Understanding Blockchain's potential

Approximately 200 blockchain experts from 16 countries were hosted at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue by Andreas Schertzinger, to discuss blockchain's potential for the insurance industry.

On the opening day, Alex Tapscott, Co-Author of Blockchain Revolution and CEO of Northwest Passage Ventures, spoke about how distributed ledgers allow us to solve the double-spend problem, thereby allowing trust to be established through mass collaboration, consensus and clever code. He was followed by Guido Baroncini Turricchia, CEO of Helperbit, who presented how his start-up uses blockchain technology to allow people to donate digital and local currencies to charities, as well as trace their donation and the manner in which it is used.

Leanne Kemp, Founder & CEO of Everledger, kicked off day two, explaining how her firm uses blockchain to prove the authenticity and provenance of diamonds. Casey Kuhlman, CEO, Monax Industries challenged the audience to think about the opportunities and challenges of blockchain-resident smart contracts, while Kamesh Raghavendra, Vice President at The Hive offered his perspective on whether blockhain is simply a disruption or a sustained innovation.

To delve deeper into certain topics, a number of breakout sessions were organised on issues such as the current strengths and weaknesses of financial market infrastructure and blockchain’s expected impact; building enterprise grade blockchains; ensuring privacy and confidentiality on the blockchain; the Ethereum blockchain protocol; and models of virtual identity that will help business to understand the key issues around identification, authorisation and authentication.

Throughout the conference, participants could visit "blockchain kiosks" set up by start-ups and established players to discuss and test insurance-related blockchain use cases. In addition, several live demos were featured at the event, including Symbiont, the market-leading smart contracts platform for institutional uses of distributed ledger technology; Skuchain, the thought leader in the Blockchain powered supply chain management space; and Tradle, which sells software to major banks and insurance companies for user-controlled Know Your Customer (KYC) portability, blockchain-based workflows and real-time regulatory supervision.

Swiss Re's blockchain experts Jags Rao and Richard Phipps presented Swiss Re's own blockchain proof of concept for improving its Intra Group Retrocession (IGR) business process. Paul Meeusen of Swiss Re teamed up with Sylvain de Crom from Aegon to provide an update on the Blockchain insurance industry initiative (B3i), an industry-wide engagement for blockchain experimentation.

After Mariusz Nowostawski spoke about preventing the use of blockchain for nefarious purposes, several blockchain experts joined a panel moderated by Elizabeth Wesson, Director Digital Strategy, Swiss Re. Among the topics discussed were the hype around blockchain, how blockchain communities can overcome philosophical differences to collaborate, and the challenges blockchain presents from a regulatory perspective.

Summary of the Centre for Global Dialogue's Blockchain event in January 2017. Summary by Brian Rogers.