Distributed Leisure

Finance types discuss blockchain’s threat to intermediaries

At Propelify, panelists talk blockchain’s transformation of supply chain management, payments and settlements, and international trade finance

[Modern Consensus columnist Michael Hillmeyer checked out the blockchain and cryptocurrency panels at the Propelify tech and music conference in Hoboken. Below is his review of the third panel (“Is Blockchain the Answer to Big Data Problems AND Does Blockchain Create Existential Threats to Intermediaries?”). Also check out his review of the first panel ( “Diversity in the Blockchain Industry and Why It’s Important to Get It Right Now”) and the second panel (“Is Crypto the Future of Money?”)]


Fortunately for us, the third panel we attended was at the north or main stage (“Stage of Wisdom”), right next to where we were snacking. This discussion had by far the most unwieldy title of the day, “Is Blockchain the Answer to Big Data Problems AND Does Blockchain Create Existential Threats to Intermediaries?”

This panel’s name is too long to type here (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus).

David Sorin, a partner and securities lawyer at McCarter & English, did the moderating, and his questions seemed to focus more on the second half of the panel’s long title.

Vipin Kasaria, head of digital transformation at CIT Bank, got right to it, stating, “Blockchain means we don’t have to trust other people. We just have to trust the technology.” He must have better luck with autocorrect than we do. If you ever receive a message from us using the word “ducking,” you should be aware that it wasn’t the word we typed.

driftwood and ducks
Driftwood and ducks. This time, we meant to type “ducks” (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus)

Kasaria went on to say that blockchain will disrupt industries that provide nothing other than trust. For example, blockchain technology will be able to connect passengers and drivers without intermediaries like Uber, Lyft, or your local livery company. He also mentioned that Spotify is starting to use blockchain to protect the rights of musical artists.

Kenneth Goodwin Jr., president of Jeanesis Capital Markets, went back to Satoshi Nakamoto, saying that his or their goal was to “unbank the bank.” In his opinion, blockchain will transform supply chain management, the payments and settlements space, and international trade finance.

This is an especially good point regarding settlement and trade finance. While blockchain as it is used in cryptocurrencies is way too slow and energy intensive to be used as the primary method of payment, current settlement and trade finance mechanisms require days or even weeks. Blockchain technology could massively cut down the time required while increasing accuracy and security.

Over the past year, it has seemed to us that IBM has a presence at every event that touches on blockchain or artificial intelligence. Propelify was no different, and the last person on this panel was Bruce Weed, a program director for blockchain and AI at IBM Watson. IBM believes that we are in the midst of a convergence of big data, internet of things, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technologies with the biggest initial application in supply chain management. Other opportunities will come wherever these technologies can be brought to bear to increase sales or increase productivity (in other words, cut costs).

The main stage between talks.
The main stage between talks (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus).

Like a county fair, Propelify always brings out the local politicians. This year was no exception. Before we arrived, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murhpy and Hoboken’s Mayor Ravi Bhalia had each gotten on the main stage to talk a bit about the technology industry in the state and city respectively. (Editor: In his opening remarks, Propelify organizer noted that Gov. Murphy almost bailed from the event.) Later in the evening, U.S. Senator Cory Booker spoke to the crowd via video link from Washington, DC.

Choose NJ
NJ swag t-shirt, “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose New Jersey” (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus)

Afterwards, we sat down at a fireside (actually riverside) chat on public and private partnerships in New Jersey. Chris Sudgen of Edison Partners and Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority discussed the need for major improvements in the state’s rail infrastructure and their hope that Newark wins the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Newark Bears
This might be the logo of the original Bears, but it was on Pinterest so no real idea.

In our opinion, it is only a matter of time before more large technology companies (and perhaps someday even Major League Baseball) rediscover Newark and its walkable neighborhoods, great ethnic eats, good housing stock, large pool of nearby STEM graduates (Rutgers, NJIT, Stephens Tech), and diverse population. If Amazon doesn’t land there, then other large companies will do so before too long.

Departed Soles
Jersey City craft beer from Departed Soles (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus).
Aaron Price
Aaron Price (left) is the fellow who put Propelify together (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus)

The evening wrapped up with a local Jersey City craft beer from Departed Soles after watching a short discussion on the main stage with Propelify’s founder Aaron Price and enjoying the set of the featured band, Trick Candles, one Seattle import that successfully landed in New Jersey.

Hoboken Terminal
The Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Terminal at Hoboken (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus)
WTC Oculus
The Mall at Kaiju Station (Photo by Michael Hillmeyer for Modern Consensus)

We thought about sticking around for the fireworks and after-party, but the early (to us) regularly scheduled close of PATH service was telling us, “This ain’t your night.” So we walked down to Hoboken Terminal—or as locals call it, the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Terminal at Hoboken—and headed back across the Hudson River to Kaiju Station (which had a few more people milling about than in the early afternoon) and then onwards home.

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Michael Hillmeyer has primarily been an independent consultant in the financial services, technology and healthcare industries since 2004. Prior to this, Michael was a senior sell-side equity research analyst at Merrill Lynch covering several technology industries. He owns no positions in any cryptocurrency but writes the “Distributed Leisure” column for Modern Consensus.