Opening Address to the V20

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

To set the scene for us today, I’d like to take us back 25 years.

The end of May, 1994. Geneva.

Another smallish gathering of experts.

Working on another problem.

A quarter of a century of work on computer hypertext systems had created a fragmented landscape of commercial products that had all failed to gain traction.

But a new technology had come along. One that could fix all of that.

Known as the World Wide Web.

The Web was open to all, free to all, useful to all – and still needed some basic agreements on how page layout should work, how to display images, and a hundred other points that we never even consider today.

Because they got sorted out at that gathering.

I know this because I was one of the experts at that meeting, invited by Tim Berners-Lee, father of the Web, to drive standardisation of the display of three-dimensional images inside the Web browser.

I did that work – it’s known as VRML – with two collaborators: Tony Parisi, and Gavin Bell.

You’ve probably not ever heard either of those names before.

But that’s not exactly true.

Gavin Bell changed his last name a decade ago. An unusual thing for a man, but it does happen.

He’s known today as Gavin Andresen.

For a long time, Gavin was chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation.

It was a good role for him, because he’s always understood the need for standards, solutions – and consensus.

He’s always understood the need to design for the future.

When we reconnected a few years back, I asked him what he spent most of his time working on at the Foundation.

He said, “Quantum cryptography. And what happens to the blockchain once you can factor large numbers quickly.”

Esoteric, to the layperson.

But to someone who understands how cryptocurrencies work, absolutely vital.

A problem worth solving.

Gavin had his eyes on the future.

That future is our focus today.

Now here’s the truth — whenever you come upon an undiscovered frontier, first you send out the explorers.

They don’t know what they don’t know.  They learn a few things, and use that to send out the scouts.

The scouts map the terrain.  But they don’t linger.

Then come the pioneers.

It’s often said that pioneers can be identified by the arrows in their backs.

But pioneers also get to live by their own lights – and their own wits.

There are no rules, other than the ones they make for themselves.

That gives every pioneering frontier an anarchic feel.

A ‘Wild West’.

But those halcyon days don’t last forever.

Pioneers are eventually overrun by settlers.

Settlers need infrastructure.

And they need security.  Stability. Safety.

They need rules.

They need laws.

They need all the perks of civilisation.

And that pretty much sums up where we are today.

Almost everyone in this room is a pioneer.

You have the arrows to show for it.

And the settlers are all queued up.

Ready to stake their claims.

That’s going to change the landscape.


Cryptocurrencies have changed the world.  They’re the most significant financial innovation of the 21st century.

We’re finding a growing number of uses for them.

As they become more useful, they become more attractive to the highly regulated formal financial system.

So we’re here, in this room, today, to bring a little order to the chaos.

And lay down a welcome mat for the settlers.

But first we have to come to an agreement about what that means.

And that’s why we’re here.

This V20 summit has one goal — to provide a clear roadmap toward full compliance with the new recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.

That will happen across three workshops.

These workshops are the reason we’re all here.

We have to come out of these workshops with consensus on how to address the FATF recommendations, technically and procedurally.

Now people hear consensus and they think ‘unanimity’.

It’s not. Not anything like that.

Consensus means that it’s ‘good enough’ — that no one is willing to throw their body in front of a proposal in order to stop it.

No one has to love it. Or even like it.

It just has to get the job done.

And if we do it right – what happens here will have a lasting impact not just on the world of cryptocurrencies, but the entire world of finance.

Between the announcement of the V20 summit and this morning’s commencement, the entire cryptocurrency landscape has undergone a fundamental shift, because of Facebook’s Project Libra.

Nearly every Central Banker of consequence has an opinion on Libra – but whether they like it or not, all have stressed that Libra must comply with all relevant KYC and AML regulations.

And that  just happens to be our job here.

What we’re doing – like it or not – is too important to fail.

Let me conclude with another story from that first Web conference, 25 years ago.

Tim Berners-Lee opened the the event – then immediately handed the podium over to Dr. David Chaum.

Dr. Chaum is one of the fathers of cryptocurrency.

Before Bitcoin, there was Digicash, created by Dr. Chaum.  

Money designed for the Web when the Web was still very young.

The very first public demonstration of the very first digital currency was the very first keynote at the very first conference on the Web.

The connections between digital currencies and the Web, they go all the way back to the beginning.

With V20, it’s now our turn to honor that tradition – and take it forward.

So let’s get to work.

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