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Ledger readers’ 2020 predictions for fintech and cryptocurrency

February 5, 2020, 2:17 PM UTC

This is the web version of The Ledger, Fortune’s weekly newsletter covering financial technology and cryptocurrency. Sign up here to receive future editions.

At long last!

Back in December, we asked for your 2020 predictions. And now we’re ready to share some of our favorites.

Yes, we’re already 1/12th of the way through 2020 (give or take). Mea culpa. We’ve been upgrading pretty much everything about The Ledger (and all of Fortune’s newsletters), and this project got slightly delayed in the process.

One note: we got a lot of submissions from Ledger readers who are also fintech industry leaders. We’re very flattered, and we imagine they know as much as anyone about the way the wind is blowing. But it does mean that some of these (lightly edited) predictions might benefit the people promoting them.

Which, for what it’s worth, is why you need cynical, skeptical journalists like us: to check the hype and ride herd on the hot air. But just for today, we’re letting the lunatics run the asylum.

So let the prognostication begin!

David Z. Morris

@davidzmorris

david.morris@fortune.com

We’re seeing a powerful trend away from pure-play fintech and towards fintech becoming an embedded functionality in all sorts of technology companies. You can see early signs of this in merchant payments, where that functionality is more and more integrated into business software companies. This is why we’re seeing companies of all types launch banking products, for instance Uber for its drivers, as a way of capturing meaningfully more revenue from their existing base.

Matt Harris, Bain Capital Ventures

With trust breaches happening more often than ever before, 2020 will be the year that blockchain accelerates—helping companies close the trust gap and earn back confidence from customers and partners.

– Adam Caplan, SVP for Emerging Technology, Salesforce

As regulators continue to struggle to provide clear guidance to crypto- and blockchain-based industries, collaboration will continue to occur among companies seeking to self-regulate … Industry participants will continue to push for consistent terminology, as in the Token Taxonomy Act.

– Katherine Johnson, VP Compliance and HR, General Counsel, Storj Labs

Cryptocurrencies are mature enough for interoperability to work … Projects like Cosmos or Polkadot, the fact that we might see more blockchains with sharding, and Layer 2 solutions like Lightning, increase the reach of all the applications built on the top of a blockchain.

– Jean Yves Z., PhD candidate

SEC enforcement on scammy Initial Coin Offerings from 2017/2018 will continue in 2020, causing further chilling on altcoin trading and increased compliance with existing securities laws. The result: legitimate securities tokens will be a good way to raise capital for unique assets as the regulatory landscape catches up with the technology, and a more liquid market for security tokens results.

– Jonathan Johnson, President of Medici Ventures and CEO of Overstock.com

The industry will experience further consolidationin crypto, fintech and even traditional banking. We saw many crypto companies shutter or get acquired this year, proving assets with no real use case won’t survive. Financial institutions will have a similar experience in 2020, scooping up or leaning on fintech and blockchain to modernize their offerings and avoid falling behind in the race for financial innovation.

– Marcus Treacher, SVP for customer service, Ripple

Halo, the Electric Coin Company’s latest zero-knowledge proof breakthrough, will have dramatic ripples through the blockchain space and cryptography in general.

– JT Olio, VP of Engineering, Storj Labs

DeFi [decentralized finance] becomes real, with a first consumer-facing financial product (banking, lending) becoming available. $1B USD of assets will be locked up in decentralized finance products. And consumer demand for privacy will hit a tipping point, driving the adoption of decentralized products and services.

– Hadley Stern, Chief Operating Officer, Bloq

Blockchain technology will no longer be relegated to just cryptocurrency. We’ve seen initial interest in blockchain from mature, multinational corporations, but in 2020, we’ll see these firms and more make a substantial and concerted push into blockchain by exploring use cases for stablecoins.

– Charles Cascarilla, CEO and Co-Founder of Paxos

In 2020, [Facebook’s] Libra will launch in test mode but will be restricted from use in most global markets.

– Alex Mashinsky, CEO, Celsius Network

DECENTRALIZED NEWS

This edition of The Ledger was curated by David Z. Morris. Contact him at david.morris@fortune.com.

Credits

Goldman Sachs is in talks with Amazon to offer small business loans ... European legacy payments provider Worldline buys competitor Ingenico for $8.6 billion, as fintechs force consolidation ... The BBC's Missing Crypto Queen podcast was the subject of a TV rights bidding war ... researchers propose turning crypto-mining hashpower into artificial intelligence ... Binance U.S. will let users start 'staking' some cryptocurrencies ...

Debits

Reginald Fowler, the alleged shadow banker to cryptocurrency services, lost his shot at a plea deal in New York ... The U.K. has been hit by a wave of high-pressure loan scams ... a crypto conference falls apart over distrust of the organizer, inviting Fyre Festival comparisons ... Bitspark, a network selling cryptocurrency for cash, is shutting down ... the contrarian finance blog Zero Hedge, whose basic thesis is that society is doomed, has been banned from Twitter.

BRAINSTORM A.I. 2020

If you’re interested to learn how some of the biggest, most influential companies are strategizing about artificial intelligence, come to Fortune’s Brainstorm A.I. conference in Boston on April 27-28, 2020. A.I. is a game-changing technology that promises to revolutionize business, but it can be confusing and mysterious to executives. The savviest leaders know how to cut through the deluge of A.I. buzzwords and reap the technology’s benefits.

Attendees of this invite-only confab can take part in cutting-edge conversations with top corporate execs, leading A.I. thinkers, and power players. Among them: United States Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios; Accenture CEO Julie Sweet; Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford; Siemens U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton; Royal Philips NV CEO Frans van Houten; Landing AI founder and CEO Andrew Ng; Robust.AI founder and CEO Gary Marcus; and top machine learning experts from Bank of America, Dow, Verizon, Slack, Zoom, Pinterest, Lyft, and MIT. You can request an invitation here.

FOMO NO MO'

He who has bigger shoes is going to take them off and beat your goddamn head in.

Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga opining on competition with tech companies and fintechs in an extremely candid interview with FT. (And no, it's not quite clear exactly what he means here.) Banga lambasted political trends towards protectionism, which could damage Mastercard by putting up walls around national payment systems. He also seems to have a dim view of the basic, data-heavy model of fintechs in general, predicting a public backlash in favor of privacy. But he reserved his strongest language for Facebook's Libra. Among other statements, he said that members of the Libra Association would not commit to complying with national anti-money laundering regulations, and that he was suspicious of Libra's opaque business model: "When you don’t understand how money gets made, it gets made in ways you don’t like."

BUBBLE-O-METER

Not a number this week, but a graph, from Galaxy Digital chief Mike Novogratz. $TSLA is seeing investor behavior very familiar to bitcoin watchers—FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. Following two quarters of Street-beating performance, investors have driven the stock up nearly 100% in just a month.

Of course, bitcoin's massive FOMO rally was followed by a serious crash. The two assets are fundamentally quite different, so while we've seen this movie before, it's too soon to say Tesla's version will end the same way.

THE LEDGER'S LATEST

Bitcoin is too slow. Is Lightning Labs poised to fix that? - Jeff John Roberts

Paypal's Max Levchin wants to fix the credit card business - Alan Murray and David Meyer

Deutsche Bank's crisis reveals the true cost of negative interest rates - Bernhard Warner

Artificial intelligence is learning to write ads. What could go wrong? - David Z. Morris

Coronavirus prompts Macau, the world's gambling capital, to close its casinos - Eamon Barrett

As the yield curve slips towards inversion, recession warning lights blink again - Erik Sherman

Amid losses and layoffs, Deutsche Bank stages an unlikely comeback - Geoffrey Smith

Wawa hacker is selling 30 million credit cards on the darkweb - Jeff John Roberts

 

MEMES AND MUMBLES

bitmex ceo arthur hayes tweets about xrpArthur Hayes, the freewheeling (to put it mildly) CEO of offshore crypto exchange BitMEX, with a very strange and revealing announcement.

Usually, a new trading pair for a crypto asset appearing on a reputable exchange is a bullish sign for the asset. But according to crypto VC Nic Carter, a BitMEX perpetual swap introduces something new—the ability to short an asset. There's a strong expectation that downward pressure on XRP will damage the price in coming days. The swap went live this morning.