At the annual meeting of the world’s economic titans in Davos, Switzerland, the heads of Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and the International Monetary Fund played down suggestions that digital currencies like bitcoin could soon shake the foundations of the finance industry. “It’s not going to change everyone’s life tomorrow,” said James Gorman, the chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, who last year called bitcoin “surreal.”
While he noted that some aspects of the investment banking industry could be impacted by the march of digitalization and cryptocurrencies — including securities trading and cash transfers — Gorman said regulatory challenges still occupy more of his attention than online currency technologies.
“I wouldn’t be so worried,” said John Cryan, co-chief executive of Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, which has experimented with bitcoin-like transactions. Cryan expressed more interest in the digital software underlying bitcoin — called the blockchain — than the much-hyped digital currency itself. “Blockchain technology is interesting. Bitcoin, I don’t think is.”
The discussion came during a World Economic Forum confab whose theme — “the Fourth Industrial Revolution” — centers on the potential of automation and connectivity to revolutionize markets and society.
For bankers, the timing is apt. In 2015, digital currency technologies made unprecedented incursions into the mainstream of