Episode #7: Stephen Richardson and Amy Zhang — Fireblocks

Episode #7: Stephen Richardson and Amy Zhang — Fireblocks

Last updated:
November 18, 2022
Total length::
39 min
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DeFi, CeFi, TradFi

Keep your coins clean! Fireblocks is a fast-growing #DeFi solution for banks and institutions. Amy Zhang, VP Sales, and Stephen Richardson, Head of APAC, join us to describe the firm's growth solving digital asset management issues for banks and institutions. LIVE from Hong Kong and Singapore FinTech Week.

Walter Jennings: Welcome to Waves in the Finoverse. I'm Walter Jennings, the host of a podcast brought to you by Finoverse. We're talking with the wave makers creating ripples, waves, and tsunamis across finance, crypto, FinTech, Web3 and beyond. Listen weekly to hear the changemakers talk firsthand about their experiences in this dynamic industry. Greetings from Hong Kong FinTech week, this is Walter Jennings hosts of Waves in the Finoverse. I'm joined in our booth here on Hong Kong FinTech week by Amy Zhang. Welcome. So nice to see you know. Amy, let me introduce your role. You're at Fireblocks, and you're heading their VIP and institutional area for APAC. Is that correct?

Amy Zhang: Yeah. So I run sales for Fireblocks here in APAC. And before Fireblocks, almost three years ago, I was in a different digital asset company. And prior to that, my backgrounds in traditional finance, I was a sales trader, I do HR, and we just started my career from that route and moving to the digital asset space and never looked back.

Amy Zhang with Walter Jennings during Hong Kong FinTech Festival 2022

Walter Jennings: Yeah, we were talking before the show about how crypto ruins you for traditional finance. Why is that?

Amy Zhang: Um, I think a lot of it is the industry attracting great talent, but more importantly, attract a lot of great talent with similar passion into making the world a much more open permissionless space. And that natural mantra that I've tried to all of us in this space, allow us to communicate in a way that share ideas and have that openness and, and really create an industry that we can all love and for working it.

Walter Jennings: You know, as we look around the floor here at Hong Kong, FinTech, we, you see so many companies, and you understand that to deliver in this in digital finance, it really does take an ecosystem. So tell me about Fireblocks and its role in digital assets.

Amy Zhang: Sure, sure. I always like to describe ourselves as the not so sexy company in a way, because our main role is deal with the plumbing and all the back end and all the security that comes with dealing with the digital asset industry. I think one of the things we take for granted when we in from traditional finance is all the back office mid office, their whole entire infrastructure with tonnes of hundreds of systems that use to support how banks operate. In the digital asset space is much leaner, and much more efficient, much more secure way to operate. But also means that usually, because we're a new industry, the providers have to manage those things themselves.

And that's where Fireblocks comes in. We help institutional clients whether you are an exchange, a trading firm, a bank to build a digital asset infrastructure that allows them to store the digital asset in a secure manner, and allows them to transfer the digital asset in an efficient and secure way. More importantly, if you take that a step further, when you think about all the functions you can do on the blockchain, ie men's burn contract call, you can use Fireblocks to help you to do really anything within the last few space.

Walter Jennings: You know, a year is decade in crypto. And I'm going to really go back in time to 2020 when a lot of people were talking about the kind of tipping point for institutional involvement in crypto, and many of the things you mentioned about the plumbing from, you know, custody and secure transfers, that were holding institutions back but you know, now we flash forward to 2022. What is the support network for institutions getting into crypto look like today?

Amy Zhang: Absolutely. So I think today the two things is clear. One, there's a lot more regulatory clarity, right, where institutions who typically have to follow a strict set of rules previously, it was a bit of a grey area, and now that it become very clear as to how they should operate what licencing to get what additional documentation for support. That's all clear and majority of kind of the G10-G20. Countries Hong Kong, Singapore specifically. So that's definitely one thing that's been cleared up.

The second thing from an infrastructure perspective, absolutely. You now as an institution - You can come to a place like Fireblocks, and we can help you to build out your whole entire infrastructure to the way you need from a wallet perspective. You can do it in a Polaroid pure SAS format, you can do it if you decide on prem, all the different options that you have an institution would need from an infrastructure provider perspective, we now have meaning, you know, we're sock two type two audited, we have in EY do our audits and Co reviewed all of these things at an institution when they procure technology need to check across, we already done that already.

So I think that makes the buying process, from a institutions perspective, much more similar. I mean, the people who want to launch projects can work with providers that allows them to really scale.

Walter Jennings: Amy, at early stage investors I've spoken to at institutions used to go into crypto by buying into funds that invested in crypto or companies that became a proxy for crypto, whether it's an exchange or a hedge fund with a large holding, there was always a challenge with institutions holding the coins themselves. How have you overcome that? Because so many institutions didn't want to take custody?

Amy Zhang: Absolutely. I think there are a shift in what institution perceive as the security benefit of self custody versus third party custodian, right? In the traditional world, you've got the Bank of New York Mellon's of the world who have been historically taking deposits of cash securities, on behalf of institutions, they are licenced they have got balance sheets, and all these things you need when you want a third party custodian.

Walter Jennings: Right. And that just allows the institutions to know that what they own is being held in a secure environment and will be there when they come back.

Amy Zhang: Absolutely. But unlike those things in the digital asset world, we operate bearer instruments, right meaning now we're seeing a trend where institutions prefer to hold themselves like why would I take someone else's third party counterparty operational risk, right, when I could build and use a very robust infrastructure and allow me to build it to my specification internally.

Also, we're seeing the trend where banks, especially local banks, right, local custodial banks, are not taking this opportunity in digital asset to build their own custodial infrastructure, because previously, they leveraged a third party custodian like a Bank of New York Mellon, and etc. And that's ultimately why the Big Four is the Big Four, because everyone else self custody out to them.

And we're seeing this trend where regional banks are saying, hey, like, we have to licencing we've seen opportunity, and maybe digital asset is the way we go into custody, and provide those services for and clients and be allowed to be more efficient and more, make more revenue.

Walter Jennings: Right. So if I'm going to regional bank, and I'm in Malaysia, and I want to enter into crypto custody, but I don't have the capabilities, is that something Fireblocks can help me do so?

Amy Zhang: Yes. So we start engaging with clients, sometimes in the very earliest stages, where they're just have an idea that like, hey, I'll have a digital strategy. And we worked with them to decide which path they want to go on. Do you want to do brokerage want to pick custody? Are you looking to securitization, and then from there, obviously, our bread and butter is the wallet infrastructure Tax and the transferring process of all we bring in partners that can help them throughout their delivery.

So we have partners with Chainalysis with token where the various of the platform around the whole entire call lifecycle building digital asset business. We're bringing these partners in, will work together to deliver holistic product for that.

Walter Jennings: You know, we talked with Kim Grauer, Chainalysis, about the rise of fraud in different crimes online, as the custodian do, you then suddenly become susceptible to some of those risk issues. If I lend, if I asked you to take custody of a nice clean coin, will I get a nice clean coin when it's returned.

Amy Zhang:
So Fireblocks is a self-custody solution, meaning we give customers their whole stack, right, which means that whatever was asked us comes into their wallets is as it was previously, we don't have an omnibus structure, like a normal custodian would be in a technology provider, you as the vendor knows that whatever you receive, is what you will get. So that's one of the benefit.

We're working with Fireblocks. In addition to that we're integrated with software selection like Chainalysis to allow you to set rules and what you do with these coins if they reflect as you know precarious, or whatever the origin of these coins are. And that allows you as a compliance team to have real time robust control over these assets. Obviously, in digital assets, you can't stop a fund coming into your wallet. So having that kind of post kind of inflow triage mechanism is super important. If you want to be compliant.

Walter Jennings: Amy, I just want to for our listeners who don't work in this industry back out for a moment, because there is you know, the issue is that we're talking about, say a Bitcoin and that is actually fungible, there's really no difference between one coin and the other. Except sometimes the provenance of that coin might have come from, you know, Dark Web markets or illegal sites. And the nice thing is that whatever coin I give you, comes back to me.

So whether it's a fungible or a non fungible item, it's the like for like, return. Okay, good. Now, I just wanted our listeners to understand why this matters. Because sometimes coins can have a tainted history.

Amy Zhang: Of course, and in a setup that we have, your wallet is your wallet, it's not really common with anybody else's wallet, which means the risk of your assets being commingled with anybody else's asset is impossible. Right? So that's definitely a benefit for a lot of folks.

Walter Jennings: Now, it says in Fireblocks, your mission is to enable every business to easily and securely support digital assets and cryptocurrencies. There are a lot of businesses here, how would a coffee company or a Starbucks or something like that get involved with Fireblocks?

Amy Zhang: Sure. There's actually one or two ways we're seeing a trend where large retail brands are now building their own, or using digital assets a way of managing their own payment systems, right. So if you look at what Walmart has done in the US, and Starbucks just doing NFT's, as many ways for them to either from a marketing perspective, use NFT's as a way to interact with your audience. That's way number one, or secondly, allowing them to accept a digital asset as a form of payments, right paying or payouts.

The third way, I guess I'll ask we work with payments companies like WorldPay, like Checkout.com, who have had, you know, long history of supporting these merchants as a payment service provider. We enable them with the sets of tools that allow them to continue to serve as their merchants today, and offer them the ability to accept digital assets, a form of payments, that's already live done tonnes of those last week.

Walter Jennings: Amy, and that payment gateway announcement is relatively new to Fireblocks. And how does that open up the world of paying with crypto to the ordinary person in the street?

Amy Zhang: Absolutely. So we launched this payments engine last week, right mid 2020. And really, when it comes to we- service, the PSPS. From a approach perspective, they are already in with the merchant, they are already either the terminal older software or the back end with these merchants.

Now all they have to do is to speak to their merchants and if they want to use crypto as a form of payments, they can work with your PSPs like Checkout.com. All well page turn that off. I don't think we will be in the business of convincing merchants to use us directly. But absolutely, we will support all the PSPS around the world to enable that for the end merchants.

Walter Jennings: During FinTech week here, we hear more and more about the metaverse and as Fireblocks things about payments and interactivity and ease of connection. How do your solutions adapt for the metaverse?

Amy Zhang: So I think we look at what the metaverse ultimately is and where we play, which is the blockchain piece of the metaverse, right. We look at actually the same as all we've done for the last four years, you know, they need a secure wallet infrastructure. It doesn't matter if it's a Bitcoin or an NFT or some sort of other tokens or whatever standards, right? We will support all of those in a secure and very robust manner.

So actually, our approach to the metaverse has been taking all the lessons we've learned in a high scalable, highly scalable manner and highly secure manner and work with companies to support that. So you know, it could be as simple today really, the metaverse is about, you know, maybe implementing loyalty tokens maybe working with brands to allow them to interact with their audience in a two way perspective, or do you have tonnes of clients were using us to do that already.

And maybe in day to day three, once infrastructure gets more mature, we can definitely think of much more immersive metaverse world where the wall is just a piece of the puzzle, I'll be a very important one. But the end users will actually not know any difference to how they're interacting with the space because it will be all done in a very intuitive way.

Walter Jennings: Now, this year, we've seen quite a lot of volatility in the markets, and particularly the drop that we experienced in the middle of the year. People are calling this crypto winter. How do you see the volatility in the price changes impacting your business?

Amy Zhang: So I would say it impacts a lot on the low end with a startup space where you should have seen funding has really dried up in the venture space. Previously, you know, a lot of our customers are quite small startups. And during the crypto winter we're seeing less of them. That's a fact. But on the bigger end, you know all the large well funded well capitalised institutions the traditional finance, banks, they're all moving this space in a very full force.

In fact, I think they prefer it, given when the market is super hot, they're in this rush to have to compete. And you know, as you know, banks don't move at that pace, right. So I think now with this crypto winter, they're feeling much more comfortable and continue to build, they're obviously moving very fast scale, and they see this a great opportunity for them to get into the space.

Walter Jennings: So you're seeing continued investment in the sector, you're seeing traditional banks wanting to build out this infrastructure. And so this kind of build like a bear as relevance because this is the time to invest when the markets a little quieter, so that way, you're ready for the rebound. So and you're responsible for the region, Asia Pacific, what are some of the highlights, highlight countries or markets where you're seeing either interesting or higher rates of adoption?

Amy Zhang: So we're seeing the Australian banks very active in this space, right, obviously, ANZ as a public story that we're working with them on. And you know, as a country, they're very, you know, cloud friendly, right? So they're already in this like, highly efficient base infrastructure. So a lot of the adoptions of this space has been very rapid.

And we've seen a lot of movements there. Singapore, obviously, with the licencing regime for the exchanges, a lot of the firms have moved on to Singapore as well, we're seeing our retail business quite active there. And in Hong Kong actually has always been the trading business for us, right, a lot of the OTC brokerages, trading houses, prop shops are based here, we see a lot of those continue to grow in Hong Kong as well.

Walter Jennings: And one of the subjects of conversation with the HK Monetary Authority here will be central bank digital currency, or the replacement of our traditional banknotes with digital assets that would be regulated and monitored by the state. How is Fireblocks prepared for a central bank digital currency?

Amy Zhang: I think it depends on how the central bank look to distribute, right. And in a wholesale model, we actually will help the central banks themselves through a buys a lot of distribution. But actually, our end client ultimately is with the merchant banks, right? Because the central bank would distribute these assets, and our clients will be the one who will hold it, and then they will distribute out to end users. So our client could be both the central bank and the merchant banks.

And from our perspective, you know, a central bank digital currency in whatever standard that they choose whether it's public or private. From our perspective, it really is the same that what we've always done, right, we've done close to, you know, I think something like $2 trillion worth of assets in the Fireblocks network already. And having that background and the historical know how dealing is high velocity, assets transfers, I think we're really well positioned to support a central bank as they look to distribute this out and under full capacity.

Walter Jennings: I am a company or a bank, what situations do you find prospective clients? And how do I know when to call you? What are the kinds of problems I'm seeing that makes me reach out to you.

Amy Zhang: So generally, when you are a like a bank, for example, you come to us when you're in the process as the first step actually, because you know, as a bank, the first thing to solve is the wallet piece. Because you know, that big difference between a digital asset, your traditional asset is you probably have to hold the stuff yourself. So they usually come to us in the very early stage of their discussion, we help them to shape how they should go into these businesses together. Bank of New York Mellon is a great example of that, right? Obviously, we support them in the custodial infrastructure for the last one year and half. And they've obviously launched and went live with us already.

So that whole process gave us a lot of learnings on how to work with a bank and the challenges they will face. So for example, they may want to work with various different internal systems that will trade and execute and communicate to us in a very different way. They may want to, you know, send assets to the counterparty. So we think about how we build that network. So a lot of that early kind of engagement with them helping to shape their strategy is kind of where we come in. And obviously, the deployment and the support thereafter. That's a given.

Walter Jennings: Right, so they may recognise they need to hold digital currencies, where are they going to get a wallet, next thing, you know, they're into a broader suite of services and support counselling and management control.

Amy Zhang: Not all banks the same right. I think a lot of when we speak for banks, we think they're, you know, a institutional bank, right. But actually, we work a lot of you know, banks were merchant banks and retail banks and commercial banks. And they're approaching this a building a retail platform, for instance.

And their challenges is like, how do I manage gas fees? How do I deposit all my wallets and fund all of them? How do I make sure that the inflows and outflows are KYTC so the institutional bank so to speak as they think about custody for the black rocks of the world, we have a very good different sets of challenges than let's say, a retail bank, we're looking to launch a retail platform.

Walter Jennings: Okay. Now, Amy, you've been in the industry for at least four years that you've seen a lot of change. Do you have any thoughts on what we might look forward to four years from now? What are some things? I know that's a lifetime away? But what are some of the kind of works and warbles that might interest you looking forward?

Amy Zhang: So I think the big one for us is really think of the next phase. The payments aspect of the industry is really taking quite a meaningful way, in a sense, were these digital asset companies now becoming retail platforms, and they are now looking to serve as payment needs and expanding across the whole entire vertical beyond just offering crypto trading, right? That's a quite interesting aspect for us.

I think that's a great way to get mass adoption, in some capacity, like the stable coins trend, the central bank, digital currencies trend, I really see the next four years to what that will become a real usage of folks. Right, we will move away from POCs into actual production in various different countries and whatnot. So I think that's definitely one that I could guess for sure.

The second piece I would say is with the maturity around DeFi in a way that DeFi currently has been a very retail driven initiative, we're seeing more and more institutions coming in and explore the options of interacting with the various different protocols. And supporting them to do that in a way that allows them to report allow them to control allow them to do this securely. I think the next is already happening now about the next three to four years, we'll see more kind of institutional product deployed in a different manner.

Walter Jennings: Last question for you, and it's a bit of a surprise, we have a regular feature called tracks in the Finoverse, okay, where we ask people to think of a song they would like to take with them to the Finoverse. But is there any song that you would take with you into the finish?

Amy Zhang: Oh, man, that is hard. Ah, you don't really sound like I'm gonna go take my go to Karaoke song which is turned around by Fawning.

Walter Jennings: Yeah, that's a very good one, right?

Amy Zhang: Hopefully sing by her, not by me. Because that would not be very friendly for everybody around.

Walter Jennings: I will not be turning this into a karaoke booth today, but if you come back tonight, we'll give you a chance with bright eyes.

Amy Zhang: Oh, absolutely. Thank you.

Walter Jennings: Well, thank you so much for appearing on Waves in the Finoverse and wishing you the best of success at Hong Kong FinTech week with Fireblocks. And with the rest of your career. Thanks so much for your time. Yeah, really great to speak with you.

Walter Jennings: After catching up with Amy Zhang of Fireblocks in Hong Kong, I'm joined here in Singapore, by the head of Asia Pacific for Fireblocks, Stephen Richardson. Welcome to the Finoverse.

Stephen Richardson: Thank you for having me.

Walter Jennings: It's great to see you. It's great to see such a crowd here. So, tell us what are some of the things that you're trying to achieve here at Singapore FinTech Festival?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, look, I mean, we've seen a growth in the FinTech space overall, right. And this acts as a great hub for FinTech, you know, new and emerging technology within Asia Pacific, but from all over the globe, right. And so it's really a chance for us to connect with existing clients, but to also connect with new clients, potentially new clients, and see what new emerging use cases are coming out of this space. And I think a hub like this makes it a lot easier to navigate and network and, and to get a better sense for the direction of things going on.

Walter Jennings: Okay, Steven, we're on the 20th floor. I've just the lift has arrived. We're heading down. What is Fireblocks?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, Fireblocks is a digital asset infrastructure provider. So we're not a custodian in that we don't take control of digital assets on behalf of our customers. But really what we're doing is providing a technology layer and platform for our customers to be able to engage in digital assets. And that might be trading in crypto that might be issuing NFT's and operating and Web3, that might be tokenizing securities and real assets in the space. There's tonnes of use cases for digital assets. And our job, really at Fireblocks is to provide a technology platform that allows you to do that rapidly, quickly and securely without having to go through the problem of actually building that yourself.

Walter Jennings: Okay, Steven. It doesn't sound like a retail focused product who are the customers and users of Fireblocks.

Stephen Richardson: Really their institutions. Right. So we're b2b, we're not focused on retail, though we have customers that are directly servicing retail. So folks like Revolute, and large exchanges and, and different retail fintechs. Our job is to build the applications that make it easier for them to go to market in the space.

Walter Jennings: Now, custody seems to have caused some headaches, especially amongst institutions. Why are custodians needed? And what are some of the issues around the custody of digital assets?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, so I mean, there's really two use cases, there's this idea of a custodian, someone that's really safeguarding the assets on your behalf. That's not really where we operate, we actually provide technology to custodians. And then there's this idea of self custodial technology. And that's really what we do, right, we provide the ability for you to securely hold those digital assets.

Some of the complications are really the complexity and operating in the digital space. So if you think about operating on blockchain, it's a cybersecurity problem. There's not a lot of firms throughout the world that have deep cybersecurity expertise. And what we've been able to do is really package that cybersecurity expertise in a box and make it more easy for you to really just think about the operational layers that go into, you know, executing digital assets and engaging in digital assets.

And that's been one of the biggest complexities. Overall, you might look at some of the firm's you know, financial services firms that have tried to engage in digital assets. It's taken them months, if not years to develop wallet capabilities for you know, Bitcoin or Ethereum, let alone the 40 other blockchains and the multiple different tokens that exist in this space, and the new and emerging use cases. So that complexity and really building out products and services that are highly secure and scalable, has been a challenge for for people. And that's been where Fireblocks has been able to accelerate into that curve.

Walter Jennings: But Steven, you're shattering some of my illusions, I thought blockchain did away with the need for security. So tell us about kind of some of the challenges in the digital asset space that fire blocks helps overcome.

Stephen Richardson: Yeah. So I mean, if you think about blockchain, everything is operated, you know, with access to the internet, right. And so if you look at the genesis of our company, which was really around, Michael Scholl, often team engaging after the Lazarus hack of South Korean exchanges, there was a view that there was not really an enterprise grade infrastructure to allow digital asset players to grow and scale their businesses.

And the kind of the broader thesis was in order for revenue to really be generated assets needed to move, right. But inherently, the solutions in this space were built around, you know, cold storage or air gapped, you know, HSM type security models, which weren't really purpose built for the idea that you needed to move Bitcoin or Ethereum, or USDC, or any other asset on chain to settle in real time. And so that is where, you know, this rub came to be. And our view is that we could actually implement a technology application that would solve this and, and that's what Fireblocks has been able to do so far

Walter Jennings: Air gap and cold wallets. Just help us understand those both.

Stephen Richardson: Yeah. So when you're talking about air gapped is the idea that the application securing the private key is not at all or ever connected to the internet, right? Because that internet connectivity provides a vulnerability for a malicious actor to be able to, theoretically compromise the private key.

Walter Jennings: Yeah, I think it's a server in a room with a locking key that has no connection. Okay. Now, Fireblocks doesn't depend on traditional digital asset wallets, but uses MPC technology. Can you explain that and how that enhances security?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, so the idea of MPC and it's been around for a while. But the current evolution of it is, is this idea that it's multi party computation. And really within that is, the difference between multi party computation and multi SIG is this idea of a single point of compromise.

And as you see that everyone moves into space, it really is that at the development of the key of the transaction signing within multi party computation, the key shares, right, which are used to sign the transaction never come together in a single point, right to sign basically, that private key, right, each one of those key shares, basically processed the transaction on their own. And using like some concepts called zero knowledge proofs and other things, they're able to verify that each of the other shares is correct, and basically transmit that transaction directly via the public address.

Now, the reason this becomes important is this idea of a single point of compromise or the private key coming together represents a single attack vector for a malicious malicious actor to actually overtake the private key and theoretically overtake your assets. And so if you actually distribute that out, and make sure that those pieces and components never come together, you make it harder for a malicious actor to figure out all those different key components, and then overtake them all simultaneously, and then theoretically take over your wallet so that evolution in the technological approaches is what MPC has been doing. And we've seen more and more providers in the space move towards MPC.

Walter Jennings: And how does that impact speed?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, so obviously, there's the broader iteration of kind of the zero knowledge proofs, right? So going through this transaction processing basis, and that typically can reduce speed. Now, what we've done at Fireblocks is we've actually developed a new algorithm called MP CCMP.

And what that actually allows you to do we have a cryptography team at Fireblocks and we work with professor Nettie from Boston University, it actually goes through a process of pre processing, right, and basically, reduces the iterative number of rounds that are needed to basically confirm a transaction by eight times. Right. And so basically, what used to be a process that was eight times longer has now been compressed. Right? Which means that we still get the same speed efficiencies or similar speed efficiencies as you know, other transaction signing model.

Walter Jennings: Okay. Steven, I understand you're based here in the region, and you look after a few 100 clients. Oh, tell us about the institutions that you work with?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah. So you know, one of the things about Fireblocks that I think is unique is the range of customers that we work with. So obviously, we work with large banks, the likes of ANZ Bank in Australia. My Americanness is getting a hold of me. And firstly, CM commercial and others. But we also work with, you know, retail and fintech platforms, and we work with, you know, hedge funds and market makers and DeFi protocols and foundations.

It's a huge range, right, because as we think about kind of the use cases, they range from broader treasury, through trading through DeFi allocation through tokenization. And they're, you know, while there may be different permutations, the base technology applications all exist across that spectrum. So you know, we have a wide number of customers pretty heavy in the retail and fintech application or platforms plays. But it's been exciting for us to see kind of the broader growth here in Asia.

Walter Jennings: Well, we've heard a common restraint, refrain from many of the guests about how the silver lining to the dark cloud of the pandemic has been the technology adoption. How have you seen the growth of the industry in the last three years?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, so I'll give you a funny anecdote, right. I mean, for Fireblocks, when we first came out, I've been with the team in some capacity for four years, right, the idea of signing a transaction on a mobile device and in a distributed way, in 2018, was pretty crazy. Now, we had to set up pilot customers, Genesis, Galaxy and others that basically believed in this in this process. But you know, we would go to different exchanges, we go to different market makers. And we would say "Hey, you should use Fireblocks only because it's secure from an MPC basis". But it really provides operational leverage and scale. And they would say "Hey, we're all in the office together, we can go to our ledger device, or we can go into the room and sign this transaction". There's no need for this, right.

And then during the pandemic, when people couldn't come into the office and workforces became increasingly more distributed, and people were working remotely, this idea of a scalable and flexible infrastructure became more and more important, right. And so you're starting to see this type of proliferation around technology applications that allow you to really operate at scale and give you that flexibility in different deployment models becoming more and more important, and we're seeing tonnes of different use cases emerging out of the pandemic, because people have had time to really focus and build right, and I think that's been the exciting, the exciting part of kind of working in the space right now.

Walter Jennings: Now, one of the themes we hear frequently is the move to the metaverse. Okay. And what is Fireblocks role in the metaverse? And how are you adapting?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, look, I think for us, it's seeing all the unique use cases, right? So whether that be you know, that Web3 play, and really what is the technology and security approach around operating and Web3 becomes more and more important, you know, as in any new space, the risks, right? The security risks are still fully unknown, right? And so our job is to really say, what are the unique cases of people? You know, leveraging things like NFT's and Web3 infrastructure and operating in this metaverse? What kind of different tools and services are folks going to need to be provided with? What are the unique use cases? And what is the change in kind of the Adoption Model from a retail sense? What is that going to do in terms of technology, right? As more and more retail engages in the space as more and more ownership of data and information because of the movement towards web three happens how Does that change the different security models that are needed to make sure people can interact safely and securely in this new space? And so those are the type of things we're thinking about. And we're doing a lot in terms of working with, you know, pretty critical design partners to build the right technology products for that movement into Web3.

Walter Jennings: Now, in the last year, we've seen several breaches in Web3, gaming, NFT, and others. How is Fireblocks addressing some of the security issues in Web3?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, so one of the unique things about the firm as it's never lost its focus on being a cybersecurity firm, right? We're not a financial services firm. We're a cybersecurity firm first. And so we've built a whole dedicated product unit unit around, you know, DeFi security products and security products overall, that are built to say, what are the different attack vectors that we're seeing in this space? Now, if you actually look at a lot of the hacks in the space, they're from your typical cybersecurity, you know, attack vectors, phishing, right.

And this idea of basically gaining access into the organisation as a whole, not having the right governance and policy and procedures internally, around different actions that you know, you make along your treasury wallets, that are not novel and complex, and well, they're complex, but they're not novel in terms of what we've seen in other spaces before.

And so I think there's been probably one of the bad things so far is there's been this race towards launching things in the market, without, you know, managing the risk of operating in the market, right. And a lot of the times where we try to say is, you need to think about both, okay, it's not good enough to just launch a product or our project, and get into market and get users but then be insecure, right? You should be thinking about both of those things equally, right. And maybe building that on your own would be difficult.

But if you're able to find a partner like Fireblocks, we're thinking about that part for you. Right? And we're enabling you to do that at scale. And you think about the product and building ecosystems and, and being innovative in that way. Right. And, and that collaboration, we think helps you be more and more successful.

Walter Jennings: Now, Steven, we're coming towards the end of day one at Singapore FinTech Festival. What are your impressions of the events so far?

Stephen Richardson: Yeah, I mean, for me, look, it's huge, right? I mean, I came in 2019, you know, before we moved to Asia, and I thought, wow, this is quite large. And to kind of see this, the scale, again in 2022 is exciting, right. And the energy that is here and exists here, I think it kind of galvanises you heading towards the end of the year and being excited for what 2023 might hold.

So it's been really impressive to see all the booths and all the different partners, we're sitting across from WorldPay FIS, which is a partner of ours here at fire blocks. And it's awesome to just see, you know, so many people gathered in one place thinking about, you know, what the future of financial services might be

Walter Jennings: Now, Steven, a personal question, we ask our guests, a segment we call tracks in the Finoverse. So when you think about the metaverse in the Finoverse, is there a song that you'd want to bring with you? Is there a song that powers your journey or any music that comes to mind then when you think about the opportunities in Web3?

Stephen Richardson: Listen, right now, my favourite song is a song called Jimmy Cooks by Drake. It's phenomenal. And I think every day when I go to work, I listened to that song, you know, once a day, just to really just get a little bit of energy going into the day about, you know, engaging with our clients and seeing all the new and different opportunities and exciting opportunity. So I would definitely take that song with me into the metaverse. I'd be playing it pretty much all the time.

Walter Jennings: I'm very happy to allow Drake to take over now and thank you Steven Richards, Head of Asia Pacific in Fireblocks for joining us on waves in the Finoverse.

Stephen Richardson: Thanks for having me.

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