Damn Strate: Post-Trade Pioneer Monica Singer Is Going Full-Time Blockchain

Just days after resigning from South Africa's central securities depository, its former CEO reveals plans to enter the blockchain space full-time.

Aug 28, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 6:52 a.m. UTC
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Monica Singer has some unfinished business.

When she joined South Africa's central securities depository (CSD), Strate, in 1998, she set out to do more than just convert its antiquated paper-based securities trading system to a faster, more efficient digital one. Singer wanted to cut out unnecessary middlemen, facilitate peer-to-peer transactions and do it all online. But the technology of the time just wasn't up to the task.

Now, Singer, who has been the CEO of Strate for over 18 years and helped found the organization, thinks blockchain has changed that equation, and she's ready to take action.

On Thursday of last week, she formally resigned her leadership role at the company to dedicate her career to bringing blockchain to industries from finance and insurance to medicine and retail.

Since then, Singer said she's focused on responding to the last of her emails, completing final administrative tasks and taking decades-old colleagues out for bittersweet farewells. After that process is completed on August 31, though, Singer said she will embark "full time" on her new role in blockchain.

In her first conversation with the media since her resignation, Singer explained how she believes the tech could help her finally cut out what she describes as "unnecessary middlemen."

Singer told CoinDesk:

"I’m so in love with blockchain, that the only thing I’m doing, all the time, is telling the world, 'Guys, wake up! This is coming, and this is going to change the world.'"

To formally cut ties with her old responsibilities, Singer said she also intends to resign from every advisory board on which she currently sits, save a few non-profits dedicated to serving the people of South Africa.

From there, she plans to relocate from Johannesburg, where Strate and many of South Africa's banks are headquartered, to Cape Town.

Blockchain roadmap

While Singer doesn't yet have any formal plans to launch a new company of her own, or join an existing firm, she does have a two-pronged plan of attack.

Firstly, she's not planning on giving up on CSDs. While she argued that they will "not have a role to play" in a blockchain world, she believes that the services CSDs provide will still be needed in this new economy.

"I promise them that in my search, which I'm going to do full time, I will find a new role for them," she said.

Secondly, she intends to leverage a global network of contacts to expand her sphere of influence beyond the financial sector.

"I love saying to people ... 'Give me a brief description of your industry'," she said. "I can quickly tell them in which way that industry will be affected by this new, incredible technology. So, that's what I need to do."

While her future role is not yet 100 percent clear, some concrete plans are already in place.

Specifically, she's scheduled to speak at the Sibos banking conference in October on blockchain in the cash and securities settlement space. Then, in November, she plans to speak at the World Federation of CSDs in Hong Kong.

Looking ahead, she lists ethereum startup ConsenSys and digital ledger startup Ripple among the "fintechs" she's interested in working with as she charts her new course.

"I was the person who moved South Africa’s financial markets from paper to digital," said Singer, concluding:

"When I discovered blockchain, I thought this is exactly what we need in the world."

Revisit Monica Singer's full talk at CoinDesk's Consensus 2017 event below:

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Ripple.

Monica Singer image via NeMaEventTV/YouTube

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