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Stephen McKeon, Chief Strategy Advisor of Security Token Academy – Interview Series

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Stephen McKeon, Chief Strategy Advisor of Security Token Academy - Interview Series
Stephen McKeon is the Chief Strategy Advisor of Security Token Academy. He is also an Assoc. Professor of Finance at University of Oregon and Partner at Collaborative Fund.

 

When did you first become interested in blockchain technology?

I first learned about Bitcoin in 2013, but was busy working on a startup and tenure so I didn’t have much time to dive in.  It was a couple years later around the time Ethereum launched that I caught the bug and went down the rabbit hole.

 

How has this interest in blockchain affected your investment strategy for the Collaborative Fund?

Collaborative Fund has a history of investing in companies that make the world better by disrupting legacy extractive industries.  Many segments of the financial industry fit this description so investing in blockchains is a natural extension of our established thesis.

 

Not only are you a partner to an investment fund but you are also a professor of finance at the University of Oregon. Which came first and how did you find yourself in these roles?

The academic role came first by a long shot.  I joined the finance PhD program at Purdue in 2007 and started at University of Oregon in 2011 after getting my degree.  One of the things that attracted me to academia was the ability to design my own research agenda and this provided the opportunity to turn towards blockchains in 2015.

The role with Collaborative began about a year ago when they decided to launch a dedicated effort around blockchains.  I have known the founder, Craig Shapiro, for almost 20 years — we met at the beginning of our careers in San Francisco during the height of the dot com boom.  He knew I was researching blockchains reached out when they were looking to add more domain expertise around this emerging space.

 

You are an advisor to Security Token Academy, one of the leading voices at the intersection of blockchains and financial securities and you have published “The Security Token Thesis” that outlines your views on the emerging market of security tokens. Could you share with us why security tokens has you so excited?

What I’m excited about is the concept of smart securities, where we can program logic and conditions directly into the security itself.  Blockchain tokens are not the only way to achieve this vision, but they appear to be the best avenue to do so in a way that is interoperable and where market participants have an incentive to adopt.  Bringing these features to securities expands the design space in terms of how we think about financing and investment, which is exciting.

 

Which types of securities do you believe are best served by security tokens?

Since tokens are just a digital wrapper, they can be applied to almost anything.  In a sense, if it has value it can be tokenized.  That said, some assets are more conductive than others.  The first security token was a venture fund, Blockchain Capital, driven by the desire to create a secondary market that allows investors to get liquidity without forcing redemptions on the fund.  We’ve also seen some examples of equity and real estate.  One of the best use cases in my mind is bonds.  The payment streams are set in advance, making them particularly easy to codify, and they aren’t subject to the same investor limits as other asset classes.  Blockchain Credit Partners is doing some interesting work on this front.

 

Can you explain your views on automated compliance, and the benefits this provides investors and regulators?

Sales and trading of financial assets are highly regulated industries and maintaining compliance is a real source of friction for institutions.  Further, it dictates the manner in which we trade assets because they reside inside walled gardens.  By putting logic inside the security that checks off regulatory requirements in an automated way as it moves between wallets, we can reduce some of the burden that currently exists.  There’s still a long way to go because ubiquitous and secure digital identity is required to fully realize the vision, but there has been a lot of progress made over the past year.

 

You believe that digitized assets will require asset interoperability, can you explain your thoughts behind this?

My favorite line from the article is “The thesis underpinning the idea that everything will be tokenized is grounded in the aspiration that everything will be interoperable.”  People want everything to work together seamlessly and we simply don’t have that today for investable assets.  One of the great promises of blockchain protocols is that they create standards that facilitate interoperability among different components.

 

You’ve also described how in the future digital securities will offer unique investor access rights. Could you elaborate on what these investor rights will be and how they benefit investors?

If you boil down the question “what is ownership” you arrive at the idea that ownership is a set of rights.  In many cases these rights are bundled, for example, I get both cash flow rights and voting rights in many of the public equities I own, but I don’t get access rights to their headquarters.  However, people value access and that can take many forms.  Maybe it’s access to an annual meeting, as in the case of the Green Bay Packers, maybe it’s access to some type of discount, or early access to a product before public launch.  Whatever use case you can imagine, once public entities have more visibility on their cap tables, something they don’t have today, they can begin attaching additional rights that may be very low cost to the issuer but are valued by investors.

 

Where do you see the market 5 years down the road?

Security tokens went from $22M in 2017, to $442M in 2018, and the talley for 2019 will likely several billion.  And yet the space is still in its infancy.  There are many trillions of dollars of assets in the world, many of which could use an IT upgrade such as the one security tokens represent.  To answer the 5-year question one has to make an assumption about the rate of institutional adoption because that’s the hurdle that takes the space from billions to trillions.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

For readers that want to learn more, Security Token Academy is a great resource.  I encourage them to check out the website and subscribe to the weekly newsletter.  Also, for those in the NY area, there will be a free meetup with a great lineup of speakers on the evening of Sept. 26th at Chelsea Piers, registration is available through securitytokenacademy.com.

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Antoine Tardif is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 blockchain projects. He is also the founder of Bitcoinlightning.com a news website focusing on the lightning network, and a founding partner of Securities.io

Interviews

Moresh Kokane, CEO of Konkrete – Interview Series

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Moresh Kokane, CEO of Konkrete - Interview Series

Moresh Kokane is the Founder of Konkrete, he has worked in the finance and tech sector for the last decade and previously successfully launched two start-ups.

In 2014 you launched Estate Baron, one of the first real estate development crowdfunding companies in Australia. What inspired you to combine real estate with crowdfunding?

I had worked in the US for about 9 years before moving to Australia. I had already seen the rise of Realty Mogul and Fundrise in the US. Australians are far more in love with real estate than the US with each Australian being 3 times more likely to be invested in real estate than an American.

Real estate being a lumpy asset is an ideal fit for crowdfunding which allows people with smaller amounts to participate. Doing real estate equity crowdfunding in Australia was really a no brainer.

 

When it comes to Estate Baron, are profits derived from the developer or the investor? Could you share some details on the profit model?

We provide 3 key services.

  1. Given that it is a securities offering, we help structure the offer documents. What we have been able to achieve is a commoditization of the process. Real estate projects fundamentally share the same lifecycle. Acquire land, decide what to build on it (plans), construct and sell (or hold for long term). Doing a full retail securities offering can be quite tedious but given the repetitive nature of the business model, we were able to come up with templates which allowed us to drive the cost of compliance down significantly.
  2. We also turned our tech into a SAAS platform, whereby each developer can use their own front-end skin on top of our backend. This allows them to promote their own offers under their own brand to their clients. On Estate Baron itself we can list all the offers as a quasi-aggregator.
  3. And we also offer investor promotions for select offers.

There is a flat fee for the drafts, a recurring charge for the tech and a % of funds raised capital raising fee.

 

It seems that Konkrete was a natural evolution of Estate Baron as it offers a distributed share registry designed for the real estate sector. For readers who are unfamiliar with this, could you explain what a distributed share registry is, and the benefits it provides investors and developers?

Konkrete is fundamentally Estate Baron v2.0

On Estate Baron we had a full investor portal where we had online application processing, project information pages, share registry, investor updates etc.

We are keeping 100% of the retail financial licensing and compliance from Estate Baron, bulk of the tech and swapping out the backend centralized share registry with a distributed one.

Each offer is typically setup as a Public unlisted company and legally maintains its own registry. A registry as you know is a record of all the shareholders, how much they own, etc. Typically, these are maintained centrally.

Using a blockchain enabled registry has a few significant advantages. The first is transparency, it also brings a wider reach of investors on the global crypto markets and it makes liquidity simpler.

But what we are really excited about is smart securities. By putting the investment operations on the blockchain we can give investors real time insights on how the money is being spent. Instead of sending money to a bank account, we can receive stable coins in a smart contract wallet. And instead of bank loan drawdowns we can trigger funds release automatically based on certain events triggered by Oracles.

What it means for the project is real time, automatic disclosure which reduces cost of ongoing compliance. And by introducing transparency and immutability to the operations we can generate a lot of trust in the ecosystem. Coupled with a wider reach and liquidity this drives down the cost of capital for the venture.

Note that while we are focused on real estate, the underlying legal structures and technology can be used for any other ventures which are unrelated to real estate as well.

 

One of the stated benefits of Konkrete, is reducing the housing affordability crisis, could you walk us through how this works?

Konkrete being an evolution of Estate Baron aims to do something about housing affordability. We intend to make home ownership affordable through 2 main approaches.

The first is fractional ownership of the house you live in. Instead of buying the entire house and loading up on debt, if we can allow people to live long term in a house that they co-own alongside other investors that reduces the upfront outlay a buyer must make. It also gives investors the opportunity to buy a piece of real estate by not having to stump the entire amount.

Second is the supply side. House sticker prices include a hefty development profit. If we can get people to do co-development for the houses they wish to live then the development profit can be passed back to them. This model is already quite popular in Berlin, Germany and these syndicates, collectives are springing up in Melbourne as well.

By bringing together more people online and allowing them to achieve consensus in a decentralized fashion, we can replace the developer.

Finally, we are working on a real estate backed stable coin as our long term moonshot. That is something we always keep one eye on.

 

What are some of the different solutions and products that Konkrete will be offering?

We continue to offer fundraising solutions for real estate projects. The same model can be applied for non-real estate fundraising as well (Public company and prospectus). We have already done offers in Australia, New Zealand (both full retail) and US (Reg D accredited).

We are also going beyond security tokenization and looking at the Asset tokenization model. One of the limiting factors of securities tokenization is the jurisdictional limitations one has. We must qualify investors etc, restrict distribution. Also, while public companies and registered managed funds in Australia are allowed to maintain their own registries, exchange listed funds have to be recorded on the exchanges central registries.

The SEC is adamantly against non-custodial security structures. So, there are limitations to where an STO can take us.

However, the real opportunity lies in Assets which are recorded in a peer to peer fashion. Hence the repositioning to an Asset tokenization platform.

We have already launched an invoice factoring market place based on the Asset tokenization premise called factorium.co that is built on the Konkrete technology platform.

(Use the invite code: factorium for early access to the closed beta.)

 

Konkrete has a utility token, The Konkrete Token (KKT) – an ERC-20-based token – which powers the Konkrete platform. Could you tell us more about the KKT token and how its intended to be used?

KKT is an platform level token. We are still nutting out a few things in it in terms of whether we should contemplate going down the path of our own chain. In the short run, each application built on the Konkrete tech is likely to have its own token.

For instance Factorium has Factor tokens, which we use to incentivize users to submit invoices for sale on the platform. The tokens are also used to incentivize verification of these invoices by the buyers. Buyers are also rewarded for repaying on time.

The investors use Factor tokens to pay for transaction fees and use of the platform.

Here is a simple flowchart of the process.

 

You are currently selling shares in the foundation company (Konkrete Distributed Registries Ltd ACN 617 252 909) When is the offer closing and what’s the expected raise amount?

We are currently live on Bank to the Future platform. We are open for another couple of months and are only raising a small amount $500,000

We are currently generating revenue and have much of the product ready.

 

What are the financial benefits that will be offered to investors? Also, will these shares eventually be tokenized?

Absolutely the shares will be tokenized. Shareholders are becoming part owners of the business and will share in the capital gain and will receive regular dividends which we intend to programatically distribute via smart contracts. All our revenues will be fed into smart contracts and we intend to turn our own operations into a transparent dAPP.

 

What will these raised funds be used for?

These funds will be used for further refinement of the tech and driving user adoption.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Konkrete?

Unlike a number of other portals, we are an existing profitable business that has been around for a few years. We have been in the crowdfunding space for ages and have a strong understanding of the regulatory frameworks. We know what works in this space and what does not. In addition, we also have bulk of the tech ready and also a strong investor community already using us. We do the tech but also the issuance of the securities inhouse which puts us in a unique position. We have a solid team in terms of Sean my cofounder who is taking charge of the operations.I am quite happy about our positioning as an Asset tokenization portal and am excited about the launch of our first product built on Konkrete which is Factorium.

Readers can visit the Konkrete Listing or Konkrete website for more information.

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Myles Milston, CEO of Globacap – Interview Series

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Myles Milston, CEO of Globacap - Interview Series

Myles Milston, is the CEO & Founder of Globacap, an end-to-end solution for Capital Raising, Asset Administration, and Custody of Digital Securities.

 

You were previously CTO of Colossus Bets, which is a successful sports betting business operating out of the UK. Were you initially introduced to bitcoin and crypto in this role?

Colossus doesn’t use bitcoin or crypto in its business, however I did see bitcoin gaining traction in the wider gaming industry, and I started to explore blockchain more after seeing this. Prior to Colossus though – I did almost buy a load bitcoin when it was at $300, unfortunately I didn’t understand enough about blockchain at the time and decided against it at the last minute. I’m sure everyone has their ‘almost bought bitcoin’ story!

 

What made you shift from CTO of a successful sports betting business, to founding Globacap?

Prior to Colossus, my background was capital markets: starting off as a programmer in a bank, then quantitative equity research analyst, derivative structuring and sales, and later algorithmic commodities trading. So when everyone doing an ICO in 2017 was trying to avoid their token being called a financial security, it made me think about structuring a real financial security as a token.

The advantages were apparent: (i) instant transferability of private assets, and (ii) simple administration (e.g. corporate actions, stock splits, buybacks, etc). It was so compelling that I had to start Globacap. The founder of Colossus was one of our first investors.

 

Could you share with us what exactly Globacap does?

We’re an automated capital markets platform. Regulated by the FCA with passporting across Europe.

Our automated platform does:

(1) Securities Issuance – all of the administration throughout a capital raise, including the structuring, approving, and distribution of offering documents while ensuring regulatory compliance across 41 countries (and counting), and issuing the tokenized debt or equity securities to investors.

(2) Securities Administration – simple, one-click cap-table management, including all corporate actions (stock splits, buybacks, etc), restructuring, proxy voting, and paying out distributions (dividends or coupons). The difference between us and other cap table management platforms is blockchain. When a transfer of ownership takes place, it is reflected in the cap table in real-time, slicing off a layer of administration overhead that the non-blockchain platforms can’t escape from.

(3) Digital Custody – we are an authorised custodian for blockchain securities and cash.

We are also the only company to date that has created tokenized equity as a direct shareholding, without using a nominee structure. In other equity tokenizations globally, a nominee was required to act as the legal owner of the underlying shares. However, we created a structure that works around this within the existing bounds of regulation, allowing the token holder to also be the legal holder of the underlying shares.

 

In June 2019, Globacap successfully exited from the FCA’s regulatory Sandbox Cohort 4, becoming the UK’s first fully regulated digital security offering and administration platform. Can you share with us the experience of being in Cohort4?

Great experience. The FCA successfully pioneered the sandbox concept amongst regulators globally, we know of several other regulators that are now trying to copy the FCA’s success. We had a case officer assigned to us on day one, he was available throughout the process at any time and was always extremely helpful, even replying to emails on the weekend (what government organisation does that?). The Sandbox gave us the opportunity to trial our new technology and processes in a controlled regulatory environment, which ultimately led to receiving full authorisation in a quicker time frame than might have been possible without the Sandbox.

 

Two months ago Globacap announced a strategic partnership with Archax which offers secondary market trading. Could you elaborate on the benefits of this partnership?

Globacap is focused on private investments. However, some of those securities issuers may seek full public secondary trading, and if they do then Archax will be ready to list and facilitate trading in those securities. They have great institutional support, and core technology supplied by Aquis, which is a leading European equities exchange and provider of matching engine technology. We are a partner in order to use Archax as a listing and trading venue.

 

Globacap was recently recognized as of the UK’s most disruptive companies in the Disruption50 index, which highlights the UK’s most disruptive tech companies. Did this achievement surprise you? Has it helped to bring in additional clients?

It did surprise me as we hadn’t heard of the Disruption50 index prior to being nominated! We’re thrilled and humbled to be included in this index, amongst other highly disruptive tech companies. We believe that we are disrupting the traditional securities market, and we will increasingly do so in force as we continue to scale our business. The recognition did indeed send additional clients in our direction.

 

Investors can currently invest in tokenized private assets from around the world on your platform. Do you accept USA investors? Are there any restrictions on international investments?

We do accept US accredited investors, depending on the specific offering. Around the world, each country has its own unique set of financial promotion rules. Even within the EU there are small differences between some of the member states. Our platform streamlines this for an issuer – automatically showing or hiding certain investment opportunities to specific investors depending on their location and type, ensuring local regulatory compliance at all times.

 

Globap is raising £3 million. Could you tell us more about this raise and what the funds will be used for?

We’re in the late stage of completing a funding round at present. A large portion of funds from this round will be used for marketing and scaling the platform. To date we haven’t done extensive marketing, instead we have been focused on building out the product and gaining regulatory authorisation. Having done that, and having completed several transactions on the live platform, we are now starting to market the platform and scale.

 

Where do you see Globacap being positioned in 5 years?

We are focused on private assets in the small and mid-cap segment. In other words: too-big-for-crowdfunding through to listed on a small/mid-cap exchange such as the LSE AIM market. We believe the market is over-priced and under-served for that demographic. Our tech gives companies a better experience, an easier process, full regulatory compliance, lower costs, and empowers the larger end of that range to stay private for longer – giving investors access to secondary market liquidity while avoiding the overheads associated with becoming a public entity.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience?

This is an exciting phase in the evolution of the securities industry. It’s now possible for private assets to trade more freely, for paper to truly disappear in securities administration, and for billions of dollars worth of private assets to be securitized cost effectively – potentially unlocking a new wave of economic growth.

To learn more visit our Globacap business listing or visit the Globacap website.

 

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Claus Skaaning, CEO of Digishares – Interview Series

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Claus Skaaning, CEO of Digishares - Interview Series

Claus Skaaning is the CEO of Digishares, a software solution that is used through the issuance process and the ongoing management of the tokenized shares.

 

You were previously the COO of Venturefusion – a crypto-security ecosystem for startup creation and growth. How did you transition to becoming CEO of DigiShares?

The vision of VentureFusion is to create a decentralized incubator platform for startups. It will work as a collaboration and bootstrapping platform where founders can tokenize the equity in their startups (even if no legal unit exists) and use the equity tokens as a means of payment for anyone that contributes to the startup. Founders can then make a plan for how much equity they want to spend to get various parts of their startup developed, making individual equity token allocation plans for short-term contributors such as freelancers and long-term contributors, such as co-founders and permanent team members, under vesting conditions. VentureFusion is still an ongoing active project but it primarily managed by my co-founder Yuriy Zubarovskiy these days.

VentureFusion prompted us to look at how to tokenize equity and in early 2018 this was a relatively new concept. We went to some of the first conferences in Europe on the concept and decided to create a new project, GoSecurity, which would focus on tokenization of securities. This project later re-branded to DigiShares and I became the CEO. It is now my primary focus to manage and develop DigiShares.

 

Could you elaborate on the services that DigiShares offers?

DigiShares is one of the leading providers of white-label infrastructure for securities tokenization issuance and management in Europe. Our first product was a single-project platform for issuance and longer-term management of tokenized securities, and we are just releasing a major upgrade that can handle multiple projects with a lot more functionality. We are one of few companies in Europe – and the only one in the Nordics that can provide an operational platform of this type.

Our platform can handle the complete workflow of an STO (security token offering), from investor registration, verification (KYC/AML), approval, to the actual purchase of tokens with fiat or crypto, signing of contracts (e-signatures), token holder cap table overview, communication with token holders, voting (shareholders’ meetings), payment of dividends, etc.

For tokenized equity, we offer a unique function where we allow a proportion of shareholders to be non-tokenized, i.e., as digitized as possible but not tokenized, so with no tokens issued. This is by customer request as some of our clients have voiced concerns that they would like to approach both crypto and non-crypto investors – and non-crypto investors may prefer a non-tokenized registration. Another unique function that we are working on is a mini-exchange, an internal OTC-like trading platform for the token holders within a single project.

Overall, we provide solutions to enable anyone to conduct their own STO or offer a number of simultaneous STOs. We primarily work in white label partnerships where clients offer the solution under their own brand name.

In addition to providing the software, we also provide access to the security token ecosystem. We have a big network of partners for legal, investments, custody, KYC/AML, etc. Some of these are integrated into the platform.

 

Digishares is one of the few companies in the industry that is headquartered in Denmark. Do Danish securities regulations support the digitization of shares?

While we are based in Denmark and concerned about local securities regulations, it is important to state upfront that we are jurisdiction agnostic and can operate from any jurisdiction. Indeed we have ongoing projects in both Europe and the US.

Locally, we are working with a Danish lawyer and the Danish regulators to establish whether shares can be represented as tokens. So far, our lawyer has established that tokenized shares are supported by Danish legislation but some details need confirmation from the regulator and the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs. DigiShares has applied to participate in the sandbox of the Danish regulator to further analyze how tokenized securities can co-exist with Danish law.

Some countries do not support the tokenization of shares since they require either paper-based stock certificates or notarized trading. Fortunately the Danish securities legislation supports digitization of shares and has neither of those requirements.

The ability to tokenize shares (and other types of securities) is of course important for DigiShares and for Danish companies, but it will have importance outside of Denmark as well, since securities that are issued in Denmark can be passported to any EU member state. We believe Denmark could be a good STO destination for the above reasons – but also because we believe other typical STO costs can be significantly reduced here (incorporation, legal costs, etc.). As an added benefit, Denmark is a highly trusted financial jurisdiction with one of the lowest levels of corruption in the world.

 

How is the security token ecosystem and community in Denmark?

It is as of yet quite small but we are doing our best to develop it with regular conferences in Copenhagen. We’re organizing an annual conference focused on tokenized securities (Fintech Disruption Summit – http://www.fintechdisrupt.dk/en/home/) and regular events on different types of tokenization, next time on September 12 with a focus on real estate tokenization (http://www.digishares.io/events).

We are presently the only Nordic company with an STO issuance platform and we are also the first to conduct an STO. However, we expect others to join us soon.

 

You’re currently in the process of raising funds for your own STO. How much are you raising, and what benefits will investors receive?

We are raising just below EUR 1 M. This relatively low limit was set to enable us to approach retail investors and market the STO publicly across Europe. In addition, we’ve filed a form D in the US so we can approach US accredited investors. European regulations is more flexible than the US and enables us to make a more “democratic” STO since we are allowed to target retail investors in almost all European countries.

We have designed our STO so investors receive common stock in the company with exactly the same governance rights as founders, similar to a standard IPO. Many STOs design “handicapped” tokens with quite limited governance rights for investors but we didn’t want to do that. In general, we believe it will be a problem for the STO industry if issuers keep creating tokens with very limited investor governance rights.

 

What are the plans for the raised funds?

The raised funds will be used to speed up our development & marketing efforts. In addition, there are certain licenses we would like to obtain in order to extend the scope of our business. In general, we are seeing more leads & opportunities right now than we have the resources to exploit.

 

You are arranging an event on tokenized real estate in Copenhagen on September 12. Do you see real estate as being the most promising asset class to be tokenized?

Yes, if you look at statistics and speak to industry experts, there is consensus that real estate is the biggest homogeneous chunk of the STO market right now. So currently, we are directing our marketing and development efforts in this direction. Our real estate tokenization event will be attended by around 100 real estate professionals from the Nordics. 90% of them are non-blockchain people that we hope to motivate and inspire to adopt blockchain. In general, we don’t go to many blockchain industry events but rather spend our efforts on the traditional financial & real estate industries.

We hope to announce a real estate STO quite soon, and we are also involved in a really exciting project about creating Eurasian security token exchanges.

 

What other asset classes will you be focusing on?

Through partners we are also looking at debt and bonds, but we are primarily focused on equity at this stage. The platform can handle any type of security.

 

Where do you see the industry being in 5 years and the role of DigiShares in this industry?

We currently see two major trends; one with startups attempting to create a new parallel financial infrastructure and another with incumbents adopting blockchain and approaching the new opportunities in their own speed. These two trends will eventually merge and a new financial infrastructure will emerge where some old financial institutions will still exist and some of the new players will be established as leaders. We will see just one or two main security token protocol standards. The consumer (investors) are the real winners with much decreased fees for trading, decreased interest rates for debt, increased interest rates for deposits, faster and more efficient financial operations, etc., etc.

To learn more visit our Digishares Business Listing page or the Digishares website.

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