Steve Wozniak took centre stage at Money20/20 and made some bold statements around blockchain and Bitcoin which has received much press coverage including calling the currency “pure” and without any “human intervention.”

However, another key piece of his set which seems to have been overlooked was Wozniak’s view of the importance of regulation in supporting banking and technological development.

Whilst many may have presumed that Wozniak would have been keen to see Blockchain continue to develop freely and without disturbance from the law, he instead noted it was a lack of regulation leading to crypto currencies still largely operate in a “Wild West” environment. 

In comparison, established terrestrial corporates such as Apple and Amazon are able to stretch their brands from pure tech into payments, banking and further precisely due to the foundations of regulations and rules governing how these entities could and should enter new, unchartered markets.

Wozniak went further and spoke about how regulation sets the standards for how “good behaviour” should be exhibited by those looking to extend and develop new ways of building business and access into everyday life of their customers.

Wozniak clearly held to the classic Apple mantra of “making life easier” but what was also clear was that the continued expansion and involvement in the intricacies of our lives need parameters and rules of conduct.

This would normally sound like it would come out of the mouths of national regulators but here is was being issued by the cofounder of Apple, the largest company and technology player in the world.

Wozniak’s stance should be taken as a clear bellwether to all players in the payments and Fintech market. As an example, there are at least 12 other jurisdictions outside of the EU currently considering or implementing Open Banking; the opportunity for Fintech and smaller app developers is huge. 

However, rules of good behaviour (global standards, open APIs, conduct risk assessment as well as hard regulation) must be robustly put in place and be resilient in order for there truly to be level playing for all market players.

Another obvious nod here is to the crypto currencies market and the use of distributed ledger technologies.

These products (and their state of flux from a regulatory perspective) are shouting loud for global standards for operation and recognition.  It is disappointing to note that national regulators and governments though are not heeding this and taking divergent views thus frustrating the need for Wozniak’s rule for “good behaviour”.

When one of the founding fathers of modern technology stresses the importance of both Blockchain and regulation, we should all sit up and take note. To both sides of the statement.

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Fiona Ghosh

Fiona Ghosh

Partner, Commercial
United Kingdom

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