I was invited by Sheraz Ahmed, host of the Crypto Valley Association podcast, to discuss how PwC is getting more involved in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and what the road ahead looks like. Listen to the podcast on spotify or read my summary below.
Hubert’s road into the crypto world
Hubert got in touch with Bitcoin in 2012 when he was studying on the Information Security Masters programme at ETH Zurich. In parallel to writing his master thesis, a colleague was investigating Bitcoin double spending and other network characteristics, which caught his attention. Out of curiosity, Hubert bought Bitcoin at USD 5 apiece. Unfortunately for him, it was only for educational purposes on behalf of ETH Zurich! But, this moment triggered his interest, so he got more involved in researching information propagation in the Bitcoin network.
When the DAO hack happened on Ethereum, a research group at ETH led by Prof. Martin Vechev started to develop Securify, the first scanner that could identify vulnerabilities in smart contracts. When the initial version was released and attracted more and more attention, they received requests if they could do smart contract audits. Hubert got involved into the project and co-founded ChainSecurity. The company became an ETH spin-off and quickly a well-established name in the Ethereum space. When the ChainSecurity team raised concerns about the upcoming Istanbul hard-fork, which finally resulted in a delay and changed update, the company even managed to get into non-crypto newspapers. At the beginning of 2020, the ChainSecurity team joined forces with PwC to expand their service on both sides.
The Smart Contract Assurance team expanded PwC’s legal tech, financial audit and other blockchain-related advisory services with deep-tech code reviews. The goal is to help projects be more secure and, as a result, to ultimately built trust in the technology. Failing, insecure or scammy projects hurt the whole ecosystem, which is why third-party control is critical. The technological advancements in DLT, the interesting challenges and the potential are the driving factors that keep Hubert and the team interested in DLT.
More and more well-established companies are exploring the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, which shows that these technologies are more than just hype and are gaining traction in the “traditional economy”. PwC is involved in DLT from different angles: (1) They are the financial auditors who have to deal with an increasing number of companies that have cryptocurrencies on their balance sheets. (2) To do the accounting correctly and make sure that the funds don’t violate laws and regulations like the Anti-Money Laundering (AML), PwC had to develop tools and pipelines in-house to guarantee a high-quality service for their customers. (3) Clients start tokenising assets and trading these assets. From a legal perspective, this is very interesting, and PwC has an outstanding dedicated legal tech team. (4) PwC has a dedicated blockchain team that helps custody services to secure their private keys, for example. (5) The Smart Contract Assurance team creates trust in these technologies by making sure that the code is secure and works as intended. And, PwC is exploring ideas on how to use DLT to improve workflows and services.
Hubert has experienced how the crypto space has progressed from the early stages to a more professional level, where international banks and even central banks are exploring the technology. This also means that projects are becoming bigger and stakes are getting higher. Trial and error approaches are too risky in this environment which drives the need for partners with a fully-fledged set of experts like PwC.
Interested to learn more?
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