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Island praised for proactive approach to tech

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Security token Summit: Alexia Hefti, left, a global blockchain leader with Deloitte, David Burt, the Premier, and Gabriel Abed, founder of Bitt Inc, and a special technology advisor to Mr Burt (Photograph by Department of Communications)

Bermuda is taking a “global thought leadership position” in the regulatory approach to security tokens, and one that other jurisdictions will seek to copy, according to technology innovator Jeff Pulver.

The chairman of the Blockchain Token Association, which staged its Security Token Summit II on the island yesterday, praised the Bermuda Government for its proactive approach to new technology — a factor said to have played a key part in attracting innovators, entrepreneurs, attorneys and investors from 13 countries to the event at the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club.

“We have people here from all over the world, some just to be part of the conversation and to be around the Government that has a public policy that is proactive and not reactive — it’s rare,” said Mr Pulver.

“It is incredibly rare to be embraced with open arms and hear ‘Teach us and show us — how can we be receptive and help accelerate the change’. I’ve never seen that. I’ve been in internet and tech since 1994. It is so refreshing and empowering.”

That is the reason he decided to help “put Bermuda on the map as a global hub for security tokens”.

He hopes further security token summits can be held on the island.

Among those attending was Alexi Heft. She was previously the blockchain tax lead at Deloitte Canada. Next month, she will be the global blockchain leader for indirect tax, and technology lead for Deloitte Dubai.

In the past, she did security token offerings and some regulatory work with Caribbean governments; now she is now moving towards helping governments and enterprises implement blockchain within their infrastructure and systems.

She said the take-up of blockchain and associated technologies is rapid.

“Having seen the adoption over the past several years, both from an enterprise and a government perspective has demonstrated to me how quickly it is picking up. I’m tracking the global government projects that are happening with blockchain. Every week, we are having announcements from Australia to Thailand, to Zambia — it is picking up at a rapid pace,” she said.

During her travels she asks local people about their knowledge of blockchain and bitcoin, and she notices the different reactions. So what happened in Bermuda?

“When I was coming in from the airport in a taxi, I asked the driver if he knew blockchain, and he said ‘Yes, I know blockchain’. That was demonstrative to me of the rapid expansion of the technology within the local population,” she said.

As for the importance of Bermuda hosting the summit, she said: “I came to Bermuda to support the initiatives of Premier Burt, as well as Jeff Pulver, the organiser. Premier Burt has been an absolute visionary from the perspective of governments across the world. He has taken a stance since early 2018. He has really put the government forward on this issue, and I haven’t seen that many governments take the practical stance that he has.

“I will follow and support all of Bermuda’s initiatives. In all my presentations globally, I always speak about the forward-thinking nature of this Government and this population, because we have seen so much happen in so little time.”

Another delegate was Gabriel Abed, founder of Bitt Inc, and a special technology advisor to the Premier. He said: “Bermuda has been designing legislation frameworks for the security token world. This event is important because it brings the discussions down to a more practical level of what happens after regulation, and what has to happen around regulation — what’s missing, what’s needed.

“Those discussions need to be had, and they are happening right here in Bermuda with some of the world’s brightest minds, and some of the leading companies in the security token world. When you have these people coming here discussing, collaborating and establishing, you get foreign investment, job creation and economic growth.”

Mr Abed said that at many events and meetings he had heard Mr Burt repeat his number one goal. He explained: “Whenever I was present he made it very clear [he said] ‘I will provide the legislation framework and clarity, and my people will put in the work and my Government will be there to support it, as long as you don’t risk my existing industries, you don’t put my citizens at risk, and you create jobs for my citizens’. He made it very clear to everybody.

“Fast forward to today, you now have hundreds of companies looking to establish on these shores, dozens of jobs being created, millions of dollars of foreign investment flowing in, and licences being applied for in the dozens if not hundreds right now.”

When asked what was on the minds of the delegates at the summit, Mr Abed said: “Bermuda seems to be a home to establish this process in the right way. Securities are coming in a digital way. Blockchain is going to be a main component of this new world, and Bermuda seems to be at the centre of that, from a regulation perspective.”

Mr Abed has led the Caribbean Blockchain Alliance, which is made up from people around the region who have an interest in blockchain, and who have come together to provide awareness and education.

He said: “Today we announced the Caribbean Blockchain Alliance is going to be forming the Caribbean Blockchain Business Alliance. That will be focused on advocacy and business development within region as it relates to blockchain, with a goal of creating a ‘one Caribbean’ under that technology. In the group we have ministers, lawyers, finance experts, and cryptographers. We are forming an incubator between Bermuda, Barbados and Bahamas to allow start-ups who don’t have a track record to come to the start-ups who do have a track record, and allow them to facilitate mentorship, growth and guidance so that the future of these start ups is brighter than it is today.”

The summit was presented by the Bermuda Business Development Association and Fintech Bermuda. Mr Burt took part in a fireside chat with Mr Pulver, and he told attendees he wanted to attract innovators to the island’s shores.

He said: “Positive disruption is a good thing. It is something that Bermuda has a history of ‘filling the void’ when it comes to financial services. I want Bermuda to be the home of security token issuances. I want you all to understand, that if you are looking to build something here, and if you have ideas [but] the challenge is you need this, this and this, then let us know; there is a strong possibility that we can do it.”

He added: “We can be that place for the next evolution of financial services.”

Roundtable discussions: Delegates at the Security Token Summit II in Bermuda (Photograph by Department of Communications)
Fireside chat: Jeff Pulver, left, and David Burt (Photograph by Department of Communications)