As we approach an almost full decade since the release of Bitcoin to the world, and the underlying blockchain technology that makes it possible, industries, businesses, entrepreneurs and governments across the globe are still working to not only understand its impact, but to enable applications that take full advantage of the benefits of this technology. Benefits such as decentralization, which removes the need for intermediaries to validate transactions; immutability, which makes data changes extremely difficult; and transparency, which makes the secure data set available to all network participants, are among the most significant of these. And to participants in the blockchain world, the cost savings possible because of these benefits are quite clear. Given this, it is the hope of blockchain and cryptoasset advocates that this innovation may fundamentally reinvent the economic models upon which much of the world is built.
Since 2009, we have seen a proliferation of technology solutions which are based in whole or in part on the original Bitcoin blockchain technology. Solutions and capabilities such as Ethereum,1 Hyperledger,2 Quorom,3 Stellar4 and more have been launched to offer the world blockchain capabilities across multiple industries. And it is not only the universe of startups that are involved. Indeed, some of the biggest names in technology, including Microsoft, IBM, SAP and others have entered the arena. This is to say nothing of the biggest banks, supply chain companies, securities exchanges, healthcare companies, media corporations and many more, vying to grab hold of this innovation. In conjunction with the rise of cryptoassets and smart contracts, all are endeavouring to pave a path towards a future in a blockchain world. Add to this the increasing scrutiny from governments and regulators worldwide, and it is easy to see the growing importance and urgency of blockchain technology for the future.
In the midst of all of this change, the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA) was founded in 2015 by a gathering of attorneys, bankers, trading experts, financial technology executives and others, all focused on the important work needed to shepherd the adoption of blockchain technology and cryptoassets across our relevant industries. Today, with membership representing more than 270 companies and organizations around the world, the WSBA is an industry-leading, non-profit, trade association with a global mission to advocate, guide and promote comprehensive adoption of blockchain technology and cryptoassets across global markets. The WSBA stands as a neutral, unbiased steward of education and co-operation between our global member firms. We do this by engaging with market participants, regulators, policymakers and technology innovators through direct communication, comment letters, studies and more to guide the public dialogue about blockchain, cryptoassets and smart contract technology, so that the global markets can realize the full potential of these capabilities.
Like all trade associations, the WSBA has a wide range of tools available to its members to guide and serve its mission. One of the most important tools that we have are the WSBA Working Groups. WSBA Working Groups (WGs) are the mechanisms by which our members can directly interact with the WSBA itself, with other WSBA members and with industry participants, all in pursuit of learning about blockchain, and advocating for solutions relevant to their businesses and industry segments. Working Groups now include the Cryptoassets WG, Technology WG, Cybersecurity WG, Research and Innovation WG and many more. One of our largest, the WSBA Legal Working Group, which is chaired by Joshua Ashley Klayman of the boutique law firm of Klayman LLC, is composed of over 75 attorneys from around the world, all of whom we are privileged to have as WSBA members. These members of the Legal WG represent more than 50 law practices. Many are contributing authors to this publication. Their firms all have blockchain and cryptoasset practices or thought leaders in place, and are working towards solutions that will impact everything from security tokenization to cryptoasset custody, to blockchain use in the legal practice, to governmental regulation and much more.
Likewise our Cryptoassets Working Group, chaired by financial markets veteran and best-selling author Jack Tatar,5 focuses on the important initiatives needed to help the world of institutional investors evolve in a cryptoasset future. Discussions such as how cryptoassets should be valued, the challenges and work associated with the launch of cryptoasset-based exchange traded funds (ETFs), and the regulatory questions that need to be answered to enable acceptance of cryptoassets, are all part of the ongoing dialogue and WG efforts.
One of the WSBA’s most important features is its policy of global partnership with an assortment of other non-profit trade associations across many important industries. For example, in November of 2017, the WSBA entered a partnership with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and its technology arm, CPA.com. This partnership will allow both organizations to work together to define the impact of blockchain technology for the global accounting profession, and advance the profession’s interests regarding rulemaking and standard-setting in this area. As part of this collaboration, the AICPA will administer the WSBA’s working group on tax and accounting, a focal point for advocacy and education on blockchain adoption within the profession. For a global profession built on confirmation and verification, blockchain technology will have a profound impact on accounting and finance in the future, and it is important that adoption develops in a way that is in the best interest of the public and global financial markets. The working relationship between both organizations will help further that goal.
Similarly, in February of 2018, the WSBA entered into a partnership with the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), the principal trade association focused on the development of blockchain standards and education for the freight and transport industries. Both organizations will co-develop materials related to the financing of the global physical supply-chain, and leverage the industry knowledge and resources from member participants to develop risk-management and supply-chain finance conferences, certifications and educational initiatives.
All of these partnerships, plus the new partnerships planned for the future, highlight a philosophy of cooperation and engagement that is a fundamental part of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance. As new technologies and advances develop in the future, it is our core belief that cooperative engagement at all levels is the best path towards a future which realizes the full benefits of global innovation and enterprise.
Since our founding, we have often been asked the not wholly unexpected questions regarding why our Board and members had made the decision to form a non-profit trade association. Our answer is simple: a non-profit trade association can act in a non-partisan way. Since the WSBA neither develops nor sells software, we can work with and represent our members in an objective way that furthers their businesses. We can collaborate with other trade associations across a multitude of industries around the world to further joint missions in an efficient and effective manner. We can reach out to and engage governmental organizations and regulators around the globe, speaking with the unified voice of our members to make sure that laws safeguard people and organizations, while not letting those same laws stifle growing innovation. And ultimately, we can operate as an ecosystem for all of our members and partners to share and learn from each other, even if some compete with each other on the world stage.
As we look back on what blockchain technology is meant to accomplish, namely the decentralization of engagement between entities, it is our core belief that “co-opetition”, which can be loosely defined as the “collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results”,6 is a fundamental element of the WSBA’s mission. The future in a blockchain world will need this type of co-operation, and the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance is proud to be at the centre of it all.
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Information about the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance can be found at www.wsba.co, or by email to email@example.com.