Web3 Innovators

Blockchain Innovators - Conor Svensson and John Whelan

September 01, 2021 Season 1 Episode 8
Web3 Innovators
Blockchain Innovators - Conor Svensson and John Whelan
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Blockchain Innovators, Conor Svensson - founder and CEO of Web3 Labs, talks to John Whelan - Managing Director of Digital Assets at Santander, Chair Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

Conor and John discuss the areas of the financial system where blockchain will truly leave its mark and the opportunities for institutional DeFi and decentralized identity.

John has been very involved in blockchain initiatives over the past five years including wholesale money market payments and lending. John has an unprecedented understanding of the financial world and the blockchain ecosystem which makes this podcast great fun to listen to!

Watch this video on our YouTube channel here.

You can also watch John speak at a recent EEA Virtual Meetup here.

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Hi, it's Conor Svensson here, founder and CEO of Web3 Labs. This is a conversation I had with John  Whelan, Managing Director of Digital Assets at Santander and Chair of the Enterprise Ethereum  Alliance. In our conversation, we discussed the areas of the financial system where blockchain  will truly leave its mark and the opportunities for institutional DeFi and decentralized identity.  John has been very involved in blockchain initiatives during the past five years covering  wholesale money market payments and lending. He really understands both the financial world  as well as the blockchain ecosystem which is why he's always so much fun to talk to.  Well John, it's great to have you here on the podcast.  Thanks a million Conor, delighted to be here. You and I have known each other for several years,  been interesting times I guess in the world of enterprise blockchain. Definitely! I wanted to  unpack some of your journey to get to where we are today because, I know in our conversations  previously, before working at Santander you actually worked at a crypto startup and that  was back in 2013. Was that the first time you got involved in the technology or were you already  looking at it before that point? Yeah, I mean that was the time I got let's say meaningfully involved  in the tech and crypto. I'd been interested in bitcoin for a couple of years but really just  from a tangential point of view. I thought it was an interesting experiment, in some respects  it still is, although it's probably gone a lot further than an experiment and I'd been running  a small technology startup in Chicago that actually was focused on creating  ratings for management consultants. If you can believe that. Because you know, I thought that  that might be a useful tool, having been in the management consulting business, that maybe other  businesses would like to know how good the various consulting firms that they would be working with.  And, it was pretty clear that whatever business model we had figured out at that time was not  going to work so a pivot was needed. It was an interesting observation at that time you know,  there was kind of an explosion of altcoins and different types of issuers of these products and  the first let's say meta protocols, which at the time were Mastercoin on bitcoin and Omni,  which Mastercoin became, and Counterparty and the fact that there were new blockchain or distributed  ledger technology platforms out there like Ripple and shortly thereafter Stellar and others  that allowed the issue of digital tokens that represented something other than the  native token itself whatever that might be. And it dawned on me that perhaps it would be useful  to have some kind of rating system for these particular issuers platforms tokens etc. Now  all of that in hindsight seems obvious but, in 2013 was probably a little bit early.  That business that we pivoted to was called Coinist and ended up doing a small round of second  round of funding with that business actually from the captive venture capital arm of Ripple Labs at  the time, that venture capital firm which is no longer in existence I think, was called  Crosscoin Ventures. So a small injection of capital allowed that business to pivot  and we spent a couple of years then working on Coinist to become this kind of crypto rating,  services ratings agency. Ultimately, we ended up in a position where that business needed to be  liquidated, it was not successful. So, shut it down, return some of the capital to the  original shareholders which was better than I guess most venture funded companies actually do  and in the course of this I'd actually been started to do some consulting work  with mainstream financial companies at three or four banks as clients. A couple in the United  States, couple in Asia and one in Europe. That client in Europe was called Michael Santander  which in early 2016 ultimately became my employer. So that really was the the cycle of you know,  beginning to get interested in the crypto space let's say 2012 just from reading about it and  thinking 'hey, this sounds interesting and cool' and then actually pivoting an existing startup  into the crypto space more directly and then ultimately liquidating that and joining a bank,  large global financial institution to become one of the first at the time let's say, blockchain lab  directors, working on these things from inside the industry. So that's the high-level picture.  And at that stage when you joined Santander, what was the corporate view of cryptocurrency  and blockchain technology? I guess originally noises had been made about  it since sort of 2014/ 2015 but what was your own experience at that point? Well, I think the technology teams and the researchers in financial institutions had started to begin with  asking the question 'what is the potential impact of cryptocurrencies on banks?'  and I think we're seeing some of that play out now. It's logical conclusion particularly around  bitcoin and similar as potential stores of value. It's debatable they're very volatile but it is a  valid discussion to have. And then I think more recently, this idea of fully automated finance  commonly known as DeFi, decentralized finance. This idea of building blocks that you can plug  together to create on top of stable coins all kinds of interesting financial products which  in many respects are similar enough to what the traditional financial industry already offers,  although in a completely automated decentralized manner. But none of that  was really clear back then I think in 2015/ 2016 when the first bank started forming  the early blockchain labs. I think the opinion was  this is something that is an interesting technology from a financial point of view,  from a technology point of view and we need to learn about it.  So we saw some of the first labs launch, begin to explore with internal experiments.  I think banks very quickly concluded that it's not so much about the coin that's interesting, it's  more about the ledger. This idea that you could have a universal golden record that serves as the  ledger system among parties that don't necessarily fully trust each other. Because in many respects,  the banking industry has some of those characteristics. We do business with each other,  we don't fully trust each other. We do business with each other and we have a huge complex set of record-keeping systems, core bank systems etc., that have been replicated by all the banks  in the world, replicated again by all the non-bank financial institutions in the world.  And the idea is simply there to make sure that my books and  records are the same but opposite of your books and records, multiplied by  30,000 banks in the world, multiplied by a million non-bank financial institutions etc. So, this  idea that the system that we have today of many banks, many ledgers, many record-keeping systems,  which has kind of grown organically, it hasn't really been designed that way but it's grown  organically over hundreds of years that maybe there's an opportunity to re-architect  some of it as we move from a system of many banks, many ledgers to maybe many banks, fewer ledgers,  simple as that. I don't think that there'll be one single ledger that's a record-keeping system for  everything in the financial industry. Maybe there's a ledger for payments,  maybe there's a ledger for private securities, maybe there's another one for public securities  or equities or bonds or derivatives etc., we will see that story tell itself out. But, I think  that's what started to get the banks interested in the beginning going back to 2015/ 2016, beyond  what's a cryptocurrency, which I think we understood fairly well from the beginning. There  are challenges for mainstream finance with regards to cryptocurrencies, mostly around compliance,  financial crime compliance, anti-money laundering, know your customer etc., which many of the large  exchanges now have begun to solve those issues as well. But, early days it was more about  the potential of the ledger, this idea that you could represent assets programmatically using  smart contracts which are not smart and are not contracts, in the legal sense yet they're called  smart contracts and do interesting things - atomic DVP (delivery versus payment),  the simultaneous irrevocable exchange of title of cash and securities which today we actually have  to rely on centralized CCPS (central clearing parties), CSD (central securities depositories)  etc. to perform these vital functions for the financial industry. We learned pretty early  on that perhaps some of those functions become possible to perform in a purely automated manner  with suitably programmable shared ledger systems otherwise known as blockchains. Now I  understand there's a difference between a DLT and a blockchain but let's not split hairs today. In  some of the earlier pieces of work, I know one of the projects that you've certainly been involved  in and you currently sit on the board of, was originally where Fnality came from, the utility  settlement coin, and that's obviously a great use case in terms of blockchain and DLT technology.  Yeah, so I think in all of this, we've recognized that you can represent assets of different types  on blockchains. You can represent the native token themselves, which serves as the crypto  economic incentive mechanism for driving your your shared ledger if it's a public ledger,  but you can also represent bonds and equities and other forms of derivatives on these shared  ledgers. But in order to do anything you first of all need some kind of cash leg.  The crypto community would call the cash leg a stable coin and there's algorithmic versions of  stable coins and there are backed versions of stable coins we all know who they are, but the  best stable coin of all is at least for wholesale purposes. Maybe stablecoin is even the wrong  word to use because it didn't even exist a few years ago, the term itself would be some kind of  digital cash mechanism represented on a blockchain and that is backed and has the characteristics  of some of the characteristics of central bank money - zero credit risk, zero counterparty risk,  settlement finality, the things that would be needed in the financial industry for DVP (delivery  versus payment) and PVP (payment versus payment) and it was in that regard that going back to 2016,  actually I remember the day well, it was the 18th of February 2016 my second day at work,  actually third day at work, where a few small numbers of banks and a few technologists met over coffee at the Santander Headquarters in Triton Square in  London and we had this kind of idea - well what if you could create a tokenized digital payment  system running on a blockchain where the token was actually backed by pounds or euros or dollars and  designed in a mechanism that was more about serving the financial industry as a kind  of utility. That's where the name utility settlement coin came from in the beginning  and there was a bunch of research that was done over the subsequent years, technical  research but actually more importantly, legal and regulatory research and very strong engagement  with the various regulators around the world to ask them 'is something like this possible?'  and if it was possible what kind of regulatory environment would need to exist in order for it to  be valid. That project then became in 2019 Fnality International,  when 15 global financial institutions actually invested in the Series A. Necessarily an entity  like Fnality doesn't operate in the public domain, it kind of operates a little bit quietly behind  the scenes and things are moving along quite nicely I think, in that regard. The dialogue  with regulators of course, has been ongoing and is maturing hopefully as we speak. Yeah,  and so apart from utility settlement coin and the wholesale markets, there's a lot of talk about  central bank digital currencies. At the recent EEA meetup, you spoke a lot about the history of  the bond on the blockchain. What is it that has created the interest in bonds and what is it  that's got you so focused on it? Because certainly there seems to be a lot of the initiatives you've  been involved in that have happened over the last few years. Yeah, so I think bonds are one of the  kind of standard securities that has traded around the world. Their life cycle is actually  quite complex. You've got the origination structuring and negotiation registration,  trade allocation and then the whole post-trade life cycle which involves a myriad of different  parties really - CSDC (central securities depositories custodians) paying agents,  calculation agents and you've got issuers of bonds, you've got various investors and bonds,  a lot of the exchanges offer secondary market liquidity and bonds etc. So it's not a bad starting point to try and figure out how all of this works, at least to tokenize  or digitize a significant part of the capital markets, let's say. Do I think that bonds are  the first and last stop on this journey, no I do not, but I think there's enough energy around  starting at that, with that particular asset class as a way of learning along the way. If you can do  digital securities issuances on blockchains with bonds you can probably do it with any security  you can imagine or any financial instrument for that matter, not all financial instruments are  securities for example. But, could it be that there are other let's say private equity funds  type investment products that are interesting to do the same thing with, that maybe there  could be more initial traction? The answer is absolutely yes. I think we started with  bonds somewhat arbitrarily. Large existing marketplace and it turned out actually at  the time when Santander was going down this path, we had some colleagues internally in  the part of the bank called the assets and liabilities management group which actually is  responsible for funding of the bank that said 'you know if we're going to do some experiments in this  area we'd be happy to participate'. So you know, once we have internal sponsorship for projects  that has this kind of complexity. It becomes easy to say 'yes let's do this'. With the most recent issuance that happened from the European Investment Bank,  they used CBDC that was coming from Bank of France and it was supported as well of course  by Santander but then Goldman Sachs and Society Generale. Was this the first time that there was a  CBDC, albeit within a contained environment in the mix with the bond issuance process?  It was not the very first time that a CBDC (central bank digital currency) had been used  in an experimental fashion to clear and settle the wholesale leg of the transaction. Actually several  months beforehand, our good friends at Society Generale had done a bond issuance internally  to Soc Gen where they had tested the CBDC from the Banque de France that was used also with  the European Investment Bank issuance. What made the EIB issuance I think, particularly complex,  were five components. Each of which individually maybe had been done before, not everything,  but together actually was very significant step forward in terms of blockchain-based securities  issuance. Number one, top-tier triple A name brand issuer European Investment Bank is one of  the largest super national issuers in the world. Number two, this was the first transaction ever  on a blockchain public or private, that was a multi-dealer. There were three separate dealers  that brought this to market, Goldman Sachs, Society Generale and Banco Santander. That regard  was quite challenging from an implementation and set up and legal and regulatory point of  view. But, we figured it out. Number three, this particular issuance was brought to market in front  of investors just like any ordinary bond issuance would be. Obviously there was a certain amount  of additional explanation that we were having in the roadshow process around what it is, what the  mechanism for clearing and settling the transaction etc. would look like. Number four,  this was the first multi-dealer investment, well as it was the first multi-dealer investment  anyway, it was the first multi-dealer investment or transaction that was brought to market  where an experimental CBDC (central bank digital currency), a digital euro, programmable  digital euro as part of the Banque de France's experimental CBDC program we used to clear and  settle the first step of the transaction. With a typical bond issuance, there's an underwriting  step where the underwriters effectively purchase the bond from the issuer and later they resell  those instruments to the investors. In this case, we did the underwriting step using the CBDC. The  fifth thing that made this particularly interesting and challenging, I might add,  is that we did the whole transaction cash leg and security leg on the public Ethereum blockchain.  You know, people ask me all the time 'why use a public chain for something like this?' and the  easy answer is, it's just there you don't need to set up a private permission chain and then commit  to running it for years if you can use public infrastructure now. Having said that, public  infrastructure is still not really private enough, permissioned enough or performant enough for these  types of transactions at scale but we're on that path and we can see huge amount of innovation I  think, particularly around roll-up technology and side chains and different things. So that kind of  sets the scene maybe a little bit of the picture of what we did with European Investment Bank. I  want to say by the way, thanks so much to the colleagues at the European Investment Bank for  pushing this project forward because  it takes top-tier issuers and banks and investors to actually show the world at scale that this type  of technology is in fact usable and can work in the next evolution of the capital markets.  Yeah, and talking about the evolutions, what would be the next logical step right now?  You said there was a number of unique properties about it  but the fact you've got multiple institutions involved in it, you're using not a real CBDC, but  close to it. Where do you think that the next big milestones are? Yeah, I think there are lots of opportunities for let's say, exploring the edges of what comes next.  This particular instrument is not actually listed on a regulated venue  so the only liquidity that exists in limited fashion is OTC (over the counter) liquidity  listing and having these instruments available for trading on regulated secondary market venues  I think, would be a huge step forward. Certainly makes the whole prospect more appealing to the buy  side, the investor group. I think actually having a properly natively issued CBDC (central bank  digital currency) would be interesting although I suspect that that's probably going to take a  couple more years to come into existence outside of experimental form just because there's very  significant let's say, monetary policy concerns, that have to be really considered properly. Way  beyond the technology that might be chosen or anything like that and also I think that there are  quite significant systemic risk considerations that really have to be analyzed properly about  what does putting the CBDC, which is a digital form of cash, directly into the hands of consumers  mean. How does that happen? Is it you know, one step from a central bank? Is it two steps by the  existing let's say, commercial bank infrastructure that's out there? Perhaps other potential licensed  issuers that could be certain forms of PSPs (payment service providers) etc. So the interplay  between the financial system of today and whatever the digital currency supporting  financial system of the future I think there's a lot of analysis that has to be done there.  It is going to happen, I'm absolutely certain about that, I just think it'll be  some time before all of these different questions are figured out to the point at which the various  central banks are fully confident in the approach that they've selected and chosen. It may well be  the different central banks select slightly different approaches for the issuance of  what becomes a central bank, digital form of central bank money. Probably led by the PBOC  (the People's Bank of China) which is already a couple years ahead. Yeah, certainly because  they already have their digital currency live for certain applications over there, so  it seems to be moving at quite a rate with it compared with everywhere else. Yeah. So, one of the things as well, you're the chairman of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. You've  spoken a lot in the past with with respect to different technology stacks and so on.  You've worked with a lot of different ones through the initiatives that you've led at Santander, what is it that's kind of stuck with you about Ethereum and made you decide that you wanted  to take on that role when it came up? Because of course, you're more of a business guy rather than  the tech guy in that respect. So what was it that's drawn you to Ethereum in terms of the  promise of the technology that makes you want to put weight behind it like that? Well I would say  first and foremost that Santander is technology agnostic. We think about using technology  for any applications, what's fit for purpose and what suits. When the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance was formed in 2017, it was one of the very first programmable blockchains that had captured the public consciousness, if not the first and that  was the public Ethereum network. It became pretty clear that in order to be usable at scale, it  needed to solve the 'three ps', which I mentioned previously, privacy, permissioning, performance,  right? The idea behind the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance in the beginning and this by the way has  has changed substantially, but the idea behind the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance in the beginning was  maybe the users of this technology should get together with the idea that they would  encourage a certain set of standards to promote interoperability between Ethereum variant  distributed ledgers. There are quite a few in operation now in private industry  in consortia etc. Ethereum for all its flaws, and a lot of people would point out that there  are still a lot of flaws with Ethereum, it's become the de facto smart contracts platform.  Many of the side chains, the Polygons of the world, are running Ethereum  EVM compatible virtual machines. Solidity has become kind of the de facto programming  language for building smart contracts. The same is true for Avalanche and Near Protocol. We're  seeing Ethereum bridges in different fashions to different other types of programmable blockchains.  In that regard, I think the energy that was originally there behind the Enterprise Ethereum  Alliance is still there from a technology point of view. But, having said that, working for a bank we  will use any technology that is appropriate or fit for use and there are other technologies out there  that many are familiar with including Corda from r3 and Hyperledger Fabric and  the Digital Asset Stack and DAML, the digital assets modeling language, that  our colleagues at digital assets have been promoting that all look very interesting  from an application point of view. A lot of this has got to do with where's the critical mass for  a particular use case or application and in the same way the bank is not prescriptive around  whether employees use iphones or androids or ios or windows, if we think about a blockchain stack  or platform as being analogous in some respects to an operating system,  there are several to choose from. I think the number to choose from potentially is increasing,  not daily, but as the years go by it appears that there will be different options out there.  But, it's pretty clear that from a public ledger point of view and I believe strongly that there  will be convergence between private ledgers and public ledgers and I said that at the foundation  meeting of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance in 2017. I more strongly believe that than ever.  Kind of in the same way corporate intranets and the internet communicate seamlessly,  I think exactly the same will happen with private permission networks and public permission networks  and fully public permissionless networks. In that regard, even today after three or four years,  Ethereum is one of the leaders. But, as I said that there are other interesting technologies out  there that are also good to use too and we will use them for the right use cases and applications.  With all of the success of Ethereum, the DeFi markets appeared. I wanted to steer  the conversation towards institutional DeFi and getting your views on that. Because,  when you see what protocols like Aave are doing with their pro platform, where they're providing  you an institution friendly KYC process and in effect putting participants into lending pools,  which is not that dissimilar from what banks have always done in terms of whether it's  facilitating the OTC markets or overnight lending between one another, establishing dark pools for  the trading... yes it's decentralized and it's on a public network, but do you  think that that sort of model is actually going to be attractive to these large organizations? I do potentially, with any financial product order flow goes to liquidity. So if they achieve  sufficient liquidity, it will begin to get let's say, institutional interest, if for no other  reason that we have to be aware about what's going on. The big challenge with institutional DeFi,  it's the big challenge for anything that's related to crypto and regulated financial institutions,  it's KYC (know your customer) and AML (anti-money laundering) and things like sanction screening  and PEPS checks (politically exposed person screening) and all of the kind of things that  a bank would need to consider in its compliance approach as we do with anything that we deliver  or bring to market. I mean, up until now, DeFi has been entirely permissionless. As it gains in  scope and size, that will not remain the case for very long because regulators are not going away.  Regulators are responsible for the jurisdictions in which they serve the citizenry that via their  governments empowers the regulators to operate and they've got good reasons for being there.  I think that in the same way we have seen a maturation in the exchange space, the crypto  exchanges in the beginning you know did very little or any KYC but now all of the big reliable  exchanges are performing very high grades of KYC and AML and all the things that they would need to  do as regulated non-bank financial institutions. I think a lot of the DeFi protocols, or companies  that have created them, will probably need to do the same. Simply because DeFi has hit that tipping  point where regulators now understand what's going on and see that perhaps there may be certain risks  associated with it that regulation of some form will probably help ameliorate against.  Yeah, and with that certainly on the the KYC fronts, the potential for technology such as  decentralized identity to in effect, provide more easily a common platform for KYC individuals or  organizations and thus significantly potentially reducing the KYC burden.  Do you see that as being something that's going to happen soon or it's going to take a while for  it to catch up? Because there's certainly a lot of great potential in that space as well. Yeah,  I agree. I actually think that if you look about what enables the real economy to work,  you need three things. You need some form of value to transact - we call that money,  that could be a cryptocurrency, it could be a stable coin, but some form of value to transact  in the real world. We also need enforceable agreements in the real world that's handled by  the legal system where if you and I enter into transaction and I disagree with the outcome of  that transaction, we can go to court and have that, whatever our agreement, we can have it  adjudicated in the digital world. Enforceable agreements have been replaced by smart contracts,  little code snippets that sit in public or private blockchain networks. The third thing  and I've pointed this out now many times and I think it's missing in the real world,  we also need identity who or what am I dealing with. We have yet to see at scale  some form of decentralized identity that can be used seamlessly with the blockchain version  of money. Whatever that might be with the blockchain version of enforceable agreements,  plus blockchain version of decentralized identity. I think there are two forms of identity  that perhaps together can work. One is what I would call government-issued identity. It's your  passport or your birth certificate or your driving license that says 'hey this is John  and this is a real person', and it's verified by the government. But there's  also another form of identity which may be more useful for financial services products,  probably would need to be matched with government identity, is reputational identity.  Which is 'I don't know who this person is but based on the history that they have of repaying  or performing under certain agreement scenarios', whether they're financial  or otherwise. That person has a reputation that they've built up over time and therefore maybe  we can use that in some kind of mechanism to score credit or these kinds of things. Now,  I've seen many different attempts at decentralized identity. I think that  there are some that are coming close, there's a project in Spain which looks really interesting  called Project Dalion actually, it's on a private permissioned approach to self-sovereign identity  where you've got claims, proofs and attestations that are issued in a decentralized manner.  There's the Sovereign Network and Evernum. We've seen efforts that were originally on the  Ethereum blockchain as well, but haven't seen anything really reach the kind of scale  and I think that it's that piece, solving the identity problem is really what's going to  accelerate wide scale usage of DeFi. But again, just an opinion, I could be entirely wrong.  Yeah, and you mentioned though it hasn't quite got to that point. I mean, is there anything obvious  on the surface for why people or organizations haven't managed to reach that point? Well, I think  it's difficult to solve, I mean first of all, the regulations around identity and privacy are very,  very high and challenging. People point to GDPR in the European Union, you've got HIPAA regs let's  say, related to healthcare in the United States. It's an important topic, privacy. So anything that  gets implemented on a public blockchain will need to be regulation friendly. I also think that maybe because there's been such an amount of growth in DeFi without the identity problem being solved,  it's only now that we're beginning to see that it's likely to be a potential barrier  or a challenge. The first adopters of any new technology are always the easy ones to win  over. It's that mainstreaming approach is a little bit more more challenging.  You know, people like myself and yourself Conor, we're first adopters of technology.  This is our job, this is what we do. But you know we've all got family members,  parents, brothers and sisters, friends who have no idea. They can barely use the app on their phone,  you know. Asking them to to step up to use some kind of interesting new technology  from the financial world could be a bit of a challenge. So, I think they'll expect to use  the forms of identity that they already do and until it becomes seamless enough and the user  experience around these new technologies becomes painless enough I think we'll... there's an opportunity to solve the various UX problems of which identity is part of that.  And there's another thing comes up again and again it's almost the most pressing need,  is to get over these UX hurdles where people aren't twiddling their thumbs for half a minute  waiting to see if something goes through or not. So, apart from the digital identity opportunities,  what's your take on NFTs for instance? Somewhat orthogonal to what's happening in finance but,  there's a lot of interest in them. Well, an NFT is not really that new, it's a digital intellectual  property right or property right that points to something that exists in the real world. You know,  even if it is a digital art, that digital art lives somewhere else, probably an IPFS as a  gif or something or a JPEG or a .mov MPEG and the NFT is a representation of ownership. If you  think about it, in the United Kingdom and in Spain and Ireland, the United States, property records  are NFTs. The title to your house is a non-fungible token. It's actually a  token. It's not a digital token but it's a token, when you get the title printed out.  So representing ownership in a way that first of all recognizes the unique aspect of whatever the  real world asset is, if it's art fine, if it's property fine, if it's something else could be  intellectual property rights, royalties to a song, the fact that you could maybe make an NFT  potentially divisible becomes interesting. I read recently that there's a Picasso currently  being tokenized and sold off in chunks as NFTs so an NFT, a divisible NFT makes sense  for perhaps shared ownership. I think it broadens access to different asset classes that maybe  would not have access to asset classes they might find interesting. I would not have access to the  Picasso art market for example, I'm sure you wouldn't either, but it might be interesting  to be able to get some exposure to it. As an example, I think that the opportunity for NFTs  is at least as big as the opportunity for their fungible cousins in securities markets etc. and  I think we're beginning to see that there's a huge amount of interest there, if for no  other reason than NFT creators, particularly artists who create digital art or even digital  versions of existing art, automatically can have an interest in the secondary  market art sales that happen for the lifespan of the art. So that if they become famous and  their first art creation that they ever made 20 years previously now is worth tens of millions,  they can participate in some fashion and receive a commission from secondary market art sales.  That makes it interesting to artists alone. I think there's a huge opportunity there now.  How's it going to play out, it'll probably start as digital collectibles from video games and we're  seeing some of that already. We've seen digital land sales and Decentraland and others, all of  it looks very interesting. The mainstreaming of NFTs, that'll probably happen in a way that real  world users won't even know that there are NFTs underneath. There'll just be NFTs inside a machine  and we interact with an app with a nice user experience that tells us that the property that we  purchased for vacation is now ours and if I want to sell half of it to my brother, I can do that. Yeah, absolutely. And so apart from what we've covered so far, are there any other areas of the blockchain landscape  or bigger purposes associated with it that you're very interested in? I appreciate that we've  already touched on identity so that's a huge one because it can affect so many people in the world.  I think you know the world, we need to figure out the climate change issue.  I think that for that to happen, we're going to need large-scale carbon markets that are  just a normal course of our lives. When we buy something, anything there'll be some offsetting  carbon credit that indicates that a tree was planted somewhere  and it's real and verified and enforceable. I think there's an opportunity to have a single  global carbon market that perhaps is blockchain based, perhaps not. But any time you say single  global anything, well we have some single global smart contracts platforms out there now that maybe  a smart engineering team could possibly develop something new on and find a way to make it a  seamless part of our daily lives. I do think it's necessary. I think many of us would agree with  that and certainly large companies are beginning to take this very, very seriously. I know that  Santander has, as well. Now, that's not to say that anything that the bank would do from an  environmental standpoint would have anything to do with a blockchain based carbon market, that's  very premature. But I think that we will see blockchain-based carbon markets come into being  and probably more quickly than we might think and perhaps more meaningfully. It's very needed.  Yeah, absolutely. So, it's a big one. Yeah, so  just in terms of bringing your conversation to a close. If people want to keep up with what  you're up to, I know you're very active on Twitter. You love a poll on Twitter as well,  which is great to see some of the things you put out there. But, is that the best way for people to  keep in touch with you or are there other things that you'd like to encourage people to go to as  well? Yeah, I think Twitter is the easiest. I'm active on Twitter, you know I speak for  myself not the institution for whom I work. I'm interested in topics like technology of course,  energy, finance, politics, as most people are right? Kind of the the main thing! Sports,  biking... and you can easily find me on Twitter, it is @_JohnWhelan  and easy to find. We'll certainly link to that as well on the the show notes too. Well,  John thank you so much for your time. It's always a pleasure to hear what you've been up to and  also as someone who I think really understands, well is pragmatic about what's possible with the  technology but also understands it as well. I think it's quite rare to have that sort of  combination so you can actually drive these initiatives and then still change, great to  chat. Likewise Conor, thank you very much for the invitation. No worries, speak soon, cheers.