By Amelia Isaacs on Wednesday 27 April 2022
What is web3 and how will it be used in the open banking ecosystem? Three industry experts joined us at the AltFi Festival of Finance to answer the question.
The concept of web3 can be a confusing and elusive one, but Revolut chief revenue officer Alan Chang described it quite simply as “decentralised ownership” and “empowering anyone to control their finances”.
The financial super app has a dedicated team of almost one hundred people specifically focused on crypto and web3, he revealed, showing clearly just how huge web3’s presence is becoming.
The company has made a number of moves within the crypto space over the past 18 months, first revealing plans to introduce Bitcoin withdrawals almost a year ago to the day, as exclusively revealed by AltFi, and now offering more than 60 different cryptocurrencies.
“For us, crypto is just one vertical of the financial services, obviously super-fast growing with many interesting applications being built on with web3. So we obviously would like to participate in that and we have a lot of exciting plans we can’t share yet,” Chang said.
Chang was joined on the AltFi Festival of Finance panel by open banking API provider Nordigen’s CEO and co-founder Roland Mesters, and open banking payments firm Volt’s chief business development officer and co-founder Jordan Lawrence.
Lawrence defined the idea of web3 more broadly than Chang, noting the potential opportunity for international payments.
“From a payment perspective I think it becomes really, really interesting, aside from the decentralised finance,” he said.
Mesters added that, given web3’s nature, there is more room for experimentation, compared to the more typical financial setting.
“Web3 as a concept serves as something of a playground for inspiration,” he said.
“We have literally like a sandbox where people can try out things that otherwise aren’t possible in a standard financial environment.
“On top of that, there’s also real stuff happening. There are real opportunities and real threats and it’s crystallising into something that is becoming its own thing.”
He noted the connection between web3 and Open Banking.
“What Open Banking is, is the ability to have more control over your bank account. So there are similarities there in terms of, web3 is all about control and ownership and Open Banking is all about being able to have more control over your bank account.
“The link between the two is that Open Banking is a fantastic way for people to get started with crypto, get started with web3."
When asked whether web3 will truly be a permanent presence on the fintech scene or if it should be seen as more of a passing phase, however, Mesters quipped at the difficulty of defining the term.
“It’s very hard to explain to your parents,” he said.
There are many layers that still need to be abstracted away in order for web3 to be usable for the general population, he explained.
“The problem with Web3 is it’s still an idea – anything can happen. The problem with Web3 is that it lacks interfaces to make it simple. It’s still complex,” he added.
“There’s still lots of stuff that a traditional retail investor might not be able to comprehend.”
“The very nature of web3 is that it’s decentralised anyway,” Lawrence said.
“Wherever the taxes are lowest, people will go.”
Chang spoke about what he sees as the three main things required for web3 to be properly crystalised.
“It’s regulation, talent and capital,” he said.
“I think there’s plenty of capital with crypto, I don’t think anyone can debate that. On talent, I think there are a lot of smart people coming through from other industries. So the last thing is regulation. I think there isn’t a lot of clear regulation. I think we’re moving in the right direction but it isn’t there.”
He ended with the one piece of advice he would give to those working in fintechs thinking about web3.
“I think it’s the same thing I always say,” Chang said.
“React or die.”
Revolut did not respond for comment at the time of publication.