I am delighted to be opening the upcoming Digital Currency Summit, to be held at the University of Gibraltar on the 9th of May. This summit marks an important milestone in Gibraltar’s commitment to becoming a leading centre for the development and provision of products and services in the ever growing Financial Technology space.
FinTech, after all, plays to the strength of our jurisdiction. We have proved our ability to respond to changes in technology through the growth of our online gaming community, and have demonstrated our ability to react to new market opportunities through the massive development of our insurance sector. Our Stock Exchange, GSX, has shown how our effective partnership between regulator, government and industry can deliver speed of service and a competitive price. Our local telecommunication providers have given us the necessary robust connectivity that is so vital in the FinTech world.
In setting out our ability to meet the needs of this area, we don’t simply have to point to the future and promise; we can show our track record and prove it.
FinTech covers a massive scope in opportunity for businesses and the consumers who use them. Distributed Ledger technology/Blockchain is clearly one, which along with virtual currencies is an area Government has worked with industry and the Financial Services Commission to create a solid but responsive regulatory environment in which it can flourish. Our plans in this area are well advanced. So is our work to make Gibraltar attractive for Peer to Peer lending and Crowd Funding. To successfully deliver these in a competitive environment requires “joined up” government, as it requires fiscal, regulatory and legislative changes to operate smoothly together. This is what we have done.
But we have not done it alone. Without a regulator willing to invest in supporting new initiatives and without a private sector willing to give time and effort to assist in these development, none of this would be possible.
It may seem strange to make these comments in what is, after all, a very non-tech way, via the printed word. However, the fact that even this magazine tweets, blogs and is online again demonstrates the seamless way the old metamorphoses into the new. Branch banking becomes online banking. Cheques are being replaced by online transfers and contactless cards. Government too is working to develop its own e-services platform to communicate and interact with our people and businesses.
Indeed, we sometimes forget how fast this change occurs. How many cheques did you write this year compared to last? The change has not finished. It’s just getting started.
That is why this summit is a milestone; it tells us how far we have come already, but also how far we still have to travel.
Alex Puig is the founder and CEO at Digital Currency Summit. Besides his role as organizer of this FinTech event, he is an R+D Engineer. His job is to solve problems using the latest technologies. He explains:
What is Blockchain and why is it so important?
Blockchain changes the way we interact on the Internet. Usually, I think of Blockchain as a new, and improved, version of the Internet. We are now capable of, just like in the physical world, exchanging any assets or properties completely peer to peer, no intermediary needed.
What’s even more important, this new way of digital exchange allows us to embed code, business logic, at the core of each transaction. This is like programming a £10 bill with the condition under which it could be spent.
How did you get into this technology?
Five years ago I was living in Andorra. There, I was organizing a meet-up for entrepreneurs. One of the attendees asked me if I could work for him as a freelance developer, he needed help with a Bitcoin application. I had heard about Bitcoin before, but had never touched a line of code in this technology. I was really curious so decided to help him. Less than one year later, we held the first conference about Bitcoin for the financial world, also in Andorra. One of the speakers was one of the VPs of the Federal Reserve Bank.
Now you organize conferences about Blockchain, around which topics?
I always focus on Blockchain plus a particular topic: Macroeconomy, Capital Markets, Democracy, IoT… Our main goal with this event is to educate about the technology and all its applications.
How did it come to Gibraltar? Why here?
I was invited by the GFIA to talk about Blockchain in Gibraltar last November. There, I had the chance to speak with the local community, about Blockchain, FinTech and regulation. In many countries around the world, regulation is key. It can kill innovation, but also has the potential to benefit entrepreneurs and start-ups. I was surprised to learn how the Government of Gibraltar was learning about Blockchain, and already working on a regulatory framework.
What is the conference about?
Mainly about regulation. We plan to discuss the work being done by the Government of Gibraltar around Blockchain. As attendees, we expect to have lawyers, regulators and entrepreneurs alike.
What could it mean for Gibraltar to have a regulatory framework around Gibraltar? What does it offer us and what can we offer to the world?
In a globalized world, the competition to attract FinTech start-ups is huge. Talent is scarce and can only be seduced by favourable conditions to operate. Starting a company is a really hard task, that’s why innovators carefully choose their bases from where to start their ventures. A favourable regulation would mean to go positions up on the list of best places to start a FinTech company.
Gibraltar has the right size. It is difficult in bigger countries to align all the players: entrepreneurs, regulators and corporates. Smaller hubs allow for more flexibility.
Have there been similar conferences elsewhere and how do we compare?
For sure. Right now, Blockchain is a hot topic and there are many FinTech conferences around the world talking about regulation. Main difference is while other events talk about a theoretical regulation governments should adopt, here, we will discuss the regulatory framework actually being developed by the Government of Gibraltar.
Who are the speakers and how were they chosen?
When I started Digital Currency Summit I just had two simple rules: “learn something new” and “a place where I can do business, not just networking”. These two basic rules help me decide about the speakers. First, I design a storyline for the conference, the topics that should be covered, the knowledge I need the speakers to have. Then, I choose the best speaker for each talk: knowledge plus experience.
Local experts: Nicholas Gómez (GFSC) and Joey Garcia (Isolas)
Tech lawyers: Sian Jones (Coinsult), Adam Vaziri (Diacle).
Innovation Consultants: Steven Francis (EY) and Alejandro Gómez de la Cruz.
International entrepreneurs: Michael Hudson (bitstocks) and Felix Moreno (Xapo)
words | Albert Isola, Minister for Commerce
& Alex Puig, Digital Currency Summit