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商业 - 金融

银行业:比特币猛于虎

Trond Undheim 2014年11月26日

麻省理工斯隆管理学院高级讲师特隆德•阿恩•温海姆认为,这种虚拟货币可能分散银行业务。

    比特币(Bitcoin)预示了一个新时代的到来,这个新时代比如今的互联网更有颠覆性。颠覆可以是件好事,特别是当颠覆对象是银行的时候。作为一种处于衰退状态的商业模式,虽然银行业进行了各种各样的微调,但几百年来基本上毫无变化。荒谬的是,有些银行害怕比特币的原因在于,后者将迫使它们进行创新。

    比特币是新兴技术网络的最著名代表,而这个网络有可能让银行业得到改善。比特币属于加密货币这个新型金融物种,是一种基于互联网、分散、安全的资金存储和转移方式。比特币,甚至是更有前途的瑞波币(Ripple)网络的作用不是在银行的基本商业模式,也就是贷款、存款、交易和货币兑换方面打开缺口,而是播撒催生全新市场的种子,通常人们把这些市场称为价值互联网(Internet of Value)。它是一种途径,可以让普通人和专业人士一样将一切事物货币化,且不受地域、传统市场准入以及司法权限的限制。

    加密货币面世已超过5年,用互联网标准衡量,这已算是极长的历史了。优雅的数学让加密货币几乎可以瞬间完成价值转移,而且基本上不会给参与双方带来成本,也无需寻找二者都信任的第三方。这实际上已经是一种颠覆,只是颠覆的对象是中介机构。

    人们谈论共享经济已经有几个年头了。租房网站AirBnb和租车服务商Uber等公司启用了那些曾经无人问津的闲置资产,比如一间空着的卧室或者人们的第二辆私家车,并让它们产生经济效益。借助闲置资产的盘活,人们在租房和出行服务这些毫无效率可言的市场中获得了更多的便利。

    价值互联网还有可能在此基础上更进一步。想象一下这样的世界,人们可以完全成为自己的做市商,可以为自己的任何财产创造一个市场。这些财产可以是人们所拥有的、想到的和做出的任何事,或者是可以影响他人去做的事。

    然而,美国财政部反洗钱机构金融犯罪执法局(FinCEN)上个月颁布的虚拟货币交易和支付处理新指导意见规定,按照美国法律,上述公司可能被视为从事资金服务业务,因而可能受到新法规的约束,这让许多初创型金融科技公司大失所望。这样的规定本意虽好,但颇有自相矛盾的意味;更重要的是,此举方向有误。除了削弱美国的创新优势,过早地施加此类限制几乎不会带来什么长期影响。

    2001年,我在加州大学伯克利分校(UC Berkeley)时的同事尼尔•弗雷格斯坦出版了一本书,名叫《市场的结构》(The Architecture of Market)。他在书中一针见血地指出,不要以为市场本身会自动或者神奇地出现,也不要以为市场的出现源于个人行为或者源于结构因素和现有机制的共同作用。确切地说,市场是一种精致而复杂的产物,由一些群体出于共同的目的而创造,而且必须由那些靠市场生存的参与者予以维持。

    就比特币而言,它带来的不仅仅是一个新市场,而是“市场中的市场”;它是承载各种新市场的平台。比特币蕴含的是一个转型承诺,尽管听上去很奇怪,但这个承诺比互联网还要伟大。否认这种潜力就相当于否认全球化这个现实。

    这就是为什么银行业最好还是接受加密技术以及相关商业模式等一系列尝试的原因,而且最好是全行业的接受,不是各自为营。这样做的目的是降低风险,并孕育和塑造出一整套合适的平台创新。无论如何,这些创新都将在今后十年内出现。

    Bitcoin heralds a new age more disruptive than that of today’s Internet. Disruption can be a good thing, especially when it affects banking, a failing set of business models which, for all the tweaks, have been virtually unchanged for millennia. Paradoxically, some banks are afraid of Bitcoin because it would force them to innovate.

    Bitcoin is but the most famous example of an emerging technology network with the potential to improve banking. It belongs to the new type of financial animal called crypto currencies, i.e. decentralized, secure money storage and money transfer enabled by the Internet. What Bitcoin, and the even more promising Ripple network do, is not to poke a hole in banking’s basic business models—lending, deposits, trading, and money exchange—but to create the embryos for entirely new markets typically referred to as the Internet of Value. That is, a way for regular folks, as well as specialists, to potentially monetize everything, regardless of location, traditional market access and jurisdiction.

    Cryptocurrencies have been with us for over five years, an eternity by Internet time. Using the elegance of mathematics they enable almost instant transfer of value at almost no cost between two parties without the need for a trusted third party. The disruption lies exactly there: in disrupting the intermediaries.

    For a few years already, we have been talking about the sharing economy. Companies like AirBnb and Uber have enabled previously untapped, idle assets such as your empty bedroom or your second car to be mobilized for financial gain. Liquidizing such stale assets has added convenience in the utterly inefficient markets of room rentals and transportation services.

    The Internet of Value would go a few steps further. Imagine a world where you can literally become your own market maker; you can create markets for any of your own assets—which could be thought of as anything you own, think or do, or can influence others to do.

    In contrast, and to the great disappointment of many financial tech (‘fintech’) startups, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) last month released new guidance for virtual currency exchanges and payment processors, ruling that such companies may be considered money services businesses under US law and would be subject to new regulations. The ruling is well meaning, but quite contradictory, and, more importantly, wrongheaded. Prematurely imposing such limitations will have little long term impact beyond dulling the US’s innovative edge.

    In the 2001 book, The Architecture of Market, my former UC Berkeley colleague Neil Fligstein makes the excellent point that markets cannot be thought of as automatically or magically appearing on their own, neither by individuals acting alone nor by structures and established institutions acting in concert. Rather, markets are elaborate and complex creations by communities with a joint purpose, and they must be sustained by those who use them in order to survive.

    In the case of Bitcoin, what is being enabled here is not merely a new market, but a market of markets; a platform for all kinds of new markets to emerge. In it, lies the promise of a transformation, as strange as it sounds, greater than the Internet. Denying such a potential is equal to denying the reality of globalization.

    This is why banks had better embrace the experimentation around crypto technologies and business models—in consortia rather than alone, in order to reduce risks and in order to foster and shape the set of appropriate platform innovations that will come over the next decade, one way or another.

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