Island spells out blockchain ambitions
Bermuda's bid to attract blockchain and cryptocurrency technology companies to the island has been a talking point in Davos, Switzerland this week.
The town is hosting the World Economic Forum, which is attended by presidents, prime ministers and many of the world's most influential business people and innovators.
David Burt is leading a team from Bermuda that has taken part in meetings and discussions at associated events surrounding the main forum.
Bermuda's ambitions regarding blockchain and cryptocurrency, and the economic and social opportunities they present for the island, have been highlighted at a number of the events.
The Bermuda Government is working to position itself on the front line of the new technologies by creating a workable regulatory environment, and last year it set up a task force aimed at making that happen.
Benefits envisaged for the island include educational opportunities for young Bermudians to learn about the technologies and seek careers in the sector.
During the past 30 years the island has built an insurance and reinsurance regulatory model that has elevated it to world-leading status in that sector. Doing something similar within the cryptocurrency and blockchain sphere is a goal for the Government, and was among the sentiments expressed by the Premier and Waynes Caines, Minister of National Security, as they spoke yesterday at the Hub Culture pavilion in Davos.
They were joined by Sean Moran, of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, who is part of the team visiting Switzerland.
During an interview with Edie Lush, executive editor of Bermudian-based Hub Culture, Mr Caines, said: “Being here at Davos, we have been able to meet with innovators in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sphere. We believe this is an emerging area in business, and Bermuda wants to take advantage of and bring those opportunities and companies to set up their companies in Bermuda.”
Ms Lush asked what Bermuda was doing to encourage such business opportunities to come to the island.
Mr Caines, whose portfolio includes information technology and e-commerce, replied: “Right now we are making sure the legal and regulatory framework are there. We have said to the rest of the world, come and look at Bermuda if you have a crypto or a business in that space.”
He is leading a two-team task force, set up in November, to exploring business development opportunities, and deal with associated legal and regulatory matters.
Ms Lush said: “When I speak to people in blockchain, they say ‘we do not have the regulations and laws figured out'. How do you encourage people to come, in an industry that is still so nascent?”
Mr Caines acknowledged that the blockchain industry is still in an embryonic stage, so the need was to look at the general regulatory environment.
He added: “You have to look for key stakeholders that understand the business and allow a key regulatory environment to come together to build what will be the blockchain space.
“We don't claim to know it all, but we know key industry stakeholders that are leaders in this space and we will partner with them to make sure that we are the blue-chip jurisdiction for blockchain technologies.”
When asked how e-commerce could create jobs in Bermuda, Mr Caines said: “The first part is the education piece. We do not just want to bring companies to Bermuda. We want opportunities for Bermudians to participate in the [jobs] market.”
He spoke of businesses partnering with schools to bring the new technologies into classrooms, and drew a parallel to the island's experience with the insurance industry, where companies had set up offices and brought with them teams and families.
“We want to do a similar thing in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, where companies see the benefit of being in Bermuda for the regulatory environment and a country that is open for business — a country that makes our expatriate workers feel welcome and at home, but having a symbiotic relationship where not only do the companies benefit, but the people of Bermuda benefit as well.”
Meanwhile, Mr Burt emphasised the importance of the emerging technologies to the Government's aim for economic growth and jobs.
He said: “We have set some very aggressive targets so people know that Bermuda is an option to take advantage of our excellent regulatory reputation, and to transfer those to new industries.
“And what better place to go to than the World Economic Forum in Davos to raise the visibility of Bermuda, so people can learn more about what we are looking to do, and how we can create additional economic growth to provide more jobs to people at home.”
He added that Bermuda is looking to leverage its reputation as a well-regulated, clean and trusted jurisdiction.
“We want to leverage that into the future technology, whether that's insurtech, fintech, regtech, or branching out into other places — setting up a type of sand box where people can feel free to innovate.”
The Government is also looking at ways to use the new technologies. On Tuesday, during a discussion panel at the Wipro pavilion in Davos, Mr Burt said Bermuda is to transfer its property deed system to blockchain.
The broad collaborative approach that Bermuda takes to develop new opportunities was highlighted by Mr Moran, head of business development at the BDA. He mentioned how the approach has developed over many years and involves the regulator, government, private sector and clients.
He said: “What we are doing is pulling all these groups together to create a best of breed solution. We have done this before, particularly in the insurance-linked securities industry and offshoots of our insurance industry, where we were able to innovate and be first to market with some very new products that have been very successful.
“We think that this should be no different. The model that we want to put in place, as the minister said, can be a product of this sort of collaboration.”
• To watch the interview in full, follow this link: https://tinyurl.com/y8kvds7c