The Big Interview

Morgan Pierce: In blockchain I’ve found my passion

Morgan Pierce describes how her career has moved towards a career in blockchain where her passion lies

Morgan Pierce, who is chief marketing officer at SEBA, says when she first heard about blockchain she knew “immediately” she’d found a passion that her whole career had been moving towards.

A graduate from Columbia University in Computer Science and Economics in the late 1980s, when she was the only woman on the course, she wrote her thesis on the effects of interest rates on the money supply, aka quantitative easing.

In the late 1990s she worked for Oracle, where she frequently suggested the world needed database technology where data stored could not be manipulated or changed. Until the advent of blockchain, any data stored could always be overwritten.

Evolving money

A key moment came 13 years ago when she read an article about a man who became a millionaire by selling virtual property to Second Lifers for Lincoln Dollars and she realised that “humanity was close to evolving money into a digital asset.”

She first bought Bitcoin five years ago after talking about it for a few years and is not sure why it took her so long to make the first step. She signed up for a digital currency course taught by Andreas Antopoulous two years ago and became hooked.

She left her job at a Silicon Valley software company and developed educational materials to teach the world about Bitcoin, blockchain and the promise it holds for global economic reform and is now based in Dublin, Ireland and works for Swiss-based SEBA.

Dotcom boom

She is a passionate believer in Bitcoin and the Distributed Ledger Technology that underpins it. “I understand how it works and what it can enable.”

She says there are so many similarities with the dotcom boom and what’s happening with Distributed Ledger Technology now.

Throughout the crypto correction of 2018, she has developed “even more conviction” in the technological evolution that humanity’s going through. While it is impossible to predict what’s coming in the next decade, we didn’t ever expect to rent out rooms in our homes or share our cars with strangers “and make money doing so.”

Blasphemy

SEBA’s mission is to bridge the gap between the crypto economy and the fiat markets. Some in cryptocurrency regard a crypto bank as “blasphemy, but actually without regulatory oversight, institutional money can never enter the market.”

“Banks get a terrible rap and often they deserve it but they perform a very important function. Regulation is needed to provide a safety framework for businesses with large amounts of crypto digital assets.”

It also keeps society safe from the “scammers and fraudsters.” While fiat cash is not trackable now with Distributed Ledger Technology in effect “everything is cleaned up” as all transactions are traceable on the blockchain.

Institutional money is “where the big money is and if we want the world’s wealth to move fluidly in and out of the crypto asset class, we must give the institutional players the confidence they need to enter the digital asset market.”

There’s no other way to do this other than to build banks that specialise in making this happen, she argues.

Securities, real estate, valuable items like jewellery and artwork can be tokenised and “personal data will be a source of income for you in the future.” Tokenisation is at the start of its evolution and the fiat market infrastructures aren’t built to handle tokenisation.

Fiat money

The irony in the crypto economy is private keys granting access to digital assets need to be physically protected if they are to be stored as securely as possible – which is not the case with fiat money.

The safest way to protect digital asset private keys is if they “never touch the internet, if they are stored on a piece of paper or as some kind of physical asset.” They need to be generated offline and remain offline until they are needed to sign a transaction.

At SEBA they are addressing the shortcoming in deep cold storage solution.

In 2017 and the start of 2018 there was a “lot of scams” in the ICO space and retail investors who wanted to get into crypto without fully understanding the underlying technology got burnt because they couldn’t discern between good and bad projects.

Depth and expertise

Luckily, those days are gone. “Venture capital money is moving into backing blockchain projects and VCs bring depth and expertise much needed in the nascent crypto market.” She describes it as “a very exciting time.”

She hopes and believes 2019 will be the year the market matures and quite a few blockchain projects will prove their value and hopefully later this year or early next year we will clear Gartner’s technological Trough of Disillusionment which is when the “real opportunities will emerge.”

Although the market cap has “completely tanked”, trading volumes have steadily increased and have been “hovering around $20bn” for several days in the last week, she adds. “While the market doesn’t have the same value, there’s a lot more volume.”

 

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