For an industry that has been rocked by fraud, hounded by regulators, and dismissed by the largest players in the economy, the hype around blockchain technology remained afloat at Messari’s Mainnet conference in New York City this week.
With Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy in attendance to weigh in on the trends, CFO was there to learn what aspects of the technology are still relevant to finance leaders.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI are top of mind these days. But what separates AI from the blockchain space right now is largely where both industries are in terms of implementation into the mainstream technological ecosystem. Blockchain, an industry that once had to sell its legitimacy in a swamp of Stoner Cat NFTs and FTX tokens, now seems to be focused on internal development. Despite its efforts to grow use cases, its largest problem is its inability to market products to those outside of the industry.
The blockchain industry still faces a big, overarching issue — complexity. Rather than reinventing the wheel of finance, blockchain developers seem to be focused on building the infrastructure necessary for their technology to be used by industries and investors.
This is a step forward, but the issues are clear. Blockchain’s complexity, especially in its branding and marketing, makes it very difficult to understand exactly what potential products do and what makes them unique. The industry’s biggest hurdle seems to no longer be selling its legitimacy to clients and investors but making its products and solutions easy to understand for business leaders like CFOs.
If the jargon grows at the same pace of innovation, understanding from the outside-in will be extremely difficult, making products — no matter how innovative or beneficial— challenging to sell. The need for simplification in the industry’s marketing, branding, advertising, and product demonstrations was not only noticeable but discussed by many speakers during their sessions.
Blockchain’s Finance Potential
Largely due to the West’s hesitancy to allow blockchain and crypto companies to have full reign in offerings within their economies, the scale of blockchain’s impact on the global financial infrastructure has been overlooked. Many event attendees who were fresh off trips to an event in Singapore — a world leader in blockchain incorporation — came from different parts of the world where blockchain technology has significantly impacted how they do business.
2023 has been an impactful year for blockchain’s development in the U.S. And with Deloitte, EY, Marcum, and other firms sending young accountants to Mainnet, the largest players are preparing their freshest talent on how to manage and account for decentralized and tokenized assets at a large scale.
Much like the promises of AI, crypto can have monumental impacts on the processes of cross-border payments, the recording and tracking of business assets, tax and accounting management, and organizational modernization around cybersecurity.
An Executive’s Transition From Finance to Blockchain
“I am here to make connections and try to learn what I can about the industry,” said Alexa Karpova, chief marketing officer of crypto mining platform Lumerin, whose product launched at this year's Mainnet after a year in the making. After starting her career as an anaylst at Citi, she took what some would argue to be a risky career move and entered into the blockchain space.
When asked how she gained the necessary knowledge and successfully transitioned to an executive at a blockchain company, Karpova credited her success to her work ethic and willingness to outwork her competition.
“I have always been a hustler, I just did whatever I could do to learn,” she said. “By talking to people, going to events, and doing whatever it takes, I learned a lot about this space since I started here.”
Like any career move, the fear of losing job security can be a major factor in determining whether an employee takes on a new role in a new industry. For Karpova, this wasn’t a factor. After lining up job offers from large banks by her sophomore year at Baruch College in Manhattan, her college experience played a large part in building the high risk-tolerance she has with career choices.
“I am a (City University of New York) CUNY grad, and so that taught me everything I need to know about hard work and getting things done,” she said. “I am not worried about job security because of the industry’s [volatility]. “There will always be a job for hard workers and hustlers like me.”