Blythe Masters may at first blush seem an unlikely evangelist for the distributed ledger technology known as blockchain. A 1991 graduate of the University of Cambridge with a BA in economics, the U.K. native held a variety of management roles across JPMorgan Chase & Co.s global capital markets businesses, including credit derivatives, asset-backed securities and commodities. I grew up deep in the inner workings of the financial services industry, says Masters, 47, CEO of New Yorkbased blockchain start-up Digital Asset Holdings. I couldnt do what Im doing now if it hadnt been for the almost 30 years I spent at JPMorgan. Masters became friends with Digital Asset co-founder Sunil Hirani when JPMorgan invested in his credit default swap brokerage, Creditex Group, in the late 90s. She joined Hirani and his co-founder, Don Wilson (of Chicagos DRW Trading Group), on the Digital Asset board in December 2014 and became CEO in March 2015. In blockchain I saw a technology that had the potential to mutualize infrastructure in a way that has not been practically possible to do before, Masters explains. Noting that blockchain had been best known for powering the controversial cryptocurrency Bitcoin, she says: People started to assume that the tenets of the Bitcoin movement anonymity, open to everyone, no central administrator were inviolate features of the technology. But it turns out that you can change the assumptions. Digital Asset is building encrypted, distributed, straight-through processing tools that will allow financial services companies to reduce costs, increase capital efficiency and strengthen cybersecurity. The 70-person company, which has offices in Budapest, London, San Francisco, Sydney, Tel Aviv and Zurich, intends to generate revenue through software licenses and contracts. It currently is working with ASX which in June invested $7 million to raise its stake in Digital Asset to 8.5 percent to develop a distributed-ledger-based posttrade infrastructure for the Australian cash equities market, and with Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (see Michael Bodson, No. 14) on a new clearing and settlement system for U.S. Treasury repurchase agreements. A lot of people say blockchain equals the avenue by which the natural intermediaries will be put out of business because you dont need them anymore, Masters says. We have a very different view. We believe that blockchain will enable financial intermediaries to do a better job of providing the services they provide.
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