This year’s Finance Forum was all about digitalization. Blockchain technology and asset tokenization were again at the core of many debates and presentations. 

“Financial Industry Disruption in 2019” – that was the theme of the 5th Finance Forum in Liechtenstein on 27th March. Digitalization and blockchain technology were again a primary focus of the debates, workshops, and presentations.

The event is the most prominent annual gathering of Liechtenstein’s financial industry. Leaders such as Paul Achleitner, Chairman of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank, SIX-CEO Jos Jijsselhof and Prime Minister Adrian Hasler shared their industry outlook.

Everyone agrees: The future of capital markets is digital

Adrian Hasler shared Liechtenstein’s vision with the nearly 600 event participants. “If we continuously keep up with the latest developments, we can recognize potential and seize opportunities,” said Hasler during his opening speech.

Likewise, Mario Frick, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Bank Frick, sees technology and digitalization as a key driver of Liechtenstein’s future growth. During the panel debate, he said it was rather self-evident that blockchain technology had to become part of the bank’s strategy. As Bank Frick wants to provide digital financial services, it’s mandatory to continuously seek out new opportunities and keep up with technological developments.

Prinz Max von und zu Liechtenstein, CEO of LGT Group, pointed out that the size of Liechtenstein’s economy comes with advantages and challenges. While Liechtenstein is not able to compete with its neighbors’ economies of scale, it needs to excel in other areas, which includes strong financial expertise and technological innovation.

Stephan Siegrist, founder and director of the think tank “Wire,” explained that technological innovation will enable financial service providers to know much more about their customers than they currently do. As a result, financial products and services will become more tailored to individual customers’ needs.

Jos Dijsselhof, CEO of Switzerland’s leading stock exchange SIX, explained how the planned digital exchange SDX would change the trading landscape and pointed to synergies with banks and other financial institutions.

Blockchain Act delayed to 2020

Prime Minister Hasler also announced that the parliament would finalize the planned Blockchain Act in autumn 2019 and put it into force in 2020.

Initially, the government had planned to introduce the new legislation in the first half of 2019. But this timeline was optimistic. Thomas Dünser, from the Ministry of Finance, explains that there was enormous positive and detailed feedback to the initial draft. These questions need to be addressed and adequately answered, he says.

The Blockchain Act received positive feedback at the Finance Forum. Florian Batliner-Staber, COO and co-founder of the asset tokenization platform Own (former Chainium), pointed out that the Blockchain Act will allow his company to create fully digital processes for more asset classes.

The current legislation only allows to digitize bearer shares on a blockchain, not registered shares, says Batliner-Staber. That will change with the Blockchain Act, and he believes that’s one of the main advantages of the new legislation.

The overall message at the event was clear: Liechtenstein’s focus on digital technologies is the way to go and the accomplishments achieved over the last years have set the country’s course for the future. Challenges remain, but opportunities are plenty.

 

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