Vitalik Buterin, co-creator of the world’s second most-valuable blockchain Ethereum, has taken a major hit to his net worth after the price of ether (ETH) dipped below $2,000 earlier on Monday.
As of 3:15 p.m. ET, ETH is trading at $1,938 according to Messari, down by more than 50 percent just five weeks after reaching its all-time-high of $4,338 on May 12. The decline of the second-largest cryptocurrency falls in line with the rest of the market, as crypto prices have fallen across the board since news broke of a renewed clampdown on bitcoin miners in China.
Buterin’s two main ether addresses currently hold 325,001 and 1,366 ETH worth a collective $632,499,246 as of 3:15 p.m. ET. The current value of his holdings is $457,500,754 less than the $1.09 billion it was worth on May 3 at 1:30 p.m. ET, according to Messari, when Buterin became the world’s youngest crypto billionaire at age 27. When ETH’s value first surpassed the $3,000 price level Buterin held 333,520 ETH worth $1.09 billion. Forbes is unable to account for the 7,153 ETH difference between his holdings now versus on May 3.
Ether’s current market capitalization is $223,752,321,616, second only to the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin with a market capitalization of $606,843,934,844. Ethereum has gained notoriety this year as the birthplace of decentralized finance (DeFi) applications aiming to create decentralized alternatives to traditional financial services. At the time of writing there is $51 billion locked in the DeFi market, according to data aggregator DeFi Pulse.
Well, it’s not necessarily Ethereum that is a risky investment, it’s cryptocurrencies: They are highly speculative. Even though some experts and crypto supporters believe they could replace fiat currency one day, the answer is much more complicated.
Despite their bustling activity growth, efficiency, and impressive blockchain technology render, many countries are still anxious about cryptos replacing fiat currency. But even though peer-to-peer currency might be the bane of central banking systems around the world, the simple answer would be: no, cryptos won’t replace fiat. Why?
Because their usage is on the rise, their speculative popularity is why they won’t be adopted as mainstream legal tender: they are driven for value storage and speculative trading – rather than for transactional value.
As the past few weeks have proven, their volatility can be a double-edged sword: Between May 12 and May 24, Ethereum has lost nearly 50% of its value. While it has somewhat recovered since it is gut-wrenching to see.
Financial services in 2020 was defined by a sudden acceleration in digitization and digital engagement—pushed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exchanges shut down their trading floors and moved to remote trading, mobile banking transactions spiked, personal trading apps saw record transaction volumes, and call center personnel kept customer support going by working from their living rooms.
While the financial services industry was able to weather the digital tsunami and continue its operations, it has become clear that the winds of change are not transient. Financial institutions are now thinking strategically about their technical setup and questioning whether the tools that they have previously relied on are the right ones to use going forward. Here are a few major themes we’ve identified as being likely to dominate financial industry conversations and technology roadmaps in 2021:
1. Modernizing dated core systems will be imperative
2020 was a year that put the financial infrastructure to the test and challenged existing architecture planning assumptions. Many of the core systems had not been architected to address the volume and pace of change that was suddenly required, and dated core systems struggled under the added weight.
Relief programs such as the Payment Protection Program (PPP) in the U.S. saw tremendous demand, but loan document processing, manual reviews, and approvals became bottlenecks. As the credit needs of small and medium businesses surged, lenders faced challenges updating their legacy underwriting and risk management systems to meet the demands. Batch-based, fragmented, and slow-moving information and data pipelines hindered the ability to gain real-time insights and rapid response to customer needs.
As financial services rallied to overcome what economists were calling “The Great Shutdown” or “The Coronavirus Recession,” the need for modern, agile, scalable, secure, resilient technology infrastructures became abundantly clear—and the new imperative in 2021.
2. Banking goes beyond cash with digital engagement
The role of cash in society was in flux before 2020, with contactless payments already a way of life across Europe and Asia. Even in America, which has been resistant to move away from cash, 27% of U.S. businesses reported an increase in contactless payments by customers as a result of the pandemic, according to an April 2020 survey. That trend will continue in 2021, with 74% of global consumers saying they will use contactless payment methods even after the pandemic. Globally, the contactless payment market size is expected to grow from $10.3 billion in 2020 to $18 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% during the forecast period.
This trend toward contactless finances extends to banking. In 2020, 44% of retail banking customers relied on mobile apps to conduct business. Both traditional players and financial tech firms introduced new finance apps or upgraded existing ones to offer new services and programs to match consumer needs, such as benefit tracking for government-sponsored food allowances or access to early wages. As downloads of mobile apps soared, transaction volumes skyrocketed.
In 2020, faced with a major health crisis, economic distress, and an uncertain future, insurance companies redefined how they did business almost overnight to provide stability, comfort, and peace of mind for their customers. For example, auto insurance providers offered discounts or refunds given decreased levels of driving. Health insurance companies adjusted their premiums to reflect reductions in non-essential surgeries.
It has become clearer than ever that the most useful products are tailored to the specific needs of the customer, and that hyper-personalization will continue to define the customer journey in 2021. Auto insurance products are more valuable when they are based on miles driven. Home insurance products are more effective when they are integrated with connected homes, so that they can prevent or minimize damage from water leaks or fires.
4. Institutional and wholesale trading moves off trading floors
Suddenly, trading was no longer confined to corporate trading floors. While a small handful of firms positioned their traders as “essential workers” and required them to work on site, the majority of firms allowed traders work from the safety of their homes. As trading floors and exchanges worldwide emptied, the prior assumptions that all trading will happen from physical offices—over corporate networks and enterprise-operated data centers—were suddenly rendered obsolete. Operational resilience plans that counted on falling back to a secondary disaster recovery site became useless when all corporate sites shut down.
In the new world, financial architectures will decouple financial activities from physical facilities through the use of technologies like zero-trust networks that enable location-independent secure access. Operational resilience plans will be updated to include globally and regionally resilient infrastructures like cloud.
5. Work-from-home must work across financial services
Throughout 2020, widespread stay-at-home restrictions challenged businesses everywhere to keep employees engaged, productive, and connected. With the pandemic, as corporate offices became unavailable overnight, the entire financial services workforce—from traders to bankers to support personnel—relied on their at-home internet connections along with existing VPN and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions to do their work. While it got the job done, internet connectivity issues, bandwidth limitations, security concerns, interoperability problems, and limitations in collaboration capabilities plagued the day-to-day experience.
It will take a reimagined work environment—one that combines immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware—to support in-person and remote workers.
Work-from-anywhere solutions need to take a comprehensive look at seamlessly enabling a heterogeneous, globally distributed workforce, including traders who need high-speed connectivity, quantitative analysts who need vast amounts of compute capacity, retail branch workers who need responsive insights platforms to serve customers, and more.
It will take a reimagined work environment—one that combines immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware—to support in-person and remote workers. New ways of hybrid working and connecting with customers will also lean heavily on helpful, integrated tools centered on the cloud to level traditional boundaries in 2021.
6. Embedded innovation is the new status quo
While 2020 was bleak from many perspectives, one of the rare positives is that it helped prove that agility and innovation, done right, is a game changer. The speed at which the financial services industry transformed to help their customers through the pandemic is the speed at which they want to continue operating. And that requires a culture of innovation that is embedded into the corporate culture of an institution.
From financial services institutions to vendors, regulators, and supervisors, 2021 is likely to be a year of deliberate cultural transformation to find new ways of working together to create safer, cheaper, more inclusive, and more equitable financial markets.
This year at Google Cloud, we will continue working with our customers across financial services to help them prepare for the future, through our technology, tools and innovation partnerships.
Keep learning: Discover the steps any organization can take to quickly adapt and achieve positive results with tighter resources. Get Google’s Guide to Innovation.
Ulku Rowe Ulku Rowe, Technical Director, Office of the CTO, Google Cloud
At the forefront of Google’s cloud and machine learning capabilities, Ulku enables the financial services industry to take advantage of Google’s technology to fuel their digital transformation. Before joining Google, Ulku was a Managing Director of Technology at J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Ulku holds an MS degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BS degree in Computer Engineering. She also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Fintech Advisory Group.
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Since May of this year, the total value locked (TVL)—the amount of any currency locked into tokens, the vehicle of holding and moving assets on blockchain, in smart contracts on a blockchain ecosystem—in decentralized finance projects rose a whopping 2,000 percent, according to DeFi Pulse. Many investors would be hard-pressed to find such an astronomical rise of any assets or expansion of any financial ecosystem, but DeFi app developers seemed to find success. So what’s the rage, and why does it matter going into the new year?
What is DeFi?
DeFi, many fintech leaders argue, is the world’s answer to the 2008 financial crisis. Thanks to poor decision making and a lack of proper financial regulation, legacy financial institutions brought the world’s economy to its knees in the most major financial crisis since the Great Depression. The knee-jerk reaction was to create an ecosystem dependent on every link in the chain, rather than centralized authorities—hence the term “decentralized finance.”
The concept of blockchain, a decentralized ledger, was designed to ensure financial transactions would be transparent. Moreover, transaction approval would come from network individuals incentivized to approve them by solving complex mathematical equations or by network consensus voting.
Later, the idea of operating a decentralized financial system on a decentralized ledger, independent of legacy institutions, grew into a thriving, albeit relatively small, ecosystem. Now, users can find financial services on the distributed ledger for loans, insurance, margin trading, exchanges, and yield farming (yielding rewards from staking digital assets on a network to help facilitate network liquidity).
But there is still a way to go. Not enough consumers are comfortable with DeFi quite yet, because platform accessibility and blockchain tribalism remain a problem. Nevertheless, now the world is experiencing another economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and DeFi is finally getting its day in the sun.
For companies and individuals already active in the space, navigating the ecosystem remains impeded by technical limitations. In order to access certain markets and execute transactions on the blockchain—whether it’s borrowing or lending, staking assets in liquidity pools, or trading on an exchange—users need to own an e-wallet that’s properly connected to the ecosystem.
E-wallets are the backbone of transactions on blockchain. Just as the digital assets they help transact and store, these wallets are secure, transparent, and easily accessible to users. At least, that’s the idea behind them, though there are various degrees of security and transparency. For DeFi to attract more users, the wallets must be compatible with multiple blockchains running financial dApps (decentralized apps that operate on a blockchain system). One of the first wallets, created by Ethereum and called “MyEtherWallet” (MEW), lacked a user-friendly interface and was challenging to grasp for people outside the hardcore crypto crowd.
Since then, a number of blockchain developers have created alternative e-wallet solutions. Most recently, Spielworks, a blockchain gaming startup, reached an agreement with Equilibrium and DeFiBox to integrate its e-wallet “Wombat,” which is currently available on the Telos and EOS blockchain mainnet (a blockchain network that is fully developed, deployed, and operational).
The Wombat wallet provides users with access to several DeFi platforms that offer token exchanges, yield farming, borrowing, and lending. Wombat recently also integrated with Bitfinex’s new EOS exchange, Eosfinex, as well as 8 other DeFi networks. Rather impressively, the wallet also offers free and fast account creation, automatic key backup, and free blockchain resources.
Developments in blockchain wallets, such as Wombat’s, will be pivotal in the next few years in the growth of DeFi applications and the movement of users toward decentralized finance and away from traditional finance. While wallets are important, so are the underlying mechanisms to piece the entire ecosystem together, because one a DeFi ecosystem is not enough if confined to just one blockchain mainnet.
Piecing it all together
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” President Lincoln’s famous quote referred to the Civil War that ravaged the United States at the time, but his historically renowned words can apply very well to the blockchain community today.
For DeFi to reach its maximum potential, as a decentralized ecosystem that doesn’t answer to a central authority, blockchain platforms must stand united and interoperate. Could anyone imagine if payment transfers between regular banks were not possible? How could an economy function? This is the sort of technical problem plaguing the DeFi world: Each blockchain platform has its own benefits, but each remains largely separated from the others in its own silo. The root of the problem is attitude, the other part is technical limitations.
Ethereum and EOS are primary examples of this sort of rivalry, both of which have their own technical benefits for dApp developers. If the two ecosystems could be connected to one another, EOS-based and Ethereum-based developers alike, for example, could benefit from each other’s platform’s strengths. Users could also benefit, via financial opportunities without having to sacrifice shifting their base from one blockchain to another.
This is precisely what LiquidApps’s latest development—its DAPP Network bridging—has solved. LiquidApps’s technology provides the technical mechanisms to connect separate blockchain mainnets and recently provided its tools to EOS-based developers to successfully deploy a bridge between EOS and Ethereum.
This was shortly followed by decentralized social media app Yup’s deployment that demonstrated the possibility of moving tokens easily between different once-separate blockchain mainnets. It still remains to be seen how long it will take before blockchain platforms themselves integrate built-in cross-chain technologies, but LiquidApps is starting the next crucial step to DeFi development.
Whether it’s cross-chain technology or the e-wallets that grant access to dApps, tech developments and attitudes in the DeFi space over the next few years will determine its success. The latest developments suggest the future of DeFi looks promising. Time to go decentralized.
2020 is over, and for many of you, it can’t end soon enough. There will be plenty of time to celebrate the end of one year and to hope for better days in the one ahead. But before we get to that, take these steps to get financially ready for 2021.
1) Review your goals: The end of the year is a great time to review the goals you made at the beginning of the year and set new ones for 2021. How did you do this year? Is there anything you’re proud of accomplishing? I like to start with bright spots because they can guide you toward success as you set new goals. But let’s be realistic, too; 2020 threw us a lot of curveballs.
Was there anything you wish you could have done better? You can also learn from any potential stumbling blocks and figure out how to use them as stepping-stones next year. You may also want to take time now to review your net worth. That’s one way to gauge the progress you’ve made in your financial health this year.
2) Update your budget: Did you save the money that you wanted to? Pay off the debt that you needed to? The end of the year gives you a solid end point to assess whether met the goals you set at the outset of 2020. What if you didn’t have a budget or financial goals? You’ve got a blank slate ahead. Why not create a budget that works?
3) Create a holiday bucket: Holidays can be budget breakers, so why not incorporate them into your spending goals right from the start? Christmas may look a lot different this year. But you can still create a separate bucket for holiday spending and when that money is gone, stop spending. You’ll thank yourself in January when you don’t have an unusually large credit card bill.
5) Make any last charitable contributions: December 31st is the last day your charitable contributions can be deducted on your 2020 tax return. If giving to charity is a part of your spending plan, you can use these questions to help make the most of your charitable giving.
6)Pump up your 529: Just like charitable contributions, contributions to your 529 college savings plan must be made by December 31st to count for this tax year. Find out if your state is one of over 30 that allow you to deduct your contribution. You can find the specific deduction here. If your state is one of the four that allow an unlimited deduction, keep in mind the yearly gift-tax and super-funding rules.
7)Max out your 401k: While you have until April to make contributions to your traditional IRA, Roth IRA and HSA, you can only contribute to your 401k through December 31st. So, if you have extra cash and are looking to boost your savings, consider contributing your last couple of checks entirely to your 401k. Business owners can do the same with the employee portion of your Solo 401k contributions.
8)Find your tax return: You’ll be doing your taxes before you know it, so use this time to get prepared. Review last year’s return and make a mental list of records you’ll need to assemble. Year-end is also a good time to decide whether a Roth conversion makes sense for you.
9) Review your business structure: Evaluate your business structure and the QBI deduction to identify any changes you need to make to your business. You might want to set up a solo 401k, for instance, and if so, you’ll have to act before December 31st (although you can make employer/profit sharing contributions up to the business tax filing deadline).
10)Defer income and incur expenses: If you’re a business owner, you may also want to look at ways to defer income into 2021 or pay for business expenses you anticipate for early next year. This is any easy way to reduce your tax liability for 2020. However, remember not to spend money on business expenses that you wouldn’t otherwise incur just for a tax deduction. Spending a $1 to save 24 cents still costs you 76 cents.
11)Will and trust review: The end of the year is a good time to take stock of changes in your life—like getting married or divorced, having children, starting a business or retiring. Your estate plan should reflect these changes. Get out your will, documentation for trusts you’ve established and powers of attorney and make sure they match your current situation.
12)Insurance documents: Insurance documents also need to cover your current situation. Take a look at your life and disability insurance policies to make sure they protect your current income and those dependent on it. Your renters or homeowners insurance should cover any additional big purchases you made during the year. And lastly, you should review your health insurance policy for any upcoming changes for 2020. For those of you enrolling in the Market Place, you have until December 15th to pick your plan.
My last bonus task is to enjoy this holiday season. I love the holidays because you can reflect and appreciate what you have. We’ve been tested a lot this year, living our lives through a pandemic, racial unrest and a contentious election. I hope the end of the year brings you comfort and peace. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
As both a tax attorney and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I provide comprehensive financial planning to LGBTQ entrepreneurs who run mission-driven businesses. I hold a special place in my heart for small-business owners. I spent a decade defending them against the IRS as a tax attorney and have become one as a financial advisor. It’s a position filled with hope and opportunity. It gives you the most flexibility to create the life that you want. I also understand the added stresses of running a business while being a person of color and a part of the LGBTQ community. You may feel like you don’t have access to the knowledge that others do. I’m here to help lift some of that weight from your shoulders.
A personal budget or home budget is a finance plan that allocates future personal income towards expenses, savings and debt repayment. Past spending and personal debt are considered when creating a personal budget. There are several methods and tools available for creating, using and adjusting a personal budget. For example, jobs are an income source, while bills and rent payments are expenses.
How well do you understand your customers? Whether your brand is B2B or B2C, your customers expect seamless, omnichannel experiences. Especially during the Covid-19 crisis, customers expect brands to offer value, relevant products and services, and to grow with them as their needs evolve.
The pandemic has taught businesses that staying relevant in a time of crisis requires a deep, holistic understanding of the customer, and an openness to new ways of doing business. To stay ahead of such rapid change, customer intelligence and data is more important than ever. From remapping and re-creating customer journeys, to developing more accurate forecasting models, all businesses need a data and analytics strategy that allows everyone in the organization to see customers needs in real time and build scenarios, identify gaps, stress-test ideas and improve results with actionable insights.
Your customer is expecting you to lead, and it’s never been more important for your brand to address their pain points and deliver exceptional experiences.
While the long-term economic and societal impacts of the pandemic are yet to be fully understood, customer attitudes and behaviors have already shifted in profound ways, and some of these changes are predicted to continue into the future. Recent consumer surveys reveal how rapidly behaviors are evolving:
68% of people report that the pandemic has changed the products and services they think are important
75% of people using digital channels for the first time will continue to do so
In the retail sector, the shift to online buying and direct-to-consumer selling, coupled with a decrease in discretionary spending and flat sales for net-new products, has forced businesses to change their business models overnight. Traditional B2B businesses like financial services organizations are not far behind, augmenting existing sales and service models so they can better serve customers remotely. In the healthcare sector, patients can now choose telehealth as a standard alternative to an in-person visit—and adoption has been swift: one of Europe’s largest telehealth providers, KRY International, has seen a 200 percent increase in registrations. Government agencies and educational institutions are also finding ways to deliver their services in a virtual world.
But meeting the customer “where they are” is not just smart business—it’s essential for survival. Business segments that aren’t responding to changing customer preferences by accelerating their own digital transformations will be left behind. And a central part of transformation includes prioritizing customer analytics.
In today’s competitive and uncertain market environment, your advantage lies in understanding what resonates with your customers. How businesses choose to respond will influence buying decisions today and in the future.
What kinds of customer experience metrics are valuable in order to gain understanding of your customer? To create baseline analyses, you need behavioral, transactional, and feedback metrics. And as Gartner points out, more frequent, real-time monitoring of customer metrics is essential during this crisis, since attitudes are changing so rapidly. Useful metrics include:
Customer satisfaction scores
Customer effort scores
Net promoter scores
Customer call volume and types of queries
Social media sentiment
Every business, regardless of industry segment, should also expect to field new questions from customers about products, logistics, inventory, supply chain, and operations—and every business needs to be prepared to capture this feedback and respond.
01. Strategic Dashboard
Potential Users: C-Suite, VP, DirectorObjectives: At-a-glance cohesive data storyInsight Examples:Performance and comparison metrics tracked against enterprise goalsExample: Executive Summary dashboard
Potential Users: CRM Support Teams, Website Managers, Marketing ManagersObjectives: High-level, real-time monitoring and managementInsight Examples:Retail and customer satisfaction KPIs, marketing campaign performance, inventory statusExample: Store-level Product Availability dashboard
Things definitely look different now, and they are different. When every aspect of your operation is under scrutiny, you need information, quickly, to make the right decisions for your business and your customers. Understanding customers and their expectations has always been a priority for businesses looking to create competitive advantage, but the pandemic has proven that businesses must have an even stronger line of sight into what their customers need.
You need to be prepared to proactively respond to rapidly-evolving behaviors and perceptions. As David Leonhardt notes in a recent New York Times op-ed, “When the economy weakens, people have to make decisions about where to pull back.” By using data insights to understand and adapt to new realities, you can give your customers reasons to remain loyal and eliminate some of the uncertainty facing your business.
What untapped insights are waiting to be discovered in your customer data?
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