Two global banking leaders, a banking consortium and a newly minted limited-purpose trust company gathered onstage at the Consensus 2016 conference in New York City to discuss the future of blockchain technology among global financial institutions.
Moderated by business editor of The Economist Matthew Bishop, he lead the panel by proposing three possible futures of blockchain technology and asking the panelists to weigh in on the distributed ledger's fate.
Bishop indicated he believes blockchain could either "get rid of a lot of intermediaries", lead to incumbents owning the technology, or lastly, that it could all be hype.
The former chief executive of SWIFT Americas and current business development officer for Digital Asset Holdings (DAH), Chris Church, said there's more hype around blockchain than perhaps there should be, but said he didn't believe the third path was likely.
"There's no smoke without fire."
He told the crowd of about 1,200 people that, while blockchain is certainly not going to "destroy this institution or that institution", as some have predicted, it still has the power to disrupt the industry.
Not just hype
Perhaps not surprisingly, most panelists didn't buy into the idea that blockchain technology was "just hype".
Brad Peterson, who came to Nasdaq from Charles Schwab told the audience that in five years blockchain will have amounted to more than just a bunch of hype. He contrasted the financial industry's lackluster response to the Internet to its enthusiastic response to blockchain, adding that it won't likely get caught reacting slowly to new technologies again.
CME Group's head of digitization, Sandra Ro, broke down the type of responses into three categories: incumbents who adapt quickly to blockchain and "get bigger", others which will disappear altogether and the new players that will take their place.
Further, Charles Cascarilla, CEO and founder of blockchain financial services company itBit, took a middle line, saying "it's a bit of all three".
To Cascarilla, blockchain may be currently deep into a hype cycle, but it still has the power to disintermediate the traditional institutions if they don't adapt to the threat their business models quickly enough.
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