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The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s

Forbes | Ron Shevlin | Dec 2, 2019

digital debates - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s

OBSERVATIONS FROM THE FINTECH SNARK TANK

It’s that time of the year when banking industry pundits turn their thoughts to the top trends of the upcoming year. I’d like to take a different tact and posit the top debates the industry will wrestle with in the coming decade.

It’s that time of the year when banking industry pundits turn their thoughts to the top trends of the upcoming year. I’d like to take a different tact and posit the top debates the industry will wrestle with in the coming decade.

1) Branches: Dead or alive?

The branch debate is certainly not new. But it’s far from resolved, and will accelerate in the next few years. To date, the debate has centered on arguments from:

  1. Branchophiles who point to statistics that show that some high percentage of consumers still go to branches. For example, a CNN article reported that “banks should think twice before they shut down their next bank branch: Many customers, especially younger ones, still regularly rely on physical banks to make deposits, get paper money and even pay bills.”
  2. Branchophobes (like myself) who argue that while consumers might still want the “human touch,” that touch doesn’t necessarily have to come from someone sitting in a building called a bank branch. Why can’t banks use Facetime to facilitate interactions between people? Or why can’t they improve digital processes so consumers don’t need human intervention?

Over the next few years, this debate will focus less on consumer behaviors and preferences and more on the potentially disparate economic impact of branch closings.

Make no mistake: This debate will continue to be politically-infused with anti-bankers accusing banks of intentionally taking harmful actions against segments of the population.

See:  Google is getting into banking with the search giant set to offer checking accounts next year

The NCRC report, for example, points out that “the loss of branch banking access impedes small business lending, hampering capital availability to the primary engine of US economic growth.”

This ignores two facts: 1) The capital gap was created by banks’ increased aversion to risk, not branch closings, and 2) The gap has been closed by fintech startups—who don’t have branches.

Potential implication: Digital banks (and other types of fintech providers) will be required to have a physical presence in economically disadvantaged areas, which will impede their cost advantages.

Bottom line: This decade-old debate will continue into the 2020s, but will be the first of the big debates to be decided as technology-driven approaches to banking become even more dominant—and operationally better.

2) Data: Will privacy and security concerns curtail the use of data?

Picking up where the AI debate leaves off, the debate over the use of consumer data will rage on throughout the 2020s with no easy answers.

On one side of the debate are Dataphiles who argue that data can be used to personalize products, services, and advice that deliver benefits to consumers.

On the other side are Dataphobes like Karen Yeung, a University of Birmingham professor who writes, in Five Fears About Mass Predictive Personalization in an Age of Surveillance Capitalism, that:

"Personalization fosters the asymmetry of power between profilers and individuals. Because preferences and interests are not explicitly stated, personalization may not be in the interests of the customer. Predictive profiling systems intentionally seek to exploit the systematic tendency of individuals to rely on cognitive heuristics or mental short-cuts in making decisions.”

Giving consumers choices over who gets to use their data and how its used will prove to be fruitless. As a Brookings Institution research study reported:

“Maybe informed consent was practical two decades ago, but it is a fantasy today. In a constant stream of online interactions, it is unrealistic to read through privacy policies. And people simply don’t.”

It’s not just privacy policies that fall short—proposed “dashboards” to give consumers control over their data can’t come anywhere close to the level of complexity involved with the use of consumer data.

See: 

Enabling consumers to sell their data isn’t a panacea. Proponents argue that “if consumers could sell their data, they would have the ability to share the data from any transaction with multiple organizations—to their own benefit and that of society as a whole.”

Unfortunately, this perspective ignores the fact that most consumers can’t foresee the way the data they sell could be used. According to the Brookings Institution, “Consumers are unlikely to strike a good deal for their data since they lack information about its value, and the data collectors will be the market makers.”

Bottom line: The debate over the use of data will become highly complex in the 2020s. Big Tech firms are already in the spotlight for their use of data—that light will spread to the companies who partner with them.

3) China or the West: Which fintech model will prevail?

SWIFT reports:

“China and the West are at different stages of fintech maturity. China’s fintech success derives not just from a technological advantage and unprecedented innovation, but also from integrating finance and real-life needs.”

The integration of “finance and real-life needs” has produced “super apps” like WeChat, which have yet to catch on in the US. The big question is: Will they?

The answer will likely be determined by how the other debates outlined in this article play out. Unknowns in this debate include:

  • Will the US continue to move towards socialistic economic approaches that help favor a super app environment?
  • Will the US develop and adopt a national AI policy to become more competitive (and, in fact, does it even need to)?
  • Will the US regulatory environment (e.g., antitrust laws) change to favor a super app approach?
  • Could a Chinese-like Social Credit System take hold in the US?

See: 

The virtue of a social credit system is a debate unto itself that could dictate the fintech implications. A study titled A Dystopian Future? The Rise of Social Credit Systems presents two sides of the argument:

  • One side argues that “a Social Credit System can’t be rightfully designated as civic virtues because: (1) a score constitutes an aim external to any ‘virtuous action’, and (2) the resulting activity tends to conformity rather than to distinction in the public sphere.”
  • The other side sees it as a “promising way to enhance distributive justice and an alternative for price mechanisms in market economies.”

The stakes of this debate transcends the success or failure of individual companies. As Richard Turrin writes:

“For the first time, fintech is being used by countries to compete with one another on a global stage. Fintech is being deployed as a tool for governments to project their power abroad, and potentially disrupt established systems.”

Bottom line: This is the mother of all debates among the five listed here. This debate goes to the heart of the American economic system and the zeitgeist of the American psyche.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Social equity must be central to urban tech innovations

FastCompany | Alex Ryan | Nov 26, 2019

social equity and urban tech - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020sThe lesson to learn from so many tech efforts that have drawn protest: social equity must become central to every project that taps data-hungry tech to deliver citizen services.

Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation arm of Alphabet, had grand ambitions to create a prototype smart city in Toronto, filled with a smart power grid, underground tunnels for freight, and countless other shiny innovations. But the project was significantly scaled back as concerns about tech’s ethics and use of personal data have become more prominent, and because of how Sidewalk Labs has interacted with the city itself.

The saga shows that companies entering new markets without consulting local communities open themselves up to severe risks. Failure to bring the public into public innovation immediately surfaces the possibility of citizen activism that impacts profits and project timelines, the development of local regulations that aim to curb specific business models in question, and the exposure of practices that vault companies into the public spotlight. If you have any doubts, just look at the turbulent rise of Uber (and ridesharing, in general), the retreat of Amazon from Queens, and the sharp decline of WeWork. Social equity must become central to every project that taps data-hungry tech to deliver citizen services, address critical local issues, rethink infrastructure, and improve the quality of life in a place.

See:  While Canada debates, others are commercializing our most valuable asset: data

Citizens must have a leading role in innovation planning

Innovation can drive inequality. Entire demographics can be left behind—or specifically targeted—when physical technologies, mobile apps, and digital platforms roll out to address urban issues from transit congestion to climate change to criminal justice. Further, governments and private industry stakeholders often introduce innovations to local communities without bringing previously marginalized communities into the fold, by accident or by design. That practice needs to end.

That said, there are some positive examples from cities around the world looking to use tech for good. In Barcelona and Amsterdam, the DECODE project provides tools that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share it for the public good. In London, the Open Data Institute and the city have partnered to create solutions to civic challenges, while maintaining the privacy and security of Londoners. Unfortunately, these are more the exception than the norm. More cities that want to embrace innovation must take people into account from the beginning.

Governments need to deepen tech literacy and invest in data governance capacity

Big Tech’s efforts to drive innovation at the local level often masquerade as noble promises to improve the status quo. Companies like Amazon, Uber, and Sidewalk Labs introduce full-scale civic projects that aim to put autonomous vehicles on the streets, overhaul transit options, deliver flexible architecture, and engineer outdoor microclimates. High-speed networks, futuristic algorithms, and a vast array of sensors power their local advances, often without consent from local leaders and communities. Consequently, municipal governments still find themselves rethinking everything from regulatory oversight to public realm data privacy to the complex dynamics of public-private infrastructure projects in response to Big Tech movements, instead of in concert with them.

See:  How Data-driven Strategies Can Improve Impact Investing Outcomes

At the same time, public sector leaders around the world still have plenty more work to do to hold tech companies—and themselves—accountable for responsible practices that ensure data transparency and security. Officials in charge of innovation-focused regulation and oversight must embrace diversity of people, cultures, and perspectives in order to make cities welcoming places powered by ethical technology. They must expand the number of voices at the table in order to properly address local issues, like public transportation and economic disparity, that divide people within communities. That process begins with taking steps to educate current leaders and staff about the importance of strong data governance, opening clear lines of communication with local communities, and allocating budget toward hiring top technology talent with both the moral compass and technical knowhow to go toe-to-toe with private sector actors. This is what Toronto has learned from the Sidewalk experiment.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Alternative Lenders Continue to Steal Business From Banks

The Financial Brand | Jim Marous

Paypal SME lending - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020sThe banking industry has enabled alternative providers to impact the competitive balance for payments, investments and deposits. By not developing customer-centric digital lending platforms, traditional lenders have now also allowed digital players to steal significant loan customers.

Most traditional financial institutions associate PayPal with being a significant player in the competition for consumer payments. Their growth, along with the growth of Venmo, Square and other digital payment alternatives, is well documented. What is less well known is the rapid growth of PayPal as a digital lending alternative. It may be time for banks and credit unions to wake up, however, as the company announced that they had crossed $10 billion in small business lending in only 5 years.

“It took PayPal twenty-three months to get to the first $1 billion in lending,” said Darrell Esch, Vice President of global credit at PayPal. “Demand has never been in shortage.” According to research from deBanked, it took PayPal only five years to reach the $10 billion milestone.

The loan originations were spread out across 225,000 small businesses globally according to PayPal, including the US, UK, Australia, and Germany as well as Mexico through a partnership with another online lending platform. Currently, however, PayPal is originating $1 billion per quarter … making this digital player a very formidable competitor.

Amazon Joins PayPal as Top 5 Small Business Digital Lender

While the growth of PayPal as a digital loan alternative is impressive, they are far from the only digital lender impacting the lucrative small business lending marketplace. Amazon has joined PayPal, OnDeck, Kabbage, and Square as a top 5 digital small business lender. In fact, Amazon revealed that it had made more than $1 billion in small business loans to US-based merchants in 2018.

See:  Lending Loop Surpasses $50 million Milestone and helps thousands of Canadian Businesses and Investors

In total, there are more than 1.9 million businesses, content creators, and developers in the U.S. using Amazon to deliver their products and services. According to Amazon, small and medium sized businesses now account for 58% of Amazon sales – up from 30% ten years ago.

The peer-to-peer business lender, Funding Circle, also revealed its first-quarter trading update, showing that loans under management rose by 44% compared to the first quarter of 2018, while originations grew by 23% (they have originated $9.5 billion in loans). This indicates that there is greater competition between alternative and traditional lenders, as well as increased competition within the alternative lending marketplace.

Digital Lenders Leverage Data for Improved Experiences

As with most digital banking alternatives, the top small business digital lenders use vast customer insights and competitive terms to deliver personalized offers and experiences to small businesses. Most of this is done in conjunction with small businesses still having banking relationships for holding funds and making disbursements at traditional banks and credit unions.

Alternative digital lending firms often provide small businesses more favorable terms on loans than can be received from traditional financial institutions. They also provide more financing options and faster approval than traditional banks. Alternative lenders like PayPal also approve small business loans at higher rates — 56% compared to 26% approval rates by big banks, according to data from Biz2Credit.

Because PayPal, Amazon, Square and other alternative lenders have access to transaction history of sellers on their platform – and often use that merchant’s sales data instead of a credit score – they can quickly determine the credit worthiness of a small business borrower. Comparably, banks and credit unions usually only have access to a small business’s deposits and bank accounts, unable to see the entire picture of a company’s sales.

“PayPal business financing programs can provide funding from $1,000 – $500,000 for small businesses looking for both quick decision-making and immediate usage as an application decision that usually occurs within minutes or hours, if approved, allows the business to start using the funds almost immediately,” said Esch.

This availability of funds comes at a time when many traditional organizations have pulled back from offering small business credit. According to the Federal Reserve’s Small Business Credit Survey, as many as 70% of merchants didn’t receive the funding they wanted in 2018.

See: 

 

“If you look at the great recession what you’ve seen is a bounce back of commercial lending, but lending to small businesses really hasn’t come back,” states Esch. A lot of the hesitancy is attributed to the cost of underwriting. Banks are usually not in a position to lend small amounts of money on a frequent basis. Digital alternative lenders are built for this type of lending.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Why a digital dollar isn’t coming anytime soon (or so the Fed says)

MIT Tech Review | Mike Orcutt | Nov 21, 2019

Jerome Powell - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020sWhile central bank digital currencies may address problems in other countries, the US doesn’t have those problems, according to Fed chair Jerome Powell.

A digital dollar is a solution in search of a problem. Well, at least in the US, according to Jerome Powell, chair of the US Federal Reserve. While central-bank digital currencies may provide benefits in some cases around the world, it’s not clear that those potential benefits are “relevant in the US context,” Powell argued this week in a letter to two US congressmen.

“Overall, we observe that the characteristics that make the development of central-bank digital currency more immediately compelling for some countries differ from those of the US,” he said. Powell was responding to a letter the two lawmakers had sent him last month, in which they had asked a number of questions, including whether the Fed is considering issuing such a currency.

What are those characteristics? Some countries, notes Powell, may be considering issuing central-bank digital currencies because they have seen a “rapid migration by consumers away from cash.” That concerns central bankers because it is through the provision of banknotes and coins that governments maintain a direct presence in the consumer payments market. The fear is that leaving this area completely up to private companies could introduce new risks to individuals and the economy. 

But in the US, reports Powell, demand for physical cash “remains robust.”

In 2018, consumers used cash for 26% of payments, dropping four percentage points from the previous year. (Debit and credit card payments made up 28% and 23%, respectively.)

Another reason some countries are considering central-bank digital currencies is that they lack “otherwise fast and reliable digital payment services,” says Powell. But “the US payments landscape is highly innovative and competitive, with many such options available for consumers.”

It’s fair to take some issue with Powell’s argument here. Indeed, his own bank arguably already has. Unlike many countries around the world, the US lacks a broadly accessible real-time bank-to-bank payment system. The Fed’s current system can take several days to settle payments, and it closes on the weekends. Although a group of big commercial banks has built a real-time payment platform, many smaller banks around the country still don’t have access to the service. That’s why the Fed has decided to build a new public platform, Fed governor Lael Brainard said when the project was revealed in August. Called FedNow, it’s not expected to be ready until 2023 or 2024.

See:  United States: The Fed’s Jump Into Real Time Payments Appears To Be Good News For Community Banks and FinTechs

Things change fast in the world of financial technology; it’s plausible that in four years the cutting-edge payment technology will look a lot like today’s digital currencies. But even if the Fed wanted to issue a digital currency at some point, some important questions must be addressed first, says Powell: Would retailers be obligated to accept it? How will it affect financial stability? What are the security risks? If the system is designed to catch illicit activity, how private can it be? Should the central bank open accounts for millions of regular consumers?

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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US Reg CF Funding Portals: 50 in Total with Several Exits and Several Additions. Is Reg CF Ready to Scale?

Crowdfund Insider | | Nov 18, 2019

US funding - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020sPeriodically, Crowdfund Insider revisits the Reg CF sector of online capital formation. Reg CF or “Regulation Crowdfunding” may have garnered most of the attention from popular media but really there are three individual crowdfunding exemptions including Reg A+ and Reg D 506c.

Under Reg A+ you must file an extensive offering circular with the entire offering process costing around $300,000, according to one estimate. But Reg A+ enables an issuer to raise up to $50 million from both accredited and non-accredited investors.

Under Reg D 506c, you may raise an unlimited amount of money but only from accredited investors. This is the most popular crowdfunding exemption and Reg D (5o6c and 5o06b) is a trillion-dollar market.

Issuers using Reg CF may only raise $1.07 million and must utilize a FINRA regulated Funding Portal or a broker-dealer. Due to the low cap on funding, frequently issuers will do a side-by-side Reg D 506c offering to circumvent the extremely low amount you may raise.

Last time CI revisited the number of approved Funding Portals was in July. Since that time, several new funding portals have joined the approved list and several have exited.

See: 

 

Regarding Reg CF funding portal exits – two more have departed this sector of crowdfunding.

EquityBender based in Charleston, South Carolina, is no more. The domain just indicates a private site.

Seeding VR is the other exit. As the name indicates, Seeding VR was targeting the virtual reality sector. Apparently, it even attempted to launch a crowdfunding platform in the UK. Today, both domains simply time out.

This brings the total of funding portal exits to 12 with at least two the direct result of some time of enforcement action: UFP LLC and DreamFunding Marketplace.

The three additions to the list bring the total to 50 FINRA approved funding portals with one in question as Fundpaas has long been on the suspended list and is expected to join the exits.

The three recent additions include:

Fundopolis has yet to list its first offering but appears ready to launch its first issuer. According to its website, Fundopolis expects to also enable issuers to raise capital under both Reg A+ and Reg D as well.

Infrashares is described as follows:  “InfraShares is a crowdfunding platform that pools investment from individuals into large sums of development capital for critical infrastructure projects (roads, bridges, airports, mass transit, water systems, renewable energy and schools).”

This platform is utilizing Reg D as well. Currently, there are two issuers posted on the site -both under Reg D 506c.

Prospect Equity does not appear to have a live site as of yet.

As Crowdfund Insider reported in October, Reg CF has raised over $300 million in securities offerings since the exemption became actionable in May of 2016, providing capital to over 2000 campaigns. This is according to a report by Crowdfund Capital Advisors.

See:  When fintech met crowdfunding

Overall, Reg CF can be called a success as it has helped smaller companies raise much-needed growth capital while creating new jobs. But multiple shortcomings hobble the exemption thus undermining its potential success.

First, the fund cap is widely recognized as far too low.

Average seed rounds in the US stand at about $2.2 million – typically using Reg D. A good number raise much more.

In the UK, the most robust crowdfunding market in the world, issuers may raise as much money as they want. A prospectus requirement at €8 million creates a virtual speedbump for issuers looking to raise more than that amount.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Podcast Strictly Legal: Who Owns Blockchain?

Osgoode Professional Development York University | Nov 2019

OsgoodePD Podcast Strictly Legal - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s

Strictly Legal, an Osgoode Professional Development podcast, is about all things legal. Each episode, we unpack current issues affecting the legal landscape with the help of some of the industry's leading thinkers.

Heated fights over intellectual property are nothing new in promising technology markets. Are we poised for a revolution in the protection of all types of IP?  The blockchain can be used to control and track the distribution of protected IP.  Imagine a world where you could easily register and claim ownership over your original creative works – from music to photos to blogs. With the use of blockchain technology, that world is not so far away.

As the world reacts to the current blockchain mania, many businesses in the community are having discussions on what the future of innovation in the blockchain space looks like.

This week's guest:

 

Paul Horbal - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s

BIO:  Paul Horbal is a partner with Bereskin & Parr LLP. He is a member of the firm’s Electrical & Computer Technology group and is Chair of the Financial Technology group. His practice focuses on patent, industrial design and technology law, with an emphasis on securing and leveraging intellectual property rights for high-tech and Fintech clients.

He advises clients of various sizes, but particularly enjoys working with startups and high-tech entrepreneurs. In addition to his work preparing and prosecuting patents, Paul advises clients regarding their intellectual property licensing needs.

He has prepared and filed patent applications relating to block chain technology, payment processing, telecommunications systems, integrated circuits, digital signal processing, biomedical and biomonitoring devices, power systems and power electronics, computer networks, computer software, along with many other technologies.

Paul is a member of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) Executive Committee on Practice Innovation & Technology, Sub-Committee on Curating Technology. He is also a member of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). Paul is former Chair of the Toronto Intellectual Property Group, Vice-President of the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Toronto.

Paul has been a faculty member for the Osgoode Certificate in Blockchains, Smart Contracts and the Law (2018/2019), an educational course developed for lawyers, business leaders, managers and influencers with an interest in blockchain technology.

He speaks and writes regularly regarding intellectual property and is an active tweeter (@horbal).

 

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Osgoode PD Blockchains smart contracts and law - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Intro: You're listening to Strictly Legal Osgoode Professional Development Podcast about all things legal. Each episode, we unpack current issues affecting the legal landscape with the help of some of the industry's leading thinkers.  This week who owns the Blockchain?  Can this revolutionary technology transform my keylog?  And now your host Amy ter Haar.

Amy ter Haar: This morning I'm very excited to welcome Paul Horbal, who is with me in our Toronto studio today. Welcome, Paul.

Paul Horbal: Thank you, Amy glad to be here.

Amy ter Haar: For a few announcements before we get into our topic today.  Blockchains, smart contracts and the law is being presented by Osgoode Professional Development on November the 15th. This is a really important event in the blockchain calendar. It is a one day program where 17 top legal, tech and financial industry experts from the U.S. and Canada will discuss the biggest legal issues facing the blockchain with an unparalleled speaker roster, blockchain, smart contracts and the law delivers an exemplary experience highlighting the boldest and best of the industry. Our second announcement is also very exciting. Bearskin in Paris, FinTech Group is planning an intellectual property seminar focusing on fintech this fall. Paul, I think, yes, that's right. And details will be announced shortly. But you can follow Paul on Twitter. His handle is at H O R B A L that at or Horbal or you can check out Bereskin & Parr Twitter or their Web site, their Twitter handle at B.E r e s k i n p a double R. You can check those out to find out more. So, Paul is an associate at Bereskin & Parr, where his practice focuses on pac-10 industrial design and tech law with an emphasis on securing and leveraging intellectual property rights for high technology clients. He advises clients of various sizes, but particularly enjoys working with startups and high-tech entrepreneurs. In addition to his work preparing and prosecuting patents, Paul advises clients regarding their intellectual property licensing needs. He speaks and writes regularly regarding intellectual property and is an active tweeter again. Check him out at Hobal. Thank you for being on the show today, Paul. Thanks, Amy. We're in the middle of blockchain mania in the midst of this craze for bitcoin and Ethereum on the power of the blockchain tech behind these currencies is real. Last January, the Bitcoin trading price broke $1000 for the first time in three years. And today, already it's nearly $5000. So heated fights over intellectual property are nothing new and promising technology markets. Are we poised for a revolution in the protection of all types of IP?

Paul Horbal: I think we're going to see some some interesting applications of blockchain in protecting different types of intellectual property. Blockchain obviously can serve as a database of sorts. And I think you're going to find applications of a blockchain in it as applied to different types of IP. So, for copyright, for example, we're already seeing as we'll be talking about a little bit later on in the show. We're already seeing applications of blockchain technology for registering copyright and maintaining ownership databases. And I think we'll see some of that applied to other types of IP. And there will definitely be battles over IP in the blockchain. And I think we'll see some of that in the near future as well.

Amy ter Haar: Exciting, exciting times ahead for your practice.   Since blockchain is another creation of the mind constitutes intellectual property and invention stemming from blockchain, which may also, I guess, constitute intellectual property. Since we're lawyers let's first try to understand a few definitions. As Lawyers usually do. That's where we start. So, Paul, maybe you can give us two definitions. First, what is intellectual property for those of our listeners who don't know? And secondly, what is the blockchain?

Paul Horbal: Sure. So intellectual property and I'll borrow a definition here from the World Intellectual Property Organization. Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce. And IP is protected in law by patents, copyright trademarks and industrial designs, which lets people earn recognition or financial benefit from what they've invented or created. And intellectual property law is generally trying to strike a balance between the interests of the innovators or creators and the wider public interest. And so there is a sort of quid pro quo that's available. You want to give inventors and creators the benefit of their invention and some exclusivity, but you want the public to benefit from those inventions and creations as well. And so there is a balancing act that takes place.

Amy ter Haar: That was a great answer for IP. Secondly, what is a good definition of the blockchain?

Paul Horbal: So the blockchain is a technology that's perhaps best described as a distributed ledger system. It allows many parties to keep their own record of the transactions that take place over time and in a way that is mutually agreed upon and difficult, almost impossible to change after the fact. And it uses techniques that have been available for quite some time. There are some things like public key cryptography, hash functions and merkle trees to make this happen. And that's a way of saying that you're using special math to do two things. Number one, keep secrets. And number two, do that in a way that you can easily verify that information is not tampered with. Merkle trees were patented in 1979. Yeah, they were. And you know, there are a lot of things in blockchain or in the in Bitcoin at least that were available well before Bitcoin came out. Bitcoin kind of combined a number of technologies and algorithms in a clever way that allows you to do transactions in an easily verifiable way without allowing tampering after the fact. And one of those things that enables that to happen is the concept of the Merkle tree also called a hash tree. And it's a way to sort of compress the blockchain over time. So rather than storing all of the information about all the transactions that are taking place, you sort of make a mathematical representation that's much shorter and very hard to fake. And you build up a tree of those over time so that each as as a tree branch gets full use sort of permanent and replace it with this little hash and then you build up those trees of hashes over time. And that's how the blockchain stays usable without having to carry around all the all the information where every transaction that's happened since the dawn of the blockchain.

Amy ter Haar: Wow. I'm really fascinated about them. The Merkle. Yeah. Being patented so long ago.

Paul Horbal: Yeah.  There's a there's probably other parts of it that were also patented. Public key cryptography is one. There are parts of that that were patented in the 70s. Yeah. It's existed before.

Amy ter Haar: What we're they using public key cryptography in the 70s.

Paul Horbal: Well for espionage for for keeping secrets. Public key cryptography is it's a technology has many applications. It started out being used mainly for the military. It's a way of exchanging secrets with an untrusted channel. So you can have people hear what you're communicating back and forth and still guarantee that what the information exchange with another party is going to be secret. Even though some everyone, the people in between can hear everything that you're exchanging, and you can still keep a secret and public key cryptography lets you do that. He uses some really fancy math to do it. And this technology's been around for 30 or 40 years at least.  And it finds many applications. You use it when you go to a Website and you see a little lock icon. The H.T T.P.S. is being protected with public key cryptography. And it's found in many areas today.

Amy ter Haar: I think to see original cypherpunks really rely on established body of research.

Paul Horbal: Yeah. In this this. I like to say technology is oftentimes and most of the time incremental. So you're building on what already exists and public key cryptography is a major, major building block of the internet today.

Amy ter Haar: And you have an engineering background.

Paul Horbal: Than I do. Yeah. Electrical engineering background. I studied microelectronics, so making microchips when I was a student and then I went off into law school and became a patent lawyer.  It's such a great application. I didn't want to lose the engineering side of things. And I always say that I used one of the things I really loved about engineering was learning new things all the time. And this is a great combination where I can apply my engineering knowledge and still learn new things every week or every couple of weeks. I have really smart, brilliant clients that come to us with great ideas and they teach me all about them. So perpetually learning.

Amy ter Haar: That's amazing. So, I mean, blockchain really implicates, I guess, a host of IP related laws and legal constructs, as you mentioned from licensing to distribution to the doctrine of for sale in the states, we've got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and also here in Canada, the Copyright Modernization Act.  Will the blockchain influence the development of IP law as dramatically as the Internet did? Yes, I guess that's my first question. And then secondly, how do you see blockchain impacting IP intensive industries?

Paul Horbal: So I think the impact of blockchain technology on IP law will. It will happen. But I think initially to be modest for one main main reason is that IP rights exist because governments say they exist. Governments provide the means with which to enforce rights. And without those enforcement means; I don't think you'll find blockchain replacing IP laws anytime soon. There'll be more of a complement that, you know, it sort of runs against the nature of the blockchain industry today, which says that you can have distributed decentralized systems, replace old centralized authorities, and you see that in Bitcoin, which does away or promises to do away with central banks, with credit card credit card providers and other financial institutions. But Bitcoin works without a central authority for two reasons. It guarantees an artificially scarce resource and it takes an enforcement mechanism. Bitcoin's can't be copied to make more, and you can only acquire or get rid of bitcoin if everyone agrees to what's happened. So for Bob to acquire one bitcoin, Alice has to update the ledger to reduce her bitcoin balance and increase Bob's by the same amount.  And everyone has to agree that that's what happened. There's no easy way for Bob to behave badly. But IP rates are different. The resource isn't created by computers according to an algorithm like Bitcoin. It's created by people through creativity. More importantly, intellectual property inherently can be copied because at some point has to be seen or heard by a person to serve its purpose. And since intellectual property can be copied, it's difficult to protect using blockchain technology in the same way that you can protect your bitcoin.

Amy ter Haar: Right. So, I guess we're seeing the emergence of blockchain based solutions for intellectual property management, I guess, which is really one of the most obvious applications of blockchain technology. A registry of IP rights to catalog and store original works. And since the blockchain is immutable. Once the work has been registered to a blockchain, that information can't really be lost or changed. So in theory, third parties could use the blockchain to see the complete chain of ownership of a work I guess, including any licenses, sub-licenses and assignments. And then and then we can imagine start to imagine a world where you could easily register and claim ownership over your original creative works from music to photos to blogs. So gone would be the days of seeing your work duplicated all over the internet without proper credit and having no way to prove ownership with the use of blockchain tech.   I guess I mean, theoretically, that world is not so far away. Do you think distributed ledger technology promises to transfer form the way intellectual property rights are established and enforced and the way IP creators are compensated?

Paul Horbal: I think the way they're established and the way they're recorded is definitely something that could change with the advent of blockchain technology. Right now, IP databases are maintained just like financial records were maintained, their maintained by one big institution. And in this case, the government the government keeps a database of who owns patents and who owns trademarks and who they're license to. And the same thing with copyright. You can register your copyright ownership with the government, and they keep it all one big database. It's available online. But the mechanisms for getting that information in there and getting out of there are firmly rooted in past decades. So maybe that's something that governments can explore going forward as a way to modernize or to improve the way that this information gets recorded and shared and stored to take advantage of some of the blockchain technology that that allows this. This updating this record to be maintained in a robust and verifiable way.

Amy ter Haar: But do you think that distributed ledger tech promises to transform or transform the way intellectual property rights are established in and forth? OK.   So are the way IP creators are compensated?

Paul Horbal: Yeah. So the way they're established or enforced and the way their IP creators are are are giving credit or compensated. I think I think blockchain is an interesting concept and it definitely has the potential to disrupt more traditional models in the music industry. But I don't think that's necessarily because of the blockchain. And it's going back to my earlier point. I don't think the blockchain really solves the enforcement problem. With IP rights, A lets you record who owns technology and something. There is technology such as smart contracts which are coming along which can provide some sort of compensatory mechanism. But the proposals I've seen so far only get you so far. They can record. They can offer a way for artists to get paid, but they don't give you a solution for enforcing rights when someone doesn't want to play along. And so what do you do if someone isn't willing to behave with existing IP systems? You have institutions provided by the government to allow for enforcement. You have noticed regimes like the DMCA in the US and the notice and notice system in Canada. You have the courts, of course, and in some cases you even have the police that will help enforce your rights. Those are all ways to compel good behavior, sometimes by punishing bad behavior.   And I don't think a blockchain based approach can replace the role of government anytime soon because it doesn't solve the enforcement problem, at least not that I've seen. So in that sense, I think we can view these applications of blockchain in intellectual property space as complementary solutions. They won't replace the existing legal framework and they don't offer a complete solution, especially when it comes to enforcement. But at the end of the day, they can coexist. You can have a blockchain give you most of the things that are a blockchain is really good. And then you can still fall back on the legal system for the enforcement mechanisms when you have two or hopefully you don't have to. But if you do, it's there.

Amy ter Haar: I think Imogen Heap is a great example. She's for those listeners who don't know that Grammy Award winning music artist. And she's really been, I guess, leading the charge when it comes to compensating artists. So she use distributes and receives her digital payments through a blockchain platform. And the system allows her and artists like her to have control over access to the works and to ensure faster direct payments to the artists themselves. And really, I guess it could impact the role of i-Tunes or other intermediaries that insert themselves between the artists and consumer. So by putting IP on the blockchain, in that sense, creators can have an immutable, secure timestamped record of the creation and distribution of their works.  The blockchain can be used to establish and enforce licenses for IP through smart contracts and even to transmit payments in real time to IP owners. So, I mean, how do you think the distributed ledger technology promises to transform how artists are compensated in that way and how they distribute their IP on the blockchain?

Paul Horbal: I think I think it's a perfect example of the strengths of blockchain technology with what they're doing here essentially is replacing or maybe building on digital rights management technologies, which have been around for 20 years now. And blockchain is really good at establishing who owns something. And then with smart contracts, providing a payment mechanism. And so if I was i-Tunes or Spotify or or Netflix, for example, I might be a little bit nervous with this technology because it it might do away with a middleman that that provides that payment and digital rights management solution. And if you can use the blockchain to do this in smart contracts and find some way to get paid, each time someone plays the music or download some songs, then that's that's a great application of blockchain technology. But going back to my earlier point, I think it still doesn't provide you with an enforcement mechanism. If someone decides not to play along. So if someone copies a song from Imogen Heap and finds a way to start playing it without paying the micropayments or without honoring the smart contracts, then there's still there's nothing that can be done at that point using the blockchain other than to prove that Imogen Heap is the owner and that you shouldn't be playing it.   But if there's no way to stop that person other than going through the enforcement mechanism mechanisms that have that have been established by governments and that provide legal recourse.

Amy ter Haar: All right. So what is the state of blockchain IP in Canada at least?

Paul Horbal: There's a lot of activity. I did a little bit of research a couple of months ago and found that since about 2012, the number of patent applications that have been filed that Meng mentioned the words blockchain or distributed ledger, they've been on the rise steadily. And there are now dozens, if not hundreds of patent applications that have been filed that at least mention the word blockchain. And many of them are directed to applications of blockchain technology. So the technology itself is it was published in the last decade and it built on technology that's been around for a long time. There's some. The blockchain uses called Merkle Trees, which is a computer science term that was patented. I believe in 1979 and the patent has long since expired. So it's free. It's free to free to use for the world.  And so some of the blockchain technology is is out there. It's free to the public to use. And so what you're going to see with patents in the blockchain space is not a patent over. Not a patent over all of blockchain, but patents on implementations or applications of the blockchain technology to different problems. And one is, for example, digital music distribution. There might be others. Another good example is bitcoin. Cryptocurrency is a great application of the technology to a particular problem, which is currency or on the online space. And there are many other applications of blockchain technology, one that we're seeing a lot of activity in right now. As I'm sure you know, Amy, is identity. Digital identity, which is a major problem. We saw the Equifax hack and which wasn't last week. It was months and months ago. And, you know, as consumers, as citizens, we have no way to opt out of that system, really. And blockchain technology might promise or does promise to give people control over their online identity. And I think there's going to be a lot of there's a lot of activity in that space and where there's a lot of activity and it's industrially valuable, commercially valuable, then you can expect patenting to follow. And so that's that's an area where I'm excited personally as a patent lawyer. And I think there's also I mean; the trademarks are used when it comes to business.  They're a way of identifying a brand or a business identity. And so just like any other area of business, you're going to see activity when you have companies and individuals developing products and they get a brand, a reputation that they want to protect. And that's where trademarks will come in. So I don't think that's any different than any other area of business. But the patent side of things will be interesting for sure. Do you think there's a looming patent war? I don't I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. If I did, I'd probably be out chasing somebody’s car and trying to find out if if they're interested in hiring Bereskin Parr. But I think, you know, where there's commercially valuable activity, where there's a lot of money on the line and there's high technology in use. It's not unusual for there to be patent disputes that develop. You saw that in the smartphone space with an Apple going after Samsung and Nokia going after Apple and many, many different companies suing each other with large companies they will often come to an arrangement because they all have patents there is a sort of mutually assured destruction if you continue through the courts. But you never know. I don't think we'll get through the next 10 years without seeing any patent lawsuits regarding blockchain.  That's probably my most ambitious prediction. My prime at least ambitious prediction.

Amy ter Haar: That seems like it's safe one to bank on. So, I mean, really, it's clear the implications of blockchain tech are robust and diverse in many areas and especially in IP. Whether you're a tech company or a professional service provider, I think it's really important to do your homework and understand blockchain, how blockchain tech might secure or affect your business. What would you what do you tell your clients about blockchain and IP?

Paul Horbal: Yeah, I don't think we're telling clients anything about blockchain that they don't already know. Maybe that's the best way to put it. Our clients are telling us what they're doing with blockchain. Right?

Amy ter Haar: Thank you so much for being on the on the show today, Paul. This has been most enlightening. I've really learned a lot and I had no idea that Merkle trees were patterned 1979. So this is this is really, really cool to know. So hopefully we'll see you at our program on smart contracts, blockchains and the law on November the 15th. That one, Dundas Street Street West here in Toronto. Register soon if you're interested, because space is running out. You can register it at osgoodepd.ca/blockchainlaw. Thanks so much, Paul, look forward to seeing you then.

Paul Horbal: Thanks Amy. My pleasure.

 


NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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Where top VCs are investing in fintech?

TechCrunch | Arman Tabatabai | Nov 6, 2019

top VC fintech insights - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020sOver the past several years, ‘fintech’ has quietly become the unsung darling of venture.

A rapidly swelling pool of new startups is taking aim at the large incumbent institutions, complex processes and outdated unfriendly interfaces that mar billion dollar financial services verticals, such as insurtech, consumer lending, personal finance, or otherwise.

In just the past summer, the startup community saw a multitude of hundred-million dollar fintech fundraises. In 2018, fintech companies were the source of close to 1,300 venture deals worth over $15 billion in North America and Europe alone according to data from Pitchbook. Over the same period, KPMG estimates that over $52 billion in investment pour into fintech initiatives globally.

See:  How to Value a Fintech Startup

With the non-stop stream of venture capital flowing into the never-ending list of spaces that fall under the ‘fintech’ umbrella, we asked 12 leading fintech VCs who work at firms that span early to growth stages to share where they see the most opportunity and how they see the market evolving over the long-term.

The participants touched on a number of key trends in the space, including rapid innovation in fintech infrastructure, fintech companies embedding themselves in specific verticals and platforms, rebundling and unbundling of financial services offerings, the rise of challenger banks and the state of fintech valuations into 2020.

Charles Birnbaum, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners

The great ‘rebundling’ of fintech innovation is in full swing. The emerging consumer leaders in fintech — Chime, SoFi, Robinhood, Credit Karma, and Bessemer portfolio company Betterment — are moving quickly to increase their share of wallet with their valuable customers and become a one-stop-shop for people’s financial lives.

In 2020, we anticipate continued entrepreneurial activity and investor enthusiasm around the infrastructure and middleware layers within the fintech ecosystem that are enabling further rebundling and a rapid convergence of product themes and business models across the consumer fintech landscape.

Many players now look like potential challenger bank models more akin to what we have seen unfold in Europe the past few years. Within consumer fintech, we at Bessemer are more focused on demographically-specific product offerings that tap into underserved themes, whether that be the financial problems facing the aging population in the US or new models to serve the underbanked or underserved population of consumers and small businesses.

See: 

Ian Sigalow, Co-founder & Partner, Greycroft

What trends are you most excited in fintech from an investing perspective? 

I suspect that many enterprise software companies become fintech companies over time — collecting payments on behalf of customers and growing revenues as your customers grow. We have seen this trend in many industries over the past few years.

Business owners generally prefer a model that moves IT expenditures from Operating Expenses into Cost of Goods Sold, because they can increase prices and pass their entire budget onto the customer.

On the consumer side, we have already made investments in branchless banking, insurance (auto, home, health, workers comp), cross-border payments, alternative investments, loyalty cards/services, and roboadvisor services. The companies we funded are already a few years old, and I think we will have some interesting follow-on activity there over the next few years. We have been picking spots where we think we have an unfair competitive advantage.

Our fintech portfolio is also more global than other sectors we invest in. This is because there are opportunities to achieve billion dollar outcomes in fintech, even in countries that are much smaller than the United States. That is not true in many other sectors.

We have also seen trends emerge in the US and move abroad. As an example we seeded Flutterwave, which is similar to Stripe, and they have expanded across Africa. We were also the lead investor in Yeahka, which is similar to Square in China. These products are heavily localized —tin for instance Yeahka is the largest processor of QR code payments in the world, but QR code payments are not popular in the US yet.

Continue to the full article --> here

 


NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

Latest news - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020sFF Logo 400 v3 - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020scommunity social impact - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s
NCFA Newsletter subscribe600 - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s

NCFA Fintech Confidential Issue 2 FINAL COVER - The 5 Debates That Will Shape Fintech In The 2020s