News


I read David because I can never accurately predict his opinion, which means either it's all signal, or he is in fact a natural source of randomness, both of which are highly valuable.

Danny O'Brien (July 2009).

Two out of Nine

The website Biblio-Fiend have listed their nine best books about the future of money and I cannot help but be a little flattered to find out that two of them are mine. Here’s the list:

The Currency Cold War by D. Birch (LPP:2020).

Blockchain Bubble or Revolution by N. Mehta, A. Agasha & P. Detroja (Paravane: 2019).

The Future of Finance by H. Arslanian & F. Fischer (Palgrave Macmillian: 2019).

Beyond Blockchain by E. Townsend (2018).

Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin by D. Birch (LPP: 2017).

The Internet of Money volumes 1-3 by A. Antonopoulos (CreateSpace: 2016).

Personal Currency by R. Colbourn & A. Riegelmann (Lionhead: 2016).

The Age of Cryptocurrency by M. Casey and P. Vigna (Macmillan:2015).

How Would You Like To Pay by B. Maurer (Duke University Press: 2015).

Needless to say, I was very flattered to be in such good company!

Now on Forbes

Forbes, 5th June 2020

The wonderful people at Forbes invited me to become a contributor to their indispensible source of business information. I was flattered to be invited and delighted to be able to accept. Here’s my first piece for their must-read online publication...


MeTube

All Dave, All the time

I’ve started my YouTube channel and I’ve tried to come up with content that’s a little bit different. For my first show “The Fintech Writer’s Workshop”, I thought that instead of giving talks about fintech stuff I’d give talk about how I give talks about fintech stuff so that people can learn something a little different.

Speaking Topics

I’ve updated my “speaker kit” for 2020/21 in the light of the current situation so I hope that you and your organisation will find one of these featured topics are interesting and will contact my agent Jay Kemp at Provoke Management to book me for your next webinar, workshop, event, wedding, barmitzvah or lecture series. Here we go…

Featured Topics 2020/21


Financial Services after COVID-19
Challenges and Opportunities

This talk draws on recent experiences advising a board level in Europe, North America and Asia to explore the impact of the pandemic on the payments industry. The analysis exploits a simple high level model of financial institutions to facilitate communication between business and technology groups to look at the impact of the virus and examine some early evidence of longer-term change, and goes to suggest some key fintech/regtech areas of opportunity. I touch on subjects including open banking, liquidity, digital identity, government stimulus, contact-free services, cashlessness, omnichannel access and fraud protection.

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Will Robots Need Passports?
Digital identity in an age of cyberwar

A quarter of a century ago, on the internet nobody knew you were a dog. Now they don’t know if you’re a fridge pretending to be a dog. Pretty soon they won’t know if you’re a North Korean bot pretending to be a Japanese fridge pretending to be an American dog. In a world of fake identities and fake news, where it is your nanny cam and your newsfeed getting hacked not your credit card, we need to accept that trying to digitise identity hasn’t worked and we need to start creating a new kind of identity for the new digital age instead. We need to stop trying to import those analogue identity models, rooted in Industrial Age bureaucratic hacks to deal with urban anonymity and develop notions of identity for a digital age.

This is not a technical talk to teach someone how to write computer software about identity. This is an attempt to build an overarching narrative about identity in the digital age. It is a narrative that I hope will bring together policy makers, regulators, entrepreneurs and technologists to form and deliver the identity we need for our new digital world where robots and everything else will have passports because they have identities, relationships and reputations. What those robots won’t have, of course, is the one crucial stamp in their passports that we will have in ours: IS_A_PERSON. To advertisers, to journalists, to voters, to shopkeepers and to others, this credential will become the essential prerequisite for the most important transactions.

Please also see the forthcoming book to be published next year, Will Robots Need Passports?

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The Currency Cold War
Control over digital money is about more than transaction fees

The Dollar’s dominance gives America the ability to exert soft power through the International Monetary and Financial System (IMFS). A serious implication of replacing existing monetary arrangements with new infrastructure based on digital currency is that this power might be constrained. Whether you think it might be a good thing or not, you need to think about what it means for you, your business and your country. In this talk I will try to set out the economic and technological imperatives, discuss the potential impact on the IMFS and highlight a series of tensions—between public and private, and (most importantly) between East and West—to contribute to the necessary high-level debate that we must have to begin to shape the IMFS of the near-future. And I’ll try to make a few positive suggestions about a national digital currency strategy.

Please also see the accompanying book, The Currency Cold War.

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Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin
The future of money is more like its past

This talk is about the future of money. More specifically, it centres on the idea that technology might be taking money back to its past, back to a more local and diverse version of money than we are used to. It explores the interplay between the technological evolutionary tree of money and its social context, and brings in ideas from the social sciences in conjunction with technology forecasting to create an informed view of where technology is taking moneyGiven that this direction of travel is broadly towards decentralization, distribution and an overall lessening of state power, it is possible to bring input from disciplines including social anthropology and the study of ‘palaeo- futures’ (that is, what people used to think about the future) to make an informed and, I hope, surprising prediction about the future of money. This is that we will return to the multiple, overlapping community monies of the past but that they will be smart monies, monies with values, monies that know about us.

Please also see the accompanying book, Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin.

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Identity is the New Money
What is digital identity (and why it should be a banking business)

Many years ago, my work advising the payment organisations led me to begin to wonder what the advances in transaction technologies (the internet, mobile phones, smart cards and so forth) might mean. With the support of my colleagues at Consult Hyperion, I set about creating the Digital Money Forum and, subsequently, the Digital Identity Forum, in order to bring together a wide range of experts to explore the technological, business and social changes. It became clear that the two topics were converging and in time all of the events, blogs and podcasts were gradually merged into the Tomorrow’s Transactions thought-leadership blog, podcast, annual forum and “unconference” series held in the UK and North America. The discussions, observations and reflections that stemmed from those forums (that ran for two decades!) form the core of this book and its central claim:  the future of money is linked to the future of identity.

We need to reformulate technical, business and, above all, social strategies for dealing with identity in the “new economy”. This book is an attempt to explain why. It also suggests one or two significant implications for policy makers and others. My argument is, in short, that the new economy and new society that we are building on top of it demand a new way of thinking about identity, and a new way of thinking about money – and that the two converge..

Please also see the accompanying book, Identity is the New Money.

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Other Topics

If you want a talk about the early lessons from open banking, the history of money, innovation in financial services, how to teach your kids at home using Dungeons and Dragons or how to find inner peace through the music of Hawkind, then I’m your man….

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The Currency Cold War is Coming!

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Cover of UK first printing (2020).

My new book, The Currency Cold War, is going to be published on 28th May 2020 by The London Publishing Partnership. I’m very flattered by the advance praise for the book and very much looking forward to hearing from readers. It is an important subject and deserves informed and detailed debate. Whatever you think about digital currency, you (and your organisation and your country) need a strategy towards it.

Run, don’t walk, over the book web site at thecurrencycoldwar.com to order your copy now!

Onboarding at Au10tx

I was flattered to be asked, and delighted to be able to accept, an invitation to join the Advisory Board at Au10tix, the Secure Customer Onboarding company. Au10tix, which recently attracted $80m in investment from TPG and Oak, is a major player in the field of digital onboarding. The efficient and effective binding of physical to digital identities is fundamental to the coming era of always-on and always-connected business and government.

Aut10tix will be leaders in this growing field and I hope to provide perspective and strategic input to help them to both realise their potential and to grow and devleop the digital onboarding industry as a whole.

Blockchain Reality

The BBC featured some of my views and ideas in a report on the blockchain. It was notable (to me, anyway) because of the very positive social media feedback on this piece, praising its objectiveness and level-headed appraisal. You can read it for youself by following this link.


Institute for Policy Research Podcast

The forward-looking people from the Institute for Policy Research at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC interviewed me for their podcast series My Digital Self hosted by Matt Foley. It was an absolute pleasure to be interviewed by such an interesting (and nice) guy! You can listen to the podcast [here].

2020 Vision

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Happy New Year everyone. Here’s looking forward to a fascinating 2020 in the world of digital finance. Predictions are difficult, as they say, especially about the future, so I won’t bore you with my shortlist of predictions for 2030. Instead, I thought I’d bore you with a few things I said in 2010!

"I’ve mentioned (in a tedious, repetitive cycle) that there is a connection between national ID schemes, financial inclusion and payments. To put it crudely, if you “solve” the “ID problem” then the “payment problem” goes away. Let’s set aside what any of those phrases in quotation marks actually mean for a moment”.

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"So who is going to provide the simple, ubiquitous 2FA for the web? Not banks with their dongles. Logically, I’m sure it should be MNOs, but I don’t think any of them have a strategy for this sort of thing”.

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"Unless we introduce a firm plan for online anonymity pretty soon, we’re not going to have any anonymity at all… This may have the unexpected consequence of driving more interpersonal and corporate interaction into virtual worlds, because it is only in virtual worlds that the technology available in any reasonable timescale can deliver individual privacy”.

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"So it turns out that you don’t have to be a Russian spy under deep cover or a highly-trained Mossad operative, you just need Photoshop and an ink-jet printer. Just as the credit card counterfeiters discovered, something has gone wrong: the current identity infrastructure inconveniences the innocent more than the guilty”.

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"I particularly like the way in which the cards generate per-service provider pseudonyms, so that everytime the customer logs in to, say, Amazon, they would have the same “ID number”, but the bank would see a different number and so would the tax authority or another store or anyone else. This basic partitioning was precisely the kind of intelligent design decision that I would have advised the UK Home Office to adopt, had they asked me”.

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"Pretty much every decision that the British government has made about ID cards has not only turned out to wrong, but almost optimally wrong. The collection of civil servants, management consultants, ministers and special advisors managed to leave us in as bad a situation as when they started — with no national identity management infrastructure — but hundreds of millions out of pocket...The current coalition are just as bad: they have no strategic vision for identity, no tactics for getting us there and (crucially) no more understanding of the technology than their New Labour predecessors (who, to be fair, didn’t understand the problem either)”.

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"We have Payments Council and a National Payment Plan (NPP)… Perhaps one option for an incoming administration might be an Identity Council and a National Identity Plan (NIP).

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Of the many credentials that might be associated with a digital identity as part of a commercial, sustainable business model, the IS_A_PERSON credential might be the trigger for the evolution of a more comprehensive infrastructure”.

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"I don’t like SMS-based solutions because, should they become widespread then they will become spoofed, so I would much prefer an industry-wide approach to a genuinely secure solution with key pairs generated inside the SIM and SIM-based applications for encryption and signing (thereby not depending on security in the network or handset)”.

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"Surely what will actually happen is that all traffic will become encrypted, since enterprising teenagers will soon spend ten minutes writing software to encrypt everything to avoid being caught by the Pyrate-Finder General and his minions, and the security services will find it utterly impossible to monitor any net traffic at all”.

"I have a slightly old-fashioned policy towards LinkedIn. When I get a connection request, I won’t accept unless it is someone that I’ve spoken to (or, preferably, met in person)”.


Wired: Me

Wired Magazine has published its “World in 2020” special edition and they have again included an article from me in this annual roundup of predictions across industry sectors. This year I decided to write about AI in financial services, advancing my view that the use of AI by financial services organisations is not disruptive but that the use of AI by their customers will be.

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