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Jo Ann Barefoot explores how to create fair and inclusive consumer financial services through innovative ideas for industry and regulators

Fiat Currency Can be Virtual Too: Jonathan Dharmapalan, CEO of eCurrency

Barefoot Innovation Podcast

Fiat Currency Can be Virtual Too: Jonathan Dharmapalan, CEO of eCurrency

Jo Ann Barefoot

Bitcoin began in 2009 -- only eight years ago -- and set forces in motion that are only starting to show their potential power. One was a byproduct -- the creation of the blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, DLT, is now on its way to disrupting activities far beyond payments, from  value chains to contracts. The intentional innovation was establishing a new form of currency -- virtual or digital currency -- that functions as alternative payments system that operates on the internet rather than through banks and the ACH.  The financial system is still in the early stage of grappling with the potential benefits and risks arising from this mold-breaking model (I wrote about some of those issues three years ago in my blogpost on The Benefits of Bitcoin.)

My guest for today’s show brings yet another angle -- a unique one -- to rethinking money. He is Jonathan Dharmapalan, Founder and CEO at eCurrency Mint, Ltd. Jonathan spent 25 years in telecommunications field, including becoming Head of Enst & Young’s Global Telecommunications Center in 2011. His insight, at eCurrency, is that the best way to capture the power of digital currency is to have governments, themselves, issue it.

Jonathan and I met during the annual meeting of AFI, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, in Fiji, and he explained his vision for building a new system based on government-issued e-currency. He argues that this concept can capture the best of both worlds, combining the stability and confidence that comes with well-managed traditional currency, and adding the advantages of virtual money such as speed, ease of use, and infinite divisibility.

I loved this conversation because it exemplifies how innovative thinking in finance, once it gets “released into the wild,” can spark more and more creative thinking, far beyond what the originator innovators had in mind. Often, it leads to solving problems we don’t even realize we have, because, well, we just assume the world is a certain way and we can’t picture anything else.

It reminds me of the quote attributed to Henry Ford -- apparently erroneously -- that if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said, faster horses.

More about eCurrency

Jonathan’s Background:

Jonathan Dharmapalan is Founder and Chief Executive Officer at eCurrency Mint Limited. He became Head of the Global Telecommunications Center at Ernst & Young LLP in May 2011, responsible for leading a team of over 2,000 telecoms specialists across the world. He has had a 25 year career in telecommunications and the related sectors of technology, media and entertainment, and led Ernst & Young's Telecommunications Center in Beijing. He began his career in telecommunications at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Mr. Dharmapalan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University and a Masters of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from The California Institute of Technology.

More for our listeners

Many exciting things are happening.

First, I’m happy to say that I recently became chair of the board of directors at CFSI -- the Center for Responsible Innovation.  If you haven’t signed up yet to come to our Emerge conference in June, be sure to do so!

Also come, that same week, to the ABA’s Regulatory Compliance Conference. The ABA is innovating in its format this year, including by having me record some very special podcasts straight from the conference floor. I’ll also be holding a fireside chat on the main stage with Gene Ludwig of Promontory and Alastair Renee of IBM Watson, on how regtech will change compliance, including through their formation of IBM Financial to bring Watson’s artificial intelligence to regulatory challenges.

And it’s not too early to put Money 2020 U.S. on your agenda for October. I’m going to MC the conference regulatory track, which has some fabulous speakers.

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