As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Virtual Currency Today, the DCC’s Vice President, Sarah Martin, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Virtual Currency Today Summit on April 29, 2015. Today, we share insights from interviews George Peabody of Glenbrook Partners.
Sarah: Tell me about how and why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies.
George: At Glenbrook, we’re payments geeks. That’s all we do so engaging with digital currencies was immediately on our agenda. We work across the payments value chain, with merchants and businesses, tech providers, acquirers, card networks, and issuers. We provide payment strategy consulting and all of them are asking us to help them sort out their digital currency payment plans.
Personally, I’ve been intrigued with the application of micropayments to solve issues like spam, WiFi access, and how to meter and monetize community solar generation. I’m also excited about opportunities to using blockchain technologies in the area of online identity and access.
Sarah: You’ve mapped trends in mobile payments and understand market dynamics. Given the current state of the digital currency economy, what do you plan to discuss during your panel that asks “where do we go from here?”
George: We have to talk about banking and regulation. We have to talk about real uses cases that address today’s needs. And we have to talk about what the digital currency industry has to do to build the technical and business foundations needed for the advanced uses cases of programmable money and conditional value transfer. There’s a short term reality and long term vision. We need to talk about how we move from one to the other.
Sarah: Virtual Currency Today has brought together many of the best minds in the industry. What do you hope to hear from others at the conference?
George: I hope to hear of transaction volume growth, new investments, experimentation and deployment by financial institutions as well as operational stability. Innovation is great – and I want to hear a lot about the next version of the bitcoin protocol, side chains and more – but the sooner the use of digital currencies becomes commonplace, even boring, the better.
Sarah: As digital currencies evolve, what are you looking forward to seeing develop this year, or in the next 5-10 years?
George: In the short term, I’m looking to see math-based currencies used as payment rails. Outfits like Align Commerce and Bitreserve are putting bitcoin to work in that fashion; Ripple and the Stellar supporters are tackling similar uses cases. A measure of success will be when customers get faster payment at lower cost from providers using these new rails and their customers don’t care, or know, that bitcoin, for example, was what made it possible.
Longer term, the use of blockchain technologies for asset ownership and transfer applications could be disruptive and that’s, of course, where most of us are looking to see the largest impact down the line.
Sarah: What do you see as the greatest immediate challenge for the digital currency industry?
George: Two things: regulation and bank participation in the ecosystem. Regulatory uncertainty. The variable approaches to math-based currencies around the world is problematic. And for US-based operators the fact that major states like NY, Texas, and California have very different approaches – or lack of them – inhibits investment and complicates business planning never mind access to services. Getting financial institutions, and their regulators, to shift from seeing virtual currencies as the third rail of compliance is going to take time. Who wants to bring down more oversight when there’s little or no business to be gained?
Sarah: What’s your best advice for growing the digital currency industry? How do we engage more people in Bitcoin and digital currencies?
George: Engagement comes from use cases that solve real problems today. The early and continuing speculation on bitcoin as a consumer payments solution is largely misplaced. Payment cards aren’t broken. You can dislike the cost and be concerned with security but for the most part and in most developed markets, cards work. What doesn’t work as well is international banking and remittances, the ability to transfer value across borders efficiently, and more. So, focus on what’s broken, on security, where there’s transaction friction, and convenience.
Sarah: Thanks very much for your thoughts, George. Looking forward to a great conference.