inquiries we are receiving. In the past month alone, we've probably gotten 10 inquires – for example from institutions in France, Switzerland, Russia and Austria."

And Maguire understands why, adding that he believes the model can bring new investors into the market.

Representatives for Deloitte further indicated that they were receiving increasing interest on the topic, as did EY, which reported starting new conversations with "wealth and asset managers" on how they can begin managing cryptocurrencies and ICO tokens.

However, others are pointing to the lack of pertinent regulation as a roadblock that is preventing newcomers from capitalizing on ICOs.

"While the potential of ICOs in terms of transforming venture capital is indeed exciting for many of our clients around the world, the lack of regulatory clarity, particularly in the US, remains a concern," Ajit Tripathi, a director of fintech and digital banking at ‎PwC, said in an email.

Maguire continued this idea, going so far as to state that ICO projects are "still relatively rare" owing to an uncertain regulatory environment.

While regulators in some countries, like Australia, have been more vocal about their plans of action, recent reports have criticized lawmakers in the U.S. and U.K.

"The question becomes what should a responsible ICO address to protect the interests of investors and to build confidence in their solution and controls in the absence of explicit requirements," Maguire said, adding:

"This is at the heart of many of the discussions we are having to date."

Colored dots image via Shutterstock


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