‘I’m Quite a Fan Of Government Regulation’: Interview With Yobie Benjamin
CTO Emeritus of TOKEN.IO on the first year of Blockchain in Davos.
In the corridors of Davos Cointelegraph has got a chance to catch up with Yobie Benjamin, co-founder and CTO Emeritus of Token.io with the background in mainstream banking (Citigroup).
In five minutes, Benjamin shared his thoughts on regulation, huckster ICO’s and the potential of Blockchain.
Cointelegraph: We are here with Yobie Benjamin. Could you introduce yourself to our audience and tell them what you're doing right now?
Yobie Benjamin: Hello, my name is Yobie Benjamin and I am the current CTO Emeritus of Token.io, which is a distributed ledger company which is built to support the banking industry. And if there's a really easy way to explain it, it's a far more modern version of SWIFT, which is the global bank system wherein money is moved.
CT: You have a bit of a different opinion on government regulations from what I understand. Could you talk a little bit about that?
YB: I am, believe it or not, quite a fan of government regulations. By background I was the former global CEO of Citigroup, I currently sit on the Federal Reserve faster payment task force. So my view on regulation is that regulation is good and regulation actually legitimizes a business. So I'm not a big fan of an uber-libertarian movement, which says that regulation is bad and we don't need any of this, and the world is going to be perfect without any regulation.
CT: Сryptocurrencies are hoped by some to be used to sort of disrupt the system and take everything and make it something new. Davos is not like that. And you see Blockchain all over the place in Davos. Why do you think that is?
YB: Interestingly enough, this is the first year in Davos that we have seen so many Blockchain companies. The World Economic Forum itself, if you look at the formal program, has probably about two hours of Blockchain programming. The issues that concern the World Economic Forum are far more diverse and far deeper than Blockchain itself. Blockchain is an important technology, clearly, probably, one of the most important technologies. But Blockchain also has, basically, the way I would say, has given birth to many great technologies but also many hucksters. And I think that is common knowledge in this industry, we see Blockchain companies, you know, selling things such as, unfortunately, things like prostitution. Or other types of things that are not really part and parcel of a global system and shouldn’t be a part of the global system.
I think Blockchain does a lot in terms of global trade, doing trade finance, doing things that don’t require high-velocity transactions or high-frequency transactions. But there is a lot you can do in Blockchain. Municipal governments, property titles, you know, municipal fines – all sorts of records can be put in a Blockchain. But not everything fits on the Blockchain. When I was global CTO of Citibank, we did three to nine tln dollars of transactions a day. And as you know, the Blockchain itself in its totality, given all the crypto of Bitcoin and Ethereum, don’t even come close to a trillion dollars a day.
CT: How people who are looking at a legitimate company or ICO should go about thinking through their investments, coming from your perspective? How do you spot the huckster?
YB: Look, here's what I see about ICOs, right? Right now, an ICO happens, somebody's come up with a great idea and then suddenly hires two developers, four developers, they write on the ERC20 protocol and they have an ICO. Essentially short-circuiting what it's been a long formal process of an initial public offering. In a lot of ways that's good. Because it expands access to capital. However, it doesn't give an excuse for beginning to go and offer things to the market, that border on silly, if not criminal.
I think that if you're looking for an ICO and you think you want to invest in an ICO look at the team, this is a pretty standard piece of advice. But look, if they're open to getting themselves registered. Many companies are doing ICOs, that are not afraid of the registration process. Many companies are not afraid of regulation. And fully put themselves in front of regulators and make themselves available to questions, make themselves available to criticism much like any other IPO process. I personally like ICOs. But! Given that there are probably thousands if not tens of thousands of ICOs, that are forthcoming, it's a buyer beware market. That's all I could say for that!