On the 14th of July we were fortunate enough to host a showcase on Luxembourg's Blockchain industry, as a part of our International Showcase series of webinars with Luxembourg For Finance and representatives from across the ecosystem. The slides may be downloaded here and we've also transcribed the full talk and Q&A section below. 

Antony Martini, Engagement Manager, LHoFT 

Hello, everyone. Thank you all for being with us today for our fifth and final international industry showcase focusing on the Luxembourg Blockchain Ecosystem. First a little bit about our fantastic speaker's background. We have: 

  • Laurent Marochini, Head of Innovation at Societe Generale Securities Services in Luxembourg. He's also blockchain leader for the group Societe Generale and he's very active within the FinTech ecosystem in Luxembourg and abroad. He's co-chairman of the ALFI working group on Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies and a member of the FinTech and digital Executive Committee. For those who don't know him, he's also a fantastic athlete. 
  • Tom Kettels, Project Lead at Infrachain and Member of the Blockchain expert policy advisory board at the OECD. Tom has 20 years of experience within the ICT sector working mainly on topics related to telecoms and data centers. And he's a senior ICT advisor at Digital Luxembourg. 
  • Tobias Seidl is a FinTech and Investment structuring expert with more than 10 years of experience in the financial industry. As co-founder of SICOS and blockchain-powered investment marketplace Stokr, he focuses on the challenges SMEs face when seeking funding in Europe and on the limited investment possibilities for retail investors.

On the moderator side, we have our co-host and my colleague Emilie Allaert, Head of Operations at the LHoFT. Emily uses her extensive experience in the banking and finance industry to tackle some of the industry challenges with specific projects and helps review the business model of the financial industry in Luxembourg promoting innovation and innovative solutions. She's particularly active in the digital assets and blockchain area. She is co-chairman of the ALFI working group on blockchain and digital assets. 

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

Hello, everybody. I'm quite happy to welcome you to this webinar and present you the blockchain ecosystem. So, as you know the LHoFT is a public-private partnership. We are here to help FinTech to enter the market and to help them grow within Luxembourg, or entering the market via Luxembourg to then grow to Europe. So we have a lot of partners: to name a few BCEE, Societe Generale, State Street, Foyer, Clearstream and some associate partners such as Allen & Overy, Schiltz & Schiltz or Loyens. We are also supported by the Government of Luxembourg, by Luxembourg For Finance who is helping us to promote FinTech around the world and the Chamber of Commerce of Luxembourg. We are also incubating some of the FinTech. We have some space, which is either closed offices or open offices. And what makes the LHoFT unique is the collaboration between all the FinTech and also some of the blockchain companies because we are all about community and making the right contacts with the right people.

Let's go through the FinTech map. Luxembourg is quite active either in Payments, Big Data, Insurtech, Regtech, Lending, but we are also building our way to Blockchain. This is the latest map we did in 2019. You can see we're quite active in various areas, such as financial inclusion research, registry certification, payments, wallet, business services, infrastructure, and tokenization. We have pretty much all of the blockchain industry represented here. To name a few we currently have Stampify, we have Stokr, we have Tokeny. I don't know if you've heard that they are on the way to become the first Luxembourg unicorn and we're quite happy to have them here. bitFlyer started at the LHoFT and is now as grown-up as possible, flying by his wings. And we have also some older blockchain companies not dedicated to FinTech such as Artéïa, Hyro, or Anote Music. We also have a dedicated task force at the LHoFT, which is presided by Laurent, who has behind him a lot of members helping him in his mission. Laurent, maybe you want to give a few words on this dedicated task force. 

Laurent Marochini, Societe Generale Securities Services Luxembourg 

We built at the beginning of the year a task force dedicated to connect all the different actors in the blockchain industry to fix issues, tackle challenges, and first of all dedicated to the collaboration. So as you just said before that you have the support of Luxembourg, let's make it happen. So if you would like to make it happen, we need to push the industry, to be an actor of the change. We have a task force dedicated to the blockchain with seven members and one of the key challenges is also to issue a recommendation to the Board of the LHoFT. One of the members of the Board is the Ministry of Finance, and so we issue interesting recommendations.

The first recommendation is the legal part where we end to issue a guideline. We already have made a gap analysis in Europe about the different regulations. So as you may have seen France, Germany, Russia, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland have issued attractive regulation I would say. So, we have made a gap analysis to see how we can better position Luxembourg in this field.

The education aspect is also very important, and we will discuss the different recommendations with Tom from Infrachain afterward. We are working in training, in collaborative research, to bring a network for testing, and work on talent acquisition because we have no choice to have talent in the blockchain space. So we are working a lot on education and mentoring. I'm working for a bank so I know exactly how it works. But when you are talking about crypto assets and blockchain, we need also to accompany the different startups. We know that it's not always easy to open an account with a bank for example. And we work to find different recommendations and help the different startups to move in the ecosystem as a whole.

And the last one is the process and mentoring. And we are in the process of creating a kind of group to mentor the different startups and to ensure that we have the best process to move forward in this space, especially with the regulator. So we are working to have a kind of smooth process and monitoring process. It's not a sandbox, but it's a kind of monitoring process, which could be seminars to sandboxes sometimes. 

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT 

Thanks Laurent. If we go now to “Why Luxembourg?” It’s a leading financial center. I won't go through all the numbers, but you have to know that Luxembourg was the first European country with their licensed crypto exchange. And quite importantly, it's the second largest fund center in the world. So this is something that you have to put on the map and really consider when you want to do business in Luxembourg. As I said, it's quite active in terms of blockchain as well, Not only Fintech. 

The Luxembourg financial regulator was one of the first to state in 2014. You can do a lot of your business in English, French or German. We also have two crypto exchanges already licensed here in Luxembourg: bitFyler and Bitstamp. There was also a law on blockchain in circulation of tokens as dematerialized securities, which was done as a Valentine's gift by our Finance Minister last year (link). And we have a lot of partnerships with key FinTech hubs around the world. You can see on the right that they are quite big names in terms of blockchain here, there are a lot of companies and it's growing every day.

We have here the FinTech ecosystem value chain. We receive support from the public, private incubators, and accelerators. We also have initiatives at the industry level such as ALFI with the digital and blockchain group. We have financing via the public and private sectors so you can find some specific schemes to develop your companies and your projects. So don't hesitate to have a look or ask for questions. And we are also quite active in R&D. Thanks to Alex and the team at the LHoFT, we are developing a lot of international partnerships worldwide so you can benefit from it wherever you want and wherever your business might bring you.

The LHoFT is all about community. The initiatives and projects help us to build this community which has great ideas, like hundreds per day. So don't hesitate to come with even more ideas and you can ask for help and we'll make it happen. Thank you. So that's it on my side and I leave the mic to our next speaker who is Tom.

Tom Kettels, Infrachain 

Thank you for having me today in the webinar. I'm going to briefly present what infrachain is. We are a non-profit blockchain organization driven by the private sector with public sector support. We have been created three years ago under the initiative of Digital Luxembourg, which is the government's initiative to digitalize Luxembourg’s economy and society. Our members come from various backgrounds, from various horizons so it's a very mixed community. We have blockchain startups, we have IT solutions and system providers, telcos, law firms, consultants, research institutions, and so on. It's a wide representation of the blockchain ecosystem in general.

We're not limited to Luxembourg, although we are based in Luxembourg. So we have private membership, the latest one being from Sweden so we are open to companies from all over the place. Now the main aim at the beginning of Infrachain was really to provide an environment for enterprise blockchain applications to develop. And here I come to the point that you see this community-driven governance. So at the beginning, there was one request actually from companies wanting to have a private blockchain, but with some of the benefits of a public blockchain. How do you do that? Basically, how do you do that bridge between a strong centralization, which is the case in private blockchains, to decentralization in public blockchain? That's where Infrachain comes in. We provide community-driven governments meaning that we provide governance for private blockchain through the infrachain community, linking this decentralized element to the government.

For instance, we found last year for the Ministry for Digitalization here in Luxembourg governance for its public sector, blockchain and we are also very active in the European project which is called “Token” and which I will also explain a bit more later. As part of this process, we are currently developing quality labels for nodes and operators. And last but not least also our actions of course we are a community so we have a strong focus also on awareness and dissemination of information of blockchain and specifically on operational blockchain use cases. Now, at Infrachain we are also active on an operational level. So, we have a strong support of the EU blockchain initiatives and I picked up to two here: 

  • One is the EBSI, the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure, and as Antony has mentioned in his fantastic introduction, I am a member of the FCA policy advisory group, and on the technical advisory group. And actually, Infrachain will later this month also be put into operation the first nodes before managed by Infrachain and this on behalf of the Ministry for digitalization. 
  • The other project, I had already briefly mentioned it, is the “Token” project. So, “Token” stands for transforming public services with DLT. So, this is a project which is funded by Horizon 2020, where a consortium of 11 institutions, companies or associations like ourselves and go along with tokens actually to develop an experimental ecosystem to enable the adoption of DLT’s and also to prove the value of DLT’s in the public sector and we do it through replaceable use cases. We want these use cases, not only to exist within the token project, but also later to be applied by other entities. If you're interested in that, I put the URL in the slide. 

Infrachain is also active on the more international level, not only at the EU level. We are actively involved in the work of international organizations:

Infrachain is a member of INATBA, the International Association for Trusted Blockchain applications. INATBA is a global forum for developers and users of DLT to interact with regulators and policymakers and bring blockchain technology to the next stage. All Infrachain members enjoy access to the work of INATBA. As of January this year, Infrachain joined all the INATBA working groups to contribute its knowledge and experience in blockchain-related fields like governance, privacy, identity, finance, interoperability, education, mobility,… The Infrachain members who represent our association in these working groups dedicate their precious time and know-how to drive the blockchain agenda on a European and international level.

Infrachain is also a selected member of the OECD Blockchain Expert Policy Advisory Board. The task of this group is to provide advice to the OECD on its work on blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies and to contribute to the development of high-level blockchain policy principles. 

And now a brief look also on projects that we've started, looking a bit into the future, meaning the way it becomes a blockchain hub of excellence and this is a way that we will not go alone. You see here that we are implicated in projects with different partners, one of the partners, and a very close partner, being the LHoFT itself. And then we have also two research institutions, one being the LIST (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology) and also the SnT (the Interdisciplinary Center for security, reliability, and trust) which is the center of the University of Luxembourg. And last but not least, also in this project, there is another Blockchain Association called Let'sBlock. So the pipe partners that have been included in the Luxembourg government's coalition agreement, which intends to develop more public-private initiatives. We want to push blockchain, basically take it further than what Infrachain does today. So we have developed together four core objectives. 

  • Education and Skills enhancements: It's the Education and Skills enhancements, which is a very important pillar and which goes beyond simply technical skills but it's also managerial skills to understand what the potential of blockchain is, specifically what is the disruptive potential of Blockchain for specific ecosystems. So I think the finance sector has already understood that very well, but in a lot of other parts of the economy that is not necessarily the case. 
  • Collaborative R&D: The collaborative R&D parts we do that together with our two partners from research, so LIST and SnT, is definitely to cover different aspects in blockchain, which we do not have solutions today. Although blockchain has more than 10 years, a lot of topics need closer attention, more research, and so that is what we do with our research partners.
  • POC / MVP Testing: Also assisting companies and ecosystems to develop POCs and MVPs. So really, that they can get immediate access to a whole ecosystem and also get access to the resources that they may not get otherwise. 
  • Talent Acquisition: And I say, access to the ecosystem that is an important part of our initiative. It's the collaboration and the spirit of working together which is at the core, and which also actually should attract the talent. 

So just speak a bit more on this aspect of collaboration. So this is really what you want to bring to the different entities that we want to work with, and really target ecosystems rather than individual companies. So we expect a lot of benefits for the different partners that we are working with, and it's something that we are launching right now. So it's still a bit of work in construction. So this is only a sneak peek at what will come up but you can get more information on the infrachain website. Before I close, I mentioned at the beginning that's one of our actions is the dissemination and information awareness. So I wanted to briefly draw your attention to 2 events

One is the Infrachain Challenge: it is a blockchain hackathon. We're doing this together this year with the Ministry for digitalization focused on political blockchain. There are still few places left for teams. So if you're interested to register the total rewards is more than 10,000 euros to win, so it's quite an incentive. 

And then we have the Infrachain summit on the 10th of November where we basically showcase operational use cases and also discuss governance. So the idea here is again experience sharing, see what worked, what did not work in different cases, and how blockchain can be best applied. 

Thank you and look forward to your questions later.

Tobias Seidl, Co-founder and Strategy Lead at Stokr 

Thank you very much. So I am Tobias, the co-founder of Stokr and I'm in charge of our beautiful investment platform where we enable innovative companies, other issuers and investment funds, or just startups to issue securities through the use of blockchain technology. Right now we use Ethereum and we are very proud to have integrated Liquid, which is a sidechain of Bitcoin. We enable retail investors to invest in startups and to alternative investments.

I met my co-founder in Munich at a blockchain conference, where we were discussing ICOs and tokens and it was like in the beginning of craziness of ICOs in pre- utility token issuance, and we said “that's actually a great way of financing companies, but something is missing”. It's a financial component, which is missing - and the trustworthiness. So we said okay, let's actually use this relationship, which is great and you can create between the investor and the venture but give it a financial component and that's why we decided okay let's create a security token. We have been working hard since to make it happen from a regulatory and technology perspective, and we have launched the first project at the beginning of this year which you can find on our website stokr.io. 

To really see what we are doing I give you a nice peek into our technology today where this relationship actually between the two Investors and the venture will be explained. So, basically in the next few minutes, you will see how on our platform you can create an account to do KYC AML checks and how all is then connected to blockchain in order for any investor to create a blind securities account without actually the need of a bank or any intermediary and we really love the dis-intermediation, the concept and the trustless system of blockchain architecture. And we want to enable everybody to hold his own securities account and also to manage it. On the other side, we also want to enable every issuer to create its own securities without actually the need of many intermediaries. 

So, I will dive into this with a video demonstrating the investor's journey where you create your own securities account on Stokr. The first step is an integrated state of art ticket to KYC onboarding process, which is crucial for issuing securities and tokens not only for being able to ensure that the people have a clean background in terms of AML and KYC; but also like for the issuers to know what time and who is actually holding their own securities to be able to manage the securities 24 hours seven days a week. 

The next step is the KYC process. The user scans their ID, then there will be a face verification, comparing like the pictures in the background, the top information is read out of the passport, and then in the background, everything is checked against, for instance, sanctions lists. So it's fully automated and the onboarding is done very quickly. The next step is simply to connect your own blockchain address. Here in the example, we have the register Ethereum button where you can connect with MetaMask Wallet or Ledger. You simply connect your Ethereum address there, you can name it and that's it and what happens than is actually that this is your home address that is connected with the data which are securities then saved on a server in Luxembourg. The compliance officer sees a risk matrix which can read all the documentation and they can still manually reject and approve the user. 

Now we get into the connection between this data, which is verified, and KYC verified, and the blockchain addresses are like the main connector actually which makes security tokens issue able and manageable. So we have two parameters. Here's one and the KYC document status approved. And below you see like the blockchain address, where you receive your securities which are issued by the issuers, by the ventures, and alike. And the last thing is here, the issuer will then be able to manage securities in a very attractive way they can see how many tokens are issued, where investors come from, and they receive all the data about the investors.

And why are we in Luxembourg? It’s actually because of the flexible company law. And we really believe in that, and in Luxembourg as an issuer you are able to manage your own securities register. That's actually what we are doing with tokenization and the blockchain. So, basically, here you can see like all the investors, the token holders, and you can derive all the information out of this, and then some of these investors transfer to another registered investors who invest in AML KYC process, they see like the address that will be automatically updated, which is very convenient. And when all this comes together, this is actually what it means as a securities tokens issuance process. 

We also cooperate with Telindus who provide us with a KYC solution for our project. So that's basically like an insight in what we are doing and as we are in Luxembourg, we really appreciate the access to the regulator, which was also given via the LHoFT and we appreciate the corporate environment so basically if the corporate law is really allowing the connection between the issuer and the investor and at the end, it is like a cool community. I just want to tell you when you set up something in Luxembourg and you come to the LHoFT we definitely give you favorable pricing to issue your own securities on Stokr. So don't hesitate to contact me under tobias@stokr.io or any of our founders or employees and then raise your ICO funding via Stokr and issue your security tokens there. That's basically it from my side and I'm really looking forward to any questions you may have.

Questions & Answers: 

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

Thanks, Tobias. I think we are live, opening the floor to questions. I've read some questions on the chat. So Alex has a question for you Tobias: “Why did you decide to launch a FinTech in Luxembourg and not in Germany?”

Tobias Seidl, Stokr

The answer is quite simple. It’s really because of the ease of doing business in Luxembourg, where you can talk directly to the regulator. You don't have this formalistic processes you go through in other countries like Germany, as you mentioned. It's a little bit more formalistic. There are so many different lobby groups involved, so it's not so easy to establish your business as it is in Luxembourg. And the other thing I think is the flexible corporate law that Laurent mentioned in the beginning. You can do a lot of stuff which is not possible in other countries.

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

Thank you, and I think there are more questions for you to be asked. I'll summarize them:

  • Against which sanction list do you screen at the account opening? 
  • Do you use external providers? 
  • Would you or could you share the client's data with other blockchain?

Tobias Seidl, Stokr

So basically to answer the last question first, so the data of the investors is not stored on a blockchain, it's just connected actually with the data security safe and secure server. The data of the investors is creamed against a series of criteria, we have implemented standard checks, so it's pattern sanctions, lists, and so forth. Additionally, there is also an internet screening process. So this is all done like that. So basically no storage of investor data, on the blockchain, it's just like the connection which enables us to see the transactions of the different investors for the issuer, the type of the transaction, the amount the people hold off your securities and the date timestamp.

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

Still for you Tobias: “Did you present your solution to the CSSF? And if so what was their reaction?”

Tobias Seidl, Stokr

They love it because of this transparency component. Obviously, regulators are there to regulate and to ask them of critical importance and be in constant contact with the CSSF. And, obviously, it's a challenge for everybody, every regulator I think to see these kinds of security token offerings coming, especially when you disintermediate so many players in the process in between which are regulated by regulators. And it's not a secret who our paying customers are. 

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

One more question for Laurent. What does it take for a blockchain startup to work with Société Générale? What are the main conditions? And is it actually possible?

Laurent Marochini, Societe Generale Securities Services Luxembourg 

Yes, of course, it's possible. I would say just one condition, and a basic one: you need to have a unique selling proposition that matches with the challenge of the bank or its business model. It could be the first condition, and then let’s make it happen. 

Wim 

Yes. Tobias, the question is for you. Who is holding the keys? How does the custody process for the keys work at Stokr?

Tobias Seidl, Stokr 

So, basically, the keys are held by the investors themselves. So, we don't provide any custody solution for the investors. So, basically what we are only providing is like the connection between the investor and the issuer. What we have implemented, however, is like a recovery process for the securities in case you as an investor, you lose your private key because in the editing at all times who is holding their token So, the recovery process is quite simple to implement.

Arnab 

What is the platform that Luxembourg is involved in Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)? Do you see any developments from Luxembourg on that point? This question is both for Emilie and Laurent. 

Laurent Marochini, Societe Generale Securities Services Luxembourg 

I can take it, Emilie. I'm not aware of this topic except that the Central Bank has done something with a startup called Scorechain. Scorechain is Luxembourgish and French, but it has been done during a French hackathon. So I know that they are looking into this topic. But yes, definitely. This is something that we need to look into in the future because we have seen a lot of Central Bank Digital Currency projects around the world and we know that 80% of the Central Bank have started projects, so yes we need to look into this project.

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

So we have Bianca who has a question. She is asking about the right talent and how is it easier or not to find these talents in Luxembourg?

Tom Kettels, Infrachain

I can try to give you an answer. I think though it's a very general answer, because I think as there is difficulty to find blockchain experts, the same difficulty applies to finding IT specialists in general. There is a shortage in Luxembourg, there is a shortage in Europe. And if you go to Silicon Valley, they will tell you the same thing. What we see is that at an enterprise level, blockchain is still an emerging topic. So we see there is an increasing supply of specialists. We have a very good ecosystem here and mostly at the LhoFT which has some very interesting projects such as the Blockchain Lab project that we have in common with the LHoFT. So this ecosystem is a very interesting ground to do projects.

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

I think the Blockchain Lab is also designed for that i.e. to help some professionals to gain some knowledge in the blockchain area, so that would potentially give open interest and some new areas for people. And we have another question for you Tom. Does your platform support the tokenization of physical assets like artwork, luxury goods, or any type of physical asset?

Tom Kettels, Infrachain

Yes, actually this is a question which is a layer above what we do so. We are only active on the infrastructure layer so we do not touch what is happening actually at the blockchain layer. We are not at all involved in what is being done so, it's really about the infrastructure. 

Laurent Marochini, Societe Generale Securities Services Luxembourg 

But we have already tokenized some Real Estate in Luxembourg. So I would say yes.

Tom Kettels, Infrachain

Yes, but it was not Infrachain that did that. 

Dennis  

I just have a simple question as I understand that you don't put the investor information into the blockchain. I was just curious to know if you would consider that from the AML KYC process to streamline that.

Tobias Seidl, Stokr 

Actually, we don't see a real benefit to put data directly into the blockchain. And I think when we have a KYC whitelisting solution as Stokr provides where you connect these dots which are securely saved and also modular then you have all the benefits actually. So of course it's creating an ID which is also shareable with other exchanges and other providers in this base but as such like putting data directly into the blockchain, which is immutable, we don't see a direct benefit.

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

Okay, well then we'll close the question. So I’ll just ask one final question to any three of you: 

“Do you believe Luxembourg is a good place to do the blockchain? And if so, why? And just give one recommendation to those having an interest in blockchain or want to create a blockchain project?”

Tom Kettels, Infrachain

Of course, it's a rhetorical question. The answer is yes. And the reason why is that I mentioned the ecosystem, I mentioned collaboration. In Luxembourg, it's very easy to get people together, to get different people from different sectors also working together. We do it on a regular basis. We also have different platforms to do that. Besides that, we have a government which is open to innovation, you mentioned the blockchain law introduced last year. And also I think Luxembourg is often seen as a test lab because it's a very international country, a very open country. 

Laurent Marochini, Societe Generale Securities Services Luxembourg 

I would say yes, of course. But anyway, we should move forward because the “yes” of today will not be the “yes” of tomorrow. A lot of countries are moving forward like Switzerland, Germany, Lichtenstein, and France. This is why we did our gap analysis. So I would say yes. First connectivity, it's quite easy to open the door in Luxembourg to move forward. But you need to think big in Luxembourg because it's a small country in terms of size. And definitely in terms of unique selling propositions you need to think about Europe and global scale.

Tobias Seidl, Stokr

Yeah, absolutely. I agree with everybody, it is a great country to do blockchain projects. You have a passionate Finance Minister, you have very knowledgeable people like Emilie, and you Laurent supporting the ecosystem and obviously the same with Tom and Infracahin. There are a lot of cool projects out there and we can also benefit from each other but obviously yes we also need to go forward and keep pushing the regulator to make further progress.

Emilie Allaert, LHoFT

Thank you for all these recommendations. So now you know what to do and to all the participants in this webinar, if you have a blockchain project, just come to see one of us and we'll be more than happy to help make your project happen. Thank you to all the speakers for your time and insights on the topic. Thanks to all the participants and their questions. And I leave the floor to Antony to close up this webinar.

Antony Martini, LHoFT Foundation 

Thank you very much for being with us today for our last and fifth international showcase.

 

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