Categories
Thought Leadership

 

 

Ireland is uniquely positioned to benefit from the growth and adoption of blockchain and cryptoasset technology. Before I tell you why, let me tell you my story, how crypto assets inspired me, and why I believe in Ireland’s potential to thrive through this emerging fintech sector, writes Kraken’s Brian Gahan.

My Journey to Crypto

Firstly, I’m a father with a young family. My working background is rooted in traditional finance, or ‘trad-fi’ as it’s sometimes referred to, both in London and Dublin. I spent over a decade in financial auditing and trading for some of finance’s biggest names, including KPMG and Morgan Stanley.

The tough reality I’ve learned from years of working in traditional finance is that the banking system is in urgent need of a revamp, and that it underserves a large amount of the population.

For example, inflation — prompted by persistent quantitative easing — has eroded the purchasing power that everyday Irish people have, and salaries have not risen fast enough to enable social mobility. Furthermore, some people in society are excluded from basic financial services entirely. Figures from the World Bank suggest that in 2024 there are roughly 1.5 billion people globally that don’t have access to a bank account, and this figure is significantly higher amongst those with only primary education compared to those with secondary or tertiary levels of education.

This is unacceptable for a 21st century Ireland, and the ability to financially transact should be considered a basic human right. Some may rely heavily on the access to cash — which the Irish Government has thankfully sought to protect — but as the world becomes more digital, it’s vital to also enable more means of transacting that maintain the benefits of peer-to-peer transactions. This is an intersection that showcases one of the value propositions of cryptoassets.

Kraken Crypto Girl with Crypto Assets

I began to explore the crypto ecosystem back in 2018 after reading about the 2017 bull market cycle. At first, when exploring the technology merely from a surface level, I considered whether crypto’s use cases were limited to speculation. However, I quickly realised I was wrong. As I scratched away at the narratives and dug deeper, I began to see just how this technology could be used to empower everyone to transact peer-to-peer. I was particularly fascinated to learn how cryptoassets could drastically improve the efficiency of cross-border payments, making them cheaper, faster, and less risky.

“As I scratched away at the narratives and dug deeper, I began to see just how this technology could be used to empower everyone to transact peer-to-peer.”

It was around this time I started to explore how I could contribute my time and expertise towards building this new financial ecosystem that is seeking to equalise access to financial services. After a couple of industry roles, I found my way to Kraken, where I now lead our expansion efforts in Europe.

How Can Blockchain and Crypto Drive Ireland’s Economy Forward?

It’s unquestioned that the growth of Ireland’s fintech sector has significantly bolstered the economy over recent decades. The fintech sector has created thousands of high-skilled and well-paying jobs, as well as presented opportunities to generate taxation that can be reinvested in other areas of the economy. Years of sustained capital investment combined with a conscious policy effort to allow the fintech sector to innovate have paid economic dividends. For example, Dublin now has some of the brightest fintech minds located in and around the city with deep knowledge ranging from payments to e-commerce and beyond.

I believe blockchain, specifically crypto, is the next stage in Ireland’s fintech journey, and that it presents an opportunity for us to carve out another industrial success story. This is because of the technological benefits this asset class has, and how it can be applied to transform the way people transact, but also how companies interact with their clients, and how supply chains operate worldwide.

Blockchains are permissionless, transparent, and instant by design. Practically, this means anyone can send a transaction at any time of the day without relying on a third-party intermediary to complete it. Once that transaction has been confirmed, it is also publicly visible for everyone to see.

The potential for blockchain and crypto technologies is therefore limitless. For example, it can be applied to tokenise real-world assets, to make healthcare records more secure, to make voting systems more transparent, or to even speed up the process of transferring ownership of assets (such as cars) between parties, something that is currently being tested by the California State Department of Motor Vehicles. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What Is Holding Back Crypto Adoption in Ireland?

To unlock these many societal benefits, Irish people need to more fully embrace this emerging technology. Most Irish vendors and suppliers today are not capable of accepting transactions in the form of cryptoassets. Furthermore, according to a survey from Blockchain Ireland, only 1 in 10 Irish adults currently own cryptocurrency, stablecoins, or NFTs, with the main barrier to adoption being a lack of understanding.

This therefore reinforces how important it is for crypto companies, academics, think tanks, and regulators to spread the knowledge so that new audiences can be educated about this technology. We need to demonstrate the long-term benefits that people will realise by transacting through cryptoassets so that more people take the time to develop a comfort with the technology in the same way they did with mobile phones or the internet. For example, crypto companies should be educating Irish vendors and businesses about why they should transact with crypto and how this would reduce the number of fraudulent chargeback claims they would need to process.

This reinforces how important it is for crypto companies, academics, think tanks, and regulators to spread the knowledge so that new audiences can be educated about this technology.

What Does the Future of Crypto Look Like in Ireland?

I’m excited and energised about the prospect of driving crypto’s success story so that Ireland can be a global example to others. For example, Ireland has been successful in attracting the global funds industry for its robust, yet innovation-friendly, regulatory framework and for its ability to be an effective advocate for this industry in the international fora. We can now replicate this success in digital finance. Ireland, as part of the EU, is currently in the process of implementing the Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation (MiCAR) which provides a comprehensive framework for how cryptoassets can flourish within a regulatory perimeter while also providing consumer protections. This is a game-changer for the local crypto industry, and turbo-charges the industry’s ability to attract investment by providing regulatory clarity.

Ireland’s emerging blockchain and crypto industry also presents tangible economic opportunities to benefit the broader economy through new local jobs, more taxation, and increased capital investment in the region. Researchers have suggested that the development of the blockchain industry could add over $2 trillion to the world’s GDP, effectively a 2% increase, by 2030. I believe Ireland is in a strong position to secure a sizable share of this economic value, if it continues to enable this technology to flourish.

I believe Ireland is in a strong position to secure a sizable share of this economic value, if it continues to enable this technology to flourish.

To conclude, I’m fully convinced that the world my children will live and work in is certainly set to be different from the world I grew up in. Employers will seek out candidates that have experience or skills in fields we currently see as being on the bleeding-edge of technology, such as AI, ethical hacking, coding, as well as blockchain. I fully believe that crypto will be the financial plumbing that underpins this new digital world and that crypto companies, such as Kraken, will be an important bridge between the traditional financial system and this new exciting financial ecosystem. If we are to ensure that Ireland is a major economic player in this future digital world, we should prioritise capital, resources, and time today to understand the technology and ensure it becomes a long term success.

Brian Gahan is managing director Europe at Kraken.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Calendar

July 2024
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Categories