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What are Utility Tokens?

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Often issued through an ICO, as a means to raise funds, utility tokens are blockchain based holdings which are not representative of an investment, but rather rights to the services or product of a company.  They are not securities, and must be careful in their structuring in order to avoid being construed as such.

Antoine Tardif is the founding partner of Securities.io, the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 blockchain & AI projects. He is the founder of Unite.AI a news website for AI and Robotics. He is also a member of the Forbes Technology Council.

Interviews

Rob Viglione, CEO and Co-Founder of Horizen – Interview Series

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Rob Viglione, CEO and Co-Founder of Horizen - Interview Series

Rob Viglione is the Team Lead and Co-Founder of Horizen, a blockchain platform that aims to enable an application-rich and inclusive ecosystem through its leading-edge sidechain solutions. Formally a trained physicist, mathematician, and military officer, Rob’s experience working on satellite radar, space launch vehicles, and combat support intelligence informed much of his understanding of how blockchain technology could change the trajectory of global societies.

You’ve been involved in blockchain since the early days. How did you initially get introduced to the technology?

Slashdot ran an article highlighting Bitcoin’s dollar parity in 2011 that grabbed my attention. As someone who was increasingly concerned about imbalances in the global financial system, Bitcoin seemed the perfect experiment in creating free market money for the digital age.

When did you first realize that you wanted to contribute to blockchain and cryptocurrency?

Like many others who were enamored with Bitcoin in the early days, once I started diving in and putting my money where my ideological mouth was, I couldn’t help but want to be an active part of the financial revolution. It was much too exciting to passively watch on the sidelines! The first thing I could think of at the time was offering tutoring in physics or math for Bitcoin, but oddly enough there wasn’t much of a market for that! I ended up actively involved by hosting educational meetups in Afghanistan while I was deployed there. This early experience shaped my views of where crypto can have the highest marginal impact on welfare, mainly in less stable and more politically volatile parts of the world.

You’ve been involved in many early projects such as Bitshares, BlockPay, Zclassic, Seasteading and Bitgate. What were some key lessons that you learned for what will or will not work in the marketplace?

There were so many lessons to be learned! The biggest is the value of resilience and building a strong team that can work through the crazy volatility that is crypto. This industry goes through extreme volatility and all-too-frequent hype cycles that can easily distract projects from core missions and laying solid foundations. The challenge is to keep focus on the long term, while incorporating scant, but valuable, signals from a deluge of noise in the periodic manias, but mainly to stay alive long enough to deliver real value!

What was your inspiration for launching Horizen?

I originally co-founded Horizen as a hobby project while wrapping up my PhD dissertation, it was never meant to explode like it did. There were two contributions we wanted to make to the Bitcoin ecosystem, and launching our own experiment seemed the best approach to just get things done quickly. The first part was to bring sustainable economics to crypto, the main idea being that there are many different kinds of stakeholders that contribute to the success of a decentralized ecosystem and sustainability means everyone needs to be compensated on the margin. The other big idea, and the one that people mainly associate with Horizen, is in scaling privacy.  We now live in a world where data has exponentially increasing value, and people are waking up to the reality that they’ve inadvertently signed up to the Faustian bargain with big tech to give up all semblance of privacy and rights to their own data in exchange for platform usage. Our insight is obvious: there’s no reason to think of these things as mutually exclusive, and there’s a multi trillion-dollar market for building tech ecosystems where people control their data and retain their privacy.

Could you tell us what is Horizen is and why it matters?

Horizen is the world’s largest network of interoperable blockchains focused on user and application privacy that scales. The ecosystem is set to disrupt big tech platform business models in that users control their data, can elect full privacy, and directly participate in the network’s totally decentralized infrastructure. This matters more than ever in a world that’s waking up to the reality that data has real and exponentially increasing value, and privacy has been unacceptably violated at all levels of our digital lives.

In July 2020, the beta release of Zendoo, a decentralized and customizable sidechain solution was launched. For readers who are not familiar with what a sidechain is, could you define it in non-technical terms?

A sidechain is a parallel blockchain that is interoperable with another chain. Zendoo is Horizen’s blockchain interoperability protocol, and it allows developers to launch their own fully customizable blockchains that are interoperable with the Horizen network, gain the economies of scale the network affords with its large infrastructure, and it comes with a sophisticated cryptography toolkit for user and application privacy. What makes Zendoo special is that it is the first totally decentralized sidechain protocol in the blockchain industry.

How does the Zendoo sidechain compare to what is currently in the marketplace and how does it enable businesses and developers to affordably create private or public blockchains?

Zendoo is the first totally decentralized sidechain protocol in the blockchain industry, which means it does not require trusted parties to validate transactions between chains and thus has security that scales. Another important difference from earlier sidechain systems is that Zendoo is an asymmetric protocol in that the main Horizen blockchain does not need to know anything about any sidechain, but sidechains need to closely track the main blockchain. In this way, developers have full freedom to customize their blockchains without requiring any changes in the Horizen mainchain, which would become a limiting permissioning bottleneck on growth.

Could you tell us about ZEN and what benefits it provides holders?

ZEN is both the transaction currency and the utility coin for the Horizen network. The coin aspect is just like Bitcoin in that there’s a limited supply that will ever be released, emission is totally decentralized where work must be performed to obtain it, and with Zendoo, ZEN also has use as a sort of transaction “gas” for the application platform. There’s a unique value proposition here in that ZEN holders get the supply limitations of Bitcoin with a utility demand similar to Ethereum.

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

There’s a growing awareness in tech that ecosystems require community over customers, and that’s exactly how we’ve been thinking of our users from day one. Horizen is a community startup that happens to use blockchain technology to meet its mission and to disrupt what’s a multi trillion dollar industry in need of disrupting. Our notion of community starts with core intangibles like respect, inclusion, and transparency that have thus far laid the foundations for such a strong, cohesive, and positive community that is exploding.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Horizen.

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Thought Leaders

Reinventing Wealth Management: How Technology is Shaping The Way We Manage Investments

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Reinventing Wealth Management: How Technology is Shaping The Way We Manage Investments

Traditionally, wealth management has been a human-based professional service that provides financial and investment advice to clients of high-net-worth and ultra-net-worth category. Since the wealth management industry is made lucrative due to its one set fee charged to clients; despite the implementation of innovative technology, investment advice is largely still available to the wealthy and closed off to others. However, assets available to the well-off are becoming more accessible to non-wealthy clients, too.

Wealth management meets technology 

The entire financial services industry has been shaken by the technological revolution, which in turn, has shaped the world. Wealth management in 2020 is no exception to this trend. Fintech has reinvented the landscape of investment management by incorporating Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to optimise portfolios, mitigate risks and evaluate investment opportunities.

Fintech companies have become adaptive and attentive to the needs of the new generation of investors. Millennials demand, on the whole, easy, precise and flexible access to information on all aspects of their lives. It’s been found that affluent millennials are becoming increasingly comfortable using technology to manage their money. Mobile apps, Robo-advisers and AI tools provide a greater degree of control than traditional financial management methods.

Technology in action: Managing investments with intelligence 

The emergence of fintech has revolutionised, improved and automated the delivery of financial services. Global investments in financial technology businesses have surpassed $100 billion over the past decade.

Reinventing Wealth Management: How Technology is Shaping The Way We Manage Investments

Robo-advisers 

The proliferation of artificial intelligence has transformed the way financial advisors interact with their clients. The industry has long since been anticipating the disruption of the financial advisor model. The 80s and 90s gave way to online trading and the 21st century brings us Robo-advisers – i.e. the computer-generated investment platform that provide augmented, algorithm-driven financial planning services with little human input. Global assets under management by Robo-investors as of 2020 were nearly $1.1 trillion – and are expected to grow at an annual rate of 25.6% (Statista).

Typically, a Robo-adviser collects financial data from individuals through some form of survey and uses the information to offer advice and automatically invest client assets. The best of these automated services offer easy account setups, goal planning, portfolio management, security features, and of course, low fees.

Wealth management apps 

Mobile portfolio management apps can provide information and the necessary tools to manage your investments from workplace pensions to ISA’s and personal capital. Many apps can sync with your existing accounts – completely free.

ARQ, for example, uses AI to connect investments and generate data to provide users with actionable insights into how their portfolios are performing. They’re dedicated to transparency by providing scores on what’s actually considered to be a good annual performance and whether the fees their users are paying are too high. Unbiased analytics display a number of metrics to show the value of investments relative to others.

Reinventing Wealth Management: How Technology is Shaping The Way We Manage Investments

Wealthsimple, founded in 2017, offers an unambiguous three-tier investment strategy depending on a user’s ‘risk profile’- conservative, balanced or growth. The premise behind Wealthsimple is to invest your money across the entire stock market; as opposed to a sole company’s stock, to induce a long-term practical investment strategy.

Setting up your Wealthsimple account on the app is simple. Fill in the form, select your risk and add the amount you’d like to invest. The algorithm processes your data and you’ll be presented with a portfolio and personalised dashboard illustrating how stocks are performing in real-time.

For the more visual investor, Personal Capital is an app that lets you track your budget and investments by displaying graphs by asset class or investment account – making them easy to read, track and manage your portfolio. The interface is incredibly intuitive and the visuals reactive on laptop, tablet, desktop and mobile.

Reinventing Wealth Management: How Technology is Shaping The Way We Manage Investments

Whilst there is more to say about the budgeting functions of other apps, Personal Capital serves primarily as a financial aggregator – bringing together all of your accounts on a single platform. The tool starts by determining your risk tolerance, goals and timeframe and generates a portfolio by investing across multiple asset classes for diversification. It should be said that the high fees of 0.89% are offset by Personal Capitals close-to-human investment management service.

Wealth management firms embrace technology 

The wealth management firms who actively embrace financial technology tools – whilst maintaining their human input in helping investors navigate the increasingly complex financial infrastructure – have been found to be more likely to grow.

45% of wealth managers said that financial information from technology and data analysis using AI help them refine the advice they give to clients (PwC). 36% agreed that their clients will be able to see their investments clearly with AI.

B2B platform Cred, embraces AI to change the way financial institutions acquire and engage clients in investment advisory. The Barclay-based company helps financial institutions increase conversion rates, engagement and Assets Under Management. Wealth management firms using Cred’s data platform helps them utilise their client data to build relationships and offer the right financial products at the right time – increasing efficiencies for the firm and individual clients.

AdviceRobo is a software developed to assist wealth managers by providing predictive risk services using AI to generate behavioural data.

Reinventing Wealth Management: How Technology is Shaping The Way We Manage Investments

They help financial institutions by providing psychographic credit scores measuring financial attitudes, motivations and behaviour of people through online interviews. Detailed reports give wealth managers deeper insight into their client’s financial health – allowing them to optimise their client’s portfolios.

The accumulation of Big Data means that the pool of client information available to wealth managers is constantly increasing – meaning there is always room for optimising advice.

Morgan Stanley Online allows client accounts to be accessed via CRM which can be seamlessly fed into multiple financial planning software – which can be viewed by advisors and clients alike.

Technology has warmly welcomed the evaluation of ‘what-if’ scenarios. High net worth individuals can easily use Morgan Stanley Online to see the direct impact of or feasibility of spending – without consultation. A user’s spending and investment decisions are connected to their advisor – who will be alerted when a client is making an inquiry.

8 out of 10 wealth management executives have regarded technology as a significant factor in gaining market share (Deloitte). The future of investment management is largely reliant on the development of technology. Innovations in fintech have freed advisors from mundane tasks so they can spend more time providing specific insights based on individual customers.

Technology clearly has a role to play in the communication processes between clients and advisers, the way investors manage and track their portfolios, as well as the way data, is both collected and used. All of which continues to shape the way we manage investments.

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Forex

New Restrictions Hurt GBP Forex Market as US Pledges More Aid

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New Restrictions Hurt GBP Forex Market as US Pledges More Aid
  • GBP Had Started Stronger on Positive Rates News
  • Mixed Opinions From US as Powell Pledges Support
  • Markets Continue to Struggle With Second Wave Fears

The Pound has struggled to catch a positive break again today as the UK announce new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. The GBP forex market has struggled for some time to break back to anything high of $1.30 against the Dollar. There were mixed messages too in the US with differing approaches supported the Fed Hierarchy. Meanwhile, markets opened higher, but remain weighed down by fears of a returning coronavirus.

Pound Bounces Back to Tough Position

There was an early boost on Tuesday for Sterling. The currency had originally jumped on comments from the Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey which dispelled the thought of negative interest rates which many fear have been under consideration. This boost in the forex market was short lived though. The Pound was sent back in the opposite direction by an announcement from leader Boris Johnson that new restrictions will be imposed.

Those forex trading the market remain poised to hear exactly what these new restrictions will be. The exact details are currently being laid out by Johnson, but they are to include increased penalties for non-wearing of masks, and the closure of hospitality venues from 10pm. These changes are being made at what the PM referred to as a “perilous turning point”, and are sure to further rock the currency and economy which has seen a host of troubles lately.

Not All Agree as Powell Pledges Continued Support

Chief of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell backed up his previous stance strongly on Tuesday in comments to the House Financial Services Committee. He said the Fed “remains committed” to the long-term support of the economy, and will use all their available tools to do so. He noted that although the economy had started to pick up, the road ahead remains vastly uncertain. His tone was one which did not rule out more support, noting that the Fed will continue its support for “as long as needed”.

This sentiment was not echoed by everyone though. There was a different view from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard. He is of the opinion, along with several others, that the economy now has enough momentum to get back on its feet even without further economic stimulus.

Markets Open Cautiously Again

US markets have endured a very tough September so far. This challenge only intensified on Monday with another large scale sell-off. The Dow Jones suffered its worst day of the month, while the S&P 500 shed more than 1% en-route to a fourth consecutive losing day.

Forex brokers were not alone in feeling a slight return to form on Tuesday. The major indices climbed a little higher on the opening bell, hopes being held that the slump is over. The next moves though will be largely driven by the news on coronavirus cases, and any further financial aid.

 

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