Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a leading authority on business trends including blockchain distributed public ledger technology (and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) as well as big data, artificial intelligence and social media marketing. He covered “Blockchain in the Capital Markets” in Colombia for their stock exchange association and has covered blockchain implications (both short-term and long-term) for events in Vietnam, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur, Canada and America. Patrick is the author of the award-winning book Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed (2011, Wiley) and a regular speaker for Bloomberg TV. He has lectured at various academic institutions including Purdue and Stanford Universities. New technologies often emerge quickly and transform their respective industries, and blockchain is no exception. As a consensus-driven distributed ledger that records every single Bitcoin transaction, blockchain technology promises to revolutionize the back office reality in the financial services industry. By removing the need for intermediaries (like banks and credit card companies), blockchain essentially automates trust and delivers unprecedented efficiency to all manner of financial transactions. It could effectively quadruple the number of people around the world who are capable of making online payments. The Philippines, for example, is using blockchain to develop financial infrastructure for their 100 million citizens, many of whom work in other countries and send remittances to family back home. Many other developing countries could follow suit. Patrick’s expertise of disruptive innovation and exponential technologies guarantees an insightful and and thought-provoking session.
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Expert on Blockchain Technology & Protocol
The primary problem is that it takes as much as 20 days to settle syndicated loan transactions using the current clunky back-office processes. Meanwhile, the front-office processes are measured in milliseconds. The dichotomy is striking. Not only could blockchain technology revolutionize these processes, saving financial companies billions of dollars, but it could open these markets up to countless other players who could reshape the industry over time. That means blockchain technology is both an opportunity and a threat to existing financial organizations. There are dozens of startups and private equity companies in Silicon Valley and other technology hubs that are investing heavily in the technology and related opportunities. Patrick’s keynote session is built on case histories and success stories, highlighting what some of these startups are working on and how they are using the technology.
Whenever a new technology emerges, people don’t know what to do with it at first. This is exactly what happened with social media in 2006 and 2007. Inevitably, businesses learn how to use the technology by watching what others do with it, and then amending it to fit their own market circumstances. This is what is happening right now with big data and predictive analytics. People are learning by evaluating case histories and success stories. In these early stages, the most important thing is to identify and deconstruct use cases for blockchain technology. Book Patrick to deliver the latest examples to your attendees. He is will known to explain complicated subjects in simple language, and he will present the topic in an understandable and empowering way.
Business Implications of Blockchain
There are both short-term and long-term implications of blockchain. Ironically, the companies most threatened by blockchain are precisely the ones investing most in it. In the short-term, blockchain can streamline operations with smart contracts, smart assets, digital payments, digital identity and clearing & settlement. Increased efficiencies will result in higher profits. But in the long-term, blockchain may result in the elimination of banks (and other financial intermediaries) entirely. Latency issues are the primary hurdle at this point. As the technology advances, blockchain systems will handle higher volumes of transactions and more complex transactions. At that point, financial services companies may see their business models threatened. These long-term implications will emerge after 2025.
Currently, the majority of Bitcoin trading comes from China. Investors are hording Bitcoin, speculating on future price appreciation. The supply of Bitcoin is limited to 21 million, so the limited supply will translate into higher prices if customer adoption continues. The easiest way to invest in the blockchain revolution is to buy and hold different cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Etherium, Litecoin, Ripple and Monero among many others. Another way to invest is to use hedgefunds like MetaStable, Polychain Capital or Ether Capital. The Token Fund is creating an ETF-style option which diversifies invested capital across many different cryptocurrencies, and the SEC will likely approve regular ETFs in the space by the end of 2017.
Blockchain Startups and Early Use Cases
Patrick builds his keynote programs by accumulating and studying use cases. In new fields like Blockchain, the best way to do that is by following the startups and venture capital investments in the space. Some of the leading Blockchain startups include:
- Ethereum: decentralized, secure, application environment enables for computation (Internet 2.0)
- Backfeed: essentially an operating system for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO)
- Stock.It: enabling the Sharing Economy with no central governing authority (intersection of IoT and Blockchain)
- Consenys: a loose federation of Blockchains, leveraging collective skills
- Colony: facilitating decentralized autonomous organization (measuring productivity)
- Provenance: building transparent and decentralized supply chains
- Ethcore: developing enterprise software to leverage various decentralized technologies
- Enigma: decentralized cloud platform that guarantees privacy for individual and enterprise users
- IPFS (Interplanetary File System): a common file system to facilitate sharing; a single BitTorrent swarm
- Plex: remote, real-time automotive diagnostics for insurance companies
Blockchain Keynote Speech
The blockchain protocol is still evolving. These are the early days of a new technology revolution. Patrick updates his keynote program regularly and constantly incorporates the latest developments from the Bitcoin universe and the related applications of distributed ledger technology in other fields. Within the financial services industry, companies like Propser (peer-to-peer lending marketplace), Kasist (mobile virtual specialist), Osper (financial freedom for young people), TransferWise (the clever new way to beat bank fees), kickstarter (crowdfunding), Kiva (microfinance) and Lending Club (better rates, together) are already disrupting existing market structures. Blockchain technology will dramatically accelerate this disruption process. Patrick Schwerdtfeger has a powerful and empowering keynote program and is certainly more affordable than Blythe Masters (Digital Asset), Roger Ver (Coyote WallStreet) or Peter Smith (Blockchain).
When asked how soon Blockchain technology will revolutionize financial industries, Kevin Day from Riskebiz Capital Management responded as follows:
Yes, I think it is very close. Things are moving very fast now. Whereas only 9 months ago if I asked a large bank or insurance company about blockchain technology, they would dismiss it as a bitcoin ponzi scheme, that is if they had even heard of it at all. Now they’re setting up internal blockchain technology groups and taking it very seriously.
I think that over the next year or two, everyone from large companies to small startups will be exploring the potential of blockchain technology and looking for possible applications. Everyone is looking for the “aha” moment for the technology. This is what VC’s are hoping that their blockchain technology startups will produce.
The first big impact will be seen in the money transfer space, particularly remittances. Companies like Western Union that have built their business on charging large fees to send money will see their profits eroded and blockchain tech competitors effectively making them obsolete. The next area after money transfer, will be asset transfer. This is where blockchain is used to transfer things like stock certificates. Even now, NASDAQ is putting lots of resources in this area. I think this will happen over the next couple of years.
The most interesting and probably biggest area of change will come with the introduction of smart contracts. People are already tinkering with this on platforms like Ethereum, but the applications now are trivial, like sending a payment to turn on a light. As they get more sophisticated, they will allow for the automation of many processes, and we’ll see the first decentralized autonomous organizations.
Blockchain technology, combined with the other hardware and software technologies such as mobile, will push things along very quickly. So quickly that I think the very way that people manage financial services will change within 2-3 years. I think Silicon Valley is salivating at the opportunity to enter the banking business, especially with banks being relatively slow to adopt change and probably in a bit of denial as to how much their existing model needs to change. It’s not just the technology, but also the tremendous financial resources of tech companies. Apple’s pockets are so deep they could buy Bank of America in cash and have a hundred billion left over. Blockchain tech combined with all the user intelligence that Google, Apple, etc. have means that almost overnight, I think new banking services will be introduced. I think that early teens will not be going to a traditional bank when they setup their first bank account in a few years, they’ll want complete control over their money and have a bitcoin address, or whatever bitcoin has evolved into.
It will all go hand in hand with the other rapid changes taking place, like the way people move around (Uber), travel (Air BnB), entertain (Tor streaming and downloads), etc. It’s all about P2P, disintermediation, and blockchain tech fits right in with the payment systems that tie everything together.
It’s an overused comparison, but I think blockchain right now is like the Internet circa 1994 – it was there, but clunky, techie, unproven, basically just for geeks. But as soon as that “aha” app came out (Netscape), it went mainstream, and within a couple of years, the dotcom boom began. Now we can’t imagine the world functioning without the Internet.