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Drummond Reed, Chief trust officer, Evernym

Drummond Reed headshot.jpg

Please give us a bit of background on yourself, and how your organisation plays a leadership role in the financial technology space.

I have spent almost my entire career in digital identity, specifically Internet identity—proving who you are online. I was a founding board member of the OpenID Foundation in 2006 and the Information Card Foundation in 2008; then the initial Executive Director of the Open Identity Exchange in 2010. In 2011 I founded a startup called Respect Network to create a global peer-to-peer network for trusted exchange of personal data. Our achilles heel was that we still required a centralized registry service—we hadn't come up with a solution for decentralized identity. With the emergence of blockchain technology, we can finally solve this problem. So for the past two years I've been focused on the launch of a global public utility for decentralized identity, starting with the U.S. credit union industry.

How well are financial companies adapting to the coming of age phase of FinTech development? Where are the opportunities, and where are the roadblocks still?

Fintech is a large space, so I'll confine my remarks to the identity verification and personal data sharing space in which I work. In this area, the excitement around blockchain technology is not just hype. Blockchains are a breakthrough solution to a perennial problem: how to establish a strong, cryptographically verifiable "root of trust" for portable digital identities that can work across any domain, application, or service. We have found that progressive financial institutions understand the profound difference this can make in their customer's experience while improving both security and privacy.

That said, blockchain identity still faces the classic adoption hurdles: it is a two-sided market; it must clearly satisfy regulatory requirements, and it must be integrated with existing systems.

What challenges do you see for FinTech maturation, and how will their business models help deliver future financial success?

Many Fintech innovations are similar to Web innovations in that they must achieve a significant network effect in order for their business models to work. This is never easy, but now there is a new factor in this calculus: cryptocurrencies and token sales. These are not just early sources of funding in fintech—they are sterioids for network effects. They introduce powerful new incentives for adoption of a network, and that is turning into a game changer.

What will you be discussing at The Economist's Finance Disrupted Conference?

I'd like to share just how fast work on blockchain identity is progressing and discuss the impact it will have on the rest of fintech. Yes, it will be a classic example of Amara's Law ("We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run"). But I think it will go deeper than that. The combination of blockchain identity, cryptocurrencies, and AI will remake markets as we know them, and that in turn will remake fintech. What we call fintech today won't be recognizable a decade from now.

To learn more about the Finance Disrupted event, please click here.