The Big Interview

Chris Skinner: Tired old Bitcoin is a spent force, but the age of Ethereum is dawning

Author and respected voice of finance delivers his sharp insight to the world of cryptocurrency as he argues that you can't have money without governance

Chris Skinner, the author and authorative and respected FinTech writer, says it is a “red herring” to associate money launderers with cryptocurrency. “It’s much easier to launder money through bank accounts,” he comments.

Previously, he’s argued that “it’s only illegal if we say it is”.

“With Bitcoin you have to identify where it is going and between whom,” he says. “There is currently £2 trillion being money laundered, 99% of which is not traced. If it is digitalised it is much easier to trace.”

Ethereum has the ace up its sleeve…

Bitcoin won’t succeed, though, he argues “because it wasn’t designed for the scale and needs of global currency”.

He believes Ethereum has a greater chance of success as it is future-proofed. Ethereum, the open-source, public blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract functionality was only launched three years ago – seven years after Bitcoin.

Skinner is best known for his FinTech blog, the, as well as being the author of bestselling books Digital Bank, ValueWeb and a new sequel, Digital Human. He chairs the European networking forum The Financial Service Club and Nordic Finance InnovSation and is a non-executive director of the FinTech consultancy firm 11:FS

He compared current transaction times per second as seven for Bitcoin, 2,000 for Visa and 125,000 for Alipay. “It needs a scale and workable system which is not Bitcoin in its current form,” he says.

Skinner disagrees with bankers who simplistically assert Bitcoin is bad and blockchain is good. And he is not a fan of unregulated markets. Bitcoin is only workable on a scalable global system “which might be Bitcoin 7:1 and not in its current form,” he tells me.

It may take a decade, he says, for mainstream stores to be able to process transactions because of the current transaction time which is currently way too slow. Bitcoin is so unstable on the markets because of the market critical mass. As 95% of Bitcoins are owned when they traded for under a dollar, there’s only a tiny fraction left. “These guys are the ones controlling the value of the coin if they decide to sell”, he explains.

He’s excited about two pieces of blockchain that have come out of the distributed ledger technology and the business community database which will automatically connect networks saving billions of dollars in administration fees.

“We have the global network,” he argues. “But we don’t yet have a global currency.”

Some people continue to believe that Bitcoin is a means of decentralising money but this is folly, as “you can’t have money without government…The governments invented it,” he says. “It’s a bit like having houses without bricks, it can be done but you wouldn’t want to live in them.”

The issue of mining for Bitcoin is “clearly unique technically and very difficult to grasp unless you’re a rocket scientist. To understand the money, you have to be part of the investment banking community with the knowledge of a rocket scientist. It’s very few people really,” he muses.

Until 2002, he had a “proper job” working in banking and was interested in technology “before it had the cool name of FinTech”.

The big difference since then, was it was all about banks and technology and “not much happened until 2005 when there was computing Big Data”. This gave the ability for new companies to specialise their activity in API open banking.

The mood changed in 2008 when people became disillusioned with banks and the coders in specialised companies became hugely successful and the whitepaper was written for Bitcoin.

Banks don’t like change…

There’s been a fundamental “drowsiness” on the part of banks to keep up with the technology. “The banking community does not like change,” he adds. “They are seeing 60 high street branches close a month and technology is decimating the industry.”

He’s a firm believer in the futureproofing of Ethererum, which came about as a bid to rewrite Bitcoin and eliminate some of the glitches. “Ethereum is tamper proof and much more robust,” he says. “The whitepaper of 2008 never mentions blockchain. Ethererum addresses this issue and it is backed by Microsoft.”

The world of technology may make Joe and Jane Public “fall asleep” according to Skinner as it is all about blockchain, ledger, Ethererum and corporate banking and government infrastructure.

“It is a foundational technology like the internet and the mobile phone,” he concludes. “In the short-term, because it is corporate financial infrastructure it is like we have got the horse with blockchain but we have not designed a cart to tow.”

Skinner’s latest book Digital Human is out now.



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.


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