Just because we're interested in the function of decentralisation and digitalisation in finance doesn't mean we think it's the answer to everything. Yesterday we noted Barry Silbert's counter-intuitive reasoning on digital currencies and decentralisation. Aditya Menon, a member of Lafferty's Banking Fintech Council Advisory Board, offers context on his blog, describing the transformation of financial services from product to service-centred, and more recently from experience-centred (think fintechs) to community centred or enabled. Mr Menon comes down firmly on the side of a decentralised future: "The winning strategy for the new-age platform is clear; it is the mantra of decentralization! This is one of the core principles the Tallyx platform is built on. However, the established political and commercial order will not take it lightly, as decentralization will challenge the rent-seeking, controlling behaviour upon which intermediaries depend, prevent the growth of monopolies, provide a flatter structure of governance, and offer a more inclusive model of business." He goes on to give an example of the types of start-ups now emerging in this new model: "La'Zooz is an Israel-based startup building a decentralized real-time ride-sharing transportation platform. The La 'Zooz network will exist on the phones and computers of its community of users, rather than on any central server. The platform is owned by everyone who uses it, making it open, community-based, and equal-opportunity. This, in reality, is a radically opposite approach from centralized ride-sharing platforms like Uber or Lyft."
Speaking of Uber, chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged on Monday that the company has a serious culture problem. The scale of that culture problem can be gauged in the model Mr Khosrowshahi holds up as the company to copy. He told an event on Monday that Uber should become the 'Amazon of transportation'. Honestly, you couldn't make it up.
Lafferty News tried to reach Phil Chen, decentralised chief officer of HTC yesterday but couldn't track him down. (That's a decentralisation joke.) We reported on Phil's brilliant title a few months ago and now Phil is back in the news following the launch of HTC's new phone, Exodus 1. "HTC's Chen told CNBC the focus on blockchain was part of the firm's shifting strategy regarding smartphones, which he said will prioritize software and intellectual property. We believe blockchain is the new paradigm for smartphones and it will form part of HTC's wider smartphone strategy. This marks a change in HTC, with increased focus on software and IP." The phone will be available only in cryptocurrency prices, including bitcoin and Ethereum. We've been covering this story for almost a year now, in part because the mobile + digital assets space has enormous potential. Recall that early smartphones that were "top of the line" only ten years ago are now regarded as Jurassic-era relics, but the best technologies have now fed through to Chinese-made smartphones which would have been super-advanced ten years ago, but now sell for under $100 in parts of Africa.
Tricia Martinez, CEO of Wala, has slammed Silicon Valley-based digital lenders such as Tala (which acquired a strategic investment from Paypal recently) and Branch, writing: "Digital loans in Africa = predatory payday lending! Stop testing shitty algorithms on the most vulnerable!" A story in the Daily Nation suggests that many of the 6.5 million Kenyans who are digital borrowers have become prisoners of these lending apps, borrowing cash to gamble.
There's coverage today in Ireland of Lafferty's Banking 500, with Bank of Ireland in particular attracting attention for its dreadful performance, despite being one of only two major banks operating widely in the Irish retail banking market for most of the last ten years. Read the coverage here.
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