Christian Martin is the CEO of TeraGroup and Executive Director for the Wallstreet Blockchain Alliance. We are excited to have him return as a speaker for the State of Digital Money 2018. In anticipation for this year’s event, we took a moment to chat with Christian to learn more about his work in the finance and blockchain world and what insights he has for 2018:
SODM: You cut your teeth for 20 years working at first Stock Exchanges and then Merryl Lynch & BofA – What is the single largest truism about the financial sector that the lay person like me wouldn’t know about or consider?
Christian: I think it is important to understand the context of capital markets. At its core it is about capital formation, helping build and manage risk for all means of commerce. Over the years I’ve witnessed the noise of trading and volatility, price moves etc. grabbing all the headlines. It is important to keep in mind that the instrument in question, whether it’s a stock or a bond or more recently an ICO’s , are originally purposed for capital formation used to build something.
SODM: What comes to mind when you hear “digital money”?
Christian: We have been interacting with money digitally for almost 25 years. Traditional on-line banking or trading stocks on-line set the stage for what has happened in the last 10 years with the innovation of Bitcoin and all the subsequent iterations. I loosely equate adoption of digital money to the digitalization of trust. Or thought of another way it’s the commoditization of trust.
SODM: How has the landscape of #fintech (technology behind finance like mobile payments, etc) changed in your time working in the industry?
Christian: Today roughly 3.5 Billion people have access to the internet and 2.5 billion people have a smart phone in their hand. Information moves around the globe with such velocity and ease today it only makes sense that the representation of value i.e. money or its equivalent enjoy that same privilege.
SODM: How did you or your company get into Blockchain/crypto space? And how has it changed since being in the space?
Christian: Tera Group – the company I co-founded and have run since 2011 has its roots in the traditional financial markets which is also my background. In 2013 we started – rather humbly – down the road of first understanding cryptocurrencies then offering capital markets services to the crypto asset class and marketplace participants. Tera Group has 3 discrete marketplaces it manages, TeraExchange is a federally regulated derivative’s platform which listed the U.S.’s first regulated Bitcoin product in 2014. We also run a Foreign Exchange platform, EM4X and the third offering is a marketplace to lend and borrow cryptocurrencies. An important output of these three marketplaces is Data, which we offer as well.
The incredible uptick in demand for our crypto related offerings is the most dramatic observation over these last few years. We were certainly early in 2014 but the world seems to have rushed up under our feet the last year.
SODM: How is Tera Exchange different for others/competition?
Christian: Tera Exchange approached the crypto space as a regulated entity rather than getting into the space and figuring out the rules of the road as we went along. As a result our value proposition continues to be unique in this space.
SODM: Can you tell us more about Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA)
Christian: Ron Quaranta the founder of the WSBA is the driving force behind the effort, it’s goal is to create a broad and harmonious knowledge base with which the Financial Services industry can implement the innovation of distributed ledger technology. As an Executive Director of the WSBA I focus primarily on the asset creation part of the story – meaning which legacy instruments might benefit from this technology or what new instruments might be born from it.
SODM: One of WSBA guiding principles is “to lead education and engagement activities with the association’s members, and with the broader financial markets community.” Given our current state of chaotic affairs with massive number of ICOs, regulation on the horizon, etc. What are some resources interested parties can use to educate themselves?
Christian: Mission critical on this front is getting familiar with existing Financial Services rules and regulations. Some of these laws have been on the books for 80 years and their intent is to protect the customer as well as establish lanes that issuing entities should contemplate and/or adhere to. The regulators here in the U.S. will not be starting from scratch regarding ICO’s – in many cases they do not have to write any new rules, in some cases they may need to add guidance to existing laws – but the issue of capital formation which I touched on in the very first question is a very familiar topic to the folks in D.C.
SODM: Big picture – Any predictions for 2018? and beyond that?
Christian: This is a great question and almost impossible to satisfactorily answer. I will say that we are living through a very reflexive time when a baby step in any direction gets hyper attention and either caves in itself or explodes to the upside with almost no time to digest what just happened. I am going to avoid sounding like a cynic here and simply say that this is likely to be the new normal with the pace of innovation accelerating with commensurate quick adoption or rejection being the rules of the road moving forward.
We are looking forward to having Christian Martin joining us on “The Current State of Cryptocurrency ” panel at the State of Digital Money 2018, on May 5th. Hope to see you there!