Princeton Alumni Debate Cryptocurrencies

Tuesday, Jun 15, 2021
by Mark Goldstein '19

Bitcoin, Dogecoin, NFT’s.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have burst into the mainstream over the past decade, introducing new opportunities, challenges, and disruptions for retail traders, financial institutions, and governments alike. On Friday, May 21, a panel of Princeton alumni shared insight into this new frontier as part of the Julis Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance’s programming for (Virtual) Princeton Reunions, 2021 in an online webinar, “Cryptocurrencies and the Future of Fintech.”

Marina Finley ‘19 and Abhiram Karuppur ‘19 led the hour-long panel as moderators, asking questions of panelists before opening up an audience-driven question and answer session to conclude the event.

Each of the four alumni panelists offered their unique insight from different perspectives across the world of cryptocurrency and fintech. Ben Davenport ‘98, is the founder and former CTO of BitGo, the leading wallet security and infrastructure company for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and current Venture Partner at Blockchain Capital LLC. Shiv Dutt ‘11, has built a cryptocurrency exchange, blockchain payments platform, and cryptocurrency market data index and platform, previously working at Tassat. Kimberly Quinones ‘82 is Director of the Global Blockchain Business Council and was the founding Executive Director of the NYC Blockchain Center. Jeff Tang ‘09,started a crypto trading and investment firm, Gravity.

Reunions panel about cryptocurrencies

The panelists began by discussing the trends they are keeping an eye on within the world of cryptocurrency, with institutionalization and regulation emerging as key themes. “Institutionalization has been really the dominant story of this cycle,” Davenport said. “We’ve seen mainstream Wall Street players like Goldman and Morgan Stanley bringing offerings onto their platforms, really I think being demanded by their clients.”

How regulators in the United States and around the world will handle the evolution of cryptocurrency also carries critical implications for its future. “There has been a lot of signaling from the U.S. regulators and it’s a veritable alphabet soup of regulators,” Quinones said. She pointed out that Gary Gensler, leader of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is “not afraid of tackling difficult subjects, and this is one of them.”

The intersection and integration of cryptocurrencies with governments also emerged as a central topic, with panelists discussing how cryptocurrencies have disrupted traditional currencies and perhaps supplanted commodities like gold as a store of value. As stable coins and coins backed by governments–Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)–gain steam, cryptocurrencies seem destined to continue their rise into the mainstream.

Panelists also predicted how blockchain technology might affect the lives of everyday people in the coming decade, with possible applications across many sectors.

“I think we’ll see blockchain really widespread,” predicted Dutt. From the fishing to jewelry industries, any industry in which there is a large number of transactions could turn to blockchain to reduce waste and increase efficiency, he said.

Tang also pointed out the applicability of blockchain in developing nations with limited access to certain financial technologies (like Apple Pay) that are common in the United States. Citing companies that are pioneering blockchain technology for offline use, he said that “in terms of banking the unbanked, in terms of faster facilitation of money...there are quite a few cryptocurrency projects that are addressing this.”

The event was one of two JRCPPF-sponsored Reunions panels. The other, “Young Alumni in Finance,” is available here.

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