Superclusters Activate: 5 New Innovation Superclusters Expected to Create Thousands of Canadian Tech Jobs

Wondering where to look for Canada’s next crop of hot tech jobs? Five new Innovation Superclusters located across the country, which are expected to create 50,000 technical jobs within the next decade, are a wise place to start. In 2018, the Canadian government partnered with 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions and a diverse range of community partners to create these industry-led consortiums that are expected to transform some of the country’s most important regional economies.  

Canada’s five new Innovation Superclusters are: 

  • An Ocean Supercluster in Atlantic Canada that will create over 3,000 jobs and use innovation to drive greater competitiveness in the country’s ocean-based industries, including fisheries, oil and gas and clean energy. 
  • The SCALE.AI Supercluster in Quebec that will create over 16,000 jobs and make Canada a leading exporter by leveraging artificial intelligence and robotics to build smarter supply chains. 
  • An Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster in Ontario expected to create 13,500 jobs that will connect Canada’s technology strengths with its manufacturing industry. 
  • A Protein Industries Supercluster in the Prairies expected to create more than 4,500 jobs, which aims to make Canada a leading supplier of the world’s plant proteins. 
  • A BC-based Digital Technology Supercluster expected to create over 13,500 jobs that will use big data and digital technologies to unlock new potential in sectors like healthcare, forestry and manufacturing. 

The caliber of private sector companies involved in the effort suggests there is a great deal of confidence in the results that private, public and educational partners can achieve by working collaboratively. Recognizable names include Microsoft, TELUS, Linamar, Optel, Air Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart, SNC-LavalinDow DuPont Agriculture and Maple Leaf Foods. The long list of post-secondary and research institutions involved includes the University of Waterloo, the MaRS Discovery District, University of BC and Dalhousie University. 

Efforts the Superclusters expect to inspire include a wide range of technologies that could fundamentally change the way many of Canada’s key industries operate. From autonomous marine vehicles to warehouses run by robots and improved access to remote care for Indigenous communities, the initiatives on the table will have an enduring impact right across the country. 

Having a strong representation of women and under-represented groups and helping them succeed in highly innovative industries is a key priority for the five superclusters. Providing digital and tech skills training for those working in traditional industry sectors has also been identified as a strategy to help ensure Canada’s workforce keeps up with the rapidly increasing pace of technological change. 

It may take some time before the projects funded through the Innovation Superclusters begin to generate the jobs that have been projected. In the meantime, if you’re interested in a new technical position, be sure to browse our current Canadian and American job openings.  

Shake the Trees: 4 Ways to Take Your Tech Talent Search Beyond the Job Board

If you’re not hearing from the type of candidates you were hoping for in your technical talent search, it may be time to cast a wider net. As the battle for technical talent continues to heat up, it’s no longer enough to just post an ad to an online job board, share it on LinkedIn and cross your fingers. Here are some additional channels to consider incorporating into your recruitment strategy.

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based team messaging and collaboration app that was initially developed as an alternative to email to help companies communicate more efficiently. It’s been so well received that there are now Slack public communities that have been created to allow people with common interests to communicate. Third party websites like slack list, Standuply and Slofile compile lists of public Slack communities to help people looking to connect with others with similar interests. These communities can be a great way to make connections with technical talent. The Ruby on Rails community, for example, has over 6000 people interested in Ruby on Rails from all over the world, including avid OSS contributors, full-stack engineers, founders of start-ups, backend engineers and students learning Ruby on Rails. Within each community, various topics are organized into subject-based channels.

Top Tip: Watch your manners. When you join a Slack community, take some time to get to know the culture of the community before you start to post and tailor what you write accordingly. When you have a good feel for the community, ensure you are posting on the most appropriate channel.

Meetup

Meetup is a social networking site that connects people with similar interests and helps them organize offline group meetings. As Meetups happen in physical locations, it is very easy to search by location if you are looking for talent in a specific city. There is a great collection of technical groups. By searching Ruby On Rails, for example, within 100 miles of Toronto, you’ll find Meetup groups of Ruby developers and enthusiasts in Toronto, Kitchener and Waterloo. In addition to being able to see upcoming events, such as a Rail Pub Night, you can also search profiles of people within each group.

Top Tip: Be open and honest about who you are. As this is very much a social platform, members may not be expecting to interact with recruiters or potential employers. Review Meetup’s Usage and Content Policies as a first step before you begin to join groups.

Engage Employees as Evangelists

Employee referral programs are one of the most effective and efficient methods of recruiting technical talent. In addition to coming with a built-in reference, research shows that candidates who have been referred by employees tend to stay longer and be more productive. Equip your employees with the tools they need to communicate within their networks about open positions at your company.

Top Tip: Even if your organization doesn’t have an incentivized referral program in place, look for simple things you can do to engage more employees in your company’s recruitment efforts.

  • Ensure new job postings are shared internally with employees in a way that makes it easy for them to pass on the posting to people in their networks.
  • When employees speak at conferences or trade shows, include a slide at the end of their presentation with a call to action to those in audience to speak to them about employment opportunities with your company.

Connect with Passive Candidates

Your technical talent search shouldn’t be limited to only people who are currently looking for work. Partnering with a recruitment firm that specializes in technical positions gives your company access to a deeper network of talent that includes experienced candidates who may not even be looking at job postings.  Getting a call from a recruiter they respect about a new opportunity can often make candidates realize it might be time for them to consider making a change.

Financial Technology

Understanding the Impact of Blockchain

Blockchain is poised to have an enormous impact on how data is recorded and shared across the internet. In short, blockchain is a distributed database, like one giant spreadsheet shared by a massive series of computers the world over. 

The important difference from databases now is that this technology is not a centralized system controlled by one organization. Rather, any information is stored as incorruptible blocks that are accessible from any node on the network, chained together with a peer-to-peer system that’s safeguarded by automated cryptographic methods. The data shared is continuously recorded in an unalterable form, allowing for transparency. 

This allows for a secure, effective way to share data from person to person without relying on third parties for verification or distribution. When adopted, this technology will have major impacts on existing systems.

It Starts with Transactions…

The most obvious effect will be on digital financial transactions. Blockchain will provide secure connections capable of transferring important, verified data, such as currency. There will be no need for centralized authorities, like banks, to validate transactions. Individuals will be able to transfer funds securely from one person to another. This can transform the way the sharing economy works, having great stakes on companies like Uber and AirBnB, which act as third-party services to connect individuals. 

But data is data, and currency is only the start. Blockchain could potentially solve logistics and fulfilment problems. Records, legal documents, and virtually any other information that can be coded into 1s and 0s can be transferred using this technology. This could affect the way governmental records are stored and used, and perhaps one day, even the way we vote.

A Faster Kind of Cloud

Decentralizing file storage into the blockchain system has many benefits. The first is that the data becomes protected from files getting hacked or lost. There’s also the potential that completely decentralized information can make websites faster. It can also speed up file transfer and streaming times, which will be advantageous to streaming services like Netflix and iTunes.

IP Protection and ID Management

Digital information—including mp3s, video files, and jpegs—is infinitely reproducible, which means it’s infinitely distributable as well. While users are finding a golden era of content, copyright holders are struggling to maintain control of their intellectual property. Blockchain can offer smart contracts that can protect copyright and automate the sale of creative work. 

At the same time, this technology can better manage identities across the internet. The embedded cryptology nature of the technology means you can securely identify yourself and others. Developing digital identity standards is complex and by no means solved. But in the future, instead of having your personal data stored with large companies like Facebook or Google that can turn around and sell your data, you’ll be able to manage your information directly.

Governance and Transparency

A key element of blockchains is that all changes or additions to a block are kept indefinitely, and they’re always publicly accessible. Algorithms are deployed to ensure all this information is stored chronologically, permanently, and available to all users. This full transparency will have many positive effects towards governance of digital assets, equity, and information. Time will tell how people and organizations react to a higher level of transparency. 

These are just some of the impacts blockchain can and may have on existing systems. Blockchain is capable of making a world where all data is embedded in code and stored in shared, transparent databases that are protected from deletion, tampering, hacking, and revision. 

The technology is in its infancy now, but as more and more startups and big businesses consider the possibilities, you too should be prepared to work, create, and build within a distributed database.

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Blockchain and FinTech

FinTech Adoption Has Surged Globally Over the Past 18 Months

Financial technology, or FinTech for short, is a new and exciting part of the financial services industry. Innovative companies in this sector are using new technologies to compete in the financial services market. They’re offering everything from loans to money transfers to insurance, and they’re giving traditional financial services companies a run for their money.

Over the past 18 months, global adoption of financial technology services has surged dramatically. In the United States alone, adoption of FinTech has doubled since 2015. Here’s what you need to know about the rise of FinTech adoption.

Who’s Using Financial Technology Services

Globally, millennials are most likely to be using financial technology services. The global average adoption rate among this age group is 48 percent. The adoption rate is even higher in the U.S. Fifty-nine percent of millennials in the U.S. use financial technology services.

It’s no surprise that younger people are the most likely to use FinTech services. They’re comfortable with technology, so turning to FinTech companies makes sense. They’re also at the stage in their lives when they need a wide range of financial services. Young adults are getting their first full-time jobs, buying their first houses, and having children. All of these milestones require the services of financial companies, and these days, consumers don’t need to turn to banks.

Of course, millennials aren’t the only age group turning to financial technology. Globally, 41 percent of people between 35 and 44 years old are using these services. In the United States, 50 percent of this age group are financial technology adoptees.

Older generations are using financial technology as well, but not quite as often. Among digitally active people between 45 and 64, there’s a 40-percent adoption rate of these services. Seventeen percent of the digitally active senior population is using financial technology.

While these figures are impressive, there’s still a lot of room for growth. Most adults have a need for financial services like loans, money transfers, or payments. The people who are currently getting these services from traditional banks or credit unions may turn to financial technology services in the future.

Financial Technology Services with Greatest Adoption

You may be wondering what types of financial technology services are popular. Worldwide, money transfers and payment services have the greatest adoption. These services have been vastly improved by financial technology firms, so it’s no surprise they’re so popular.

Traditionally, money transfers are expensive. Banks and traditional money transfer companies charge high fees. They charge a minimum fee, so sending small amounts of money can be prohibitively expensive. They charge handling fees for transferring the money. Some banks or companies also charge a premium if consumers want the transfer to go through faster.

Financial technology firms have revolutionized money transfers. Consumers can send money to friends or family around the world with convenient mobile apps. They don’t need to go stand in line at the bank anymore. Financial technology firms also charge lower prices than traditional money transfer companies.

This is the same reason why payment services are a widely adopted financial technology service. When consumers make payments through banks or with their credit cards, they have to pay high fees. Financial technology firms make it possible for consumers to make payments with lower fees.

Other Popular Services

While money transfers and payment services are the most widely adopted financial technology services, other services are popular, too. Digital banks are an example of another popular service. With these services, consumers who don’t want to store their money in a traditional bank have alternatives. Digital banks can also reach underbanked populations. In areas where there aren’t many—or any—banks, consumers can still access digital banking apps.

In the United States, insurance is making huge gains in the FinTech market. In 2015, insurance represented the least commonly used financial technology service. That changed very quickly. In 2017, it’s the second most popular FinTech service in the United States, with a 24-percent adoption rate globally.

There’s a lot of demand for alternatives in this sector. InsurTech companies are using technology and design to make the health insurance experience more pleasant for consumers. They’re also offering more flexible services than traditional insurance companies. For example, Metromile sells pay-per-mile car insurance. This flexibility is appealing for people who don’t drive much.

Reasons for Increased Financial Technology Adoption

FinTech adoption is increasing rapidly for a fairly simple reason: financial technology companies are meeting customers’ needs.

FinTech companies realized what problems consumers were having with traditional financial services companies. The issues with high fees, poor service, slow transfers, and lack of access created a golden opportunity for startups. By solving consumers’ long-standing problems with traditional financial services companies, FinTech companies were able to grow rapidly.

Instead of paying high fees to money transfer companies, consumers can now send inexpensive transfers with FinTech apps. Instead of waiting days for payments to go through, they can send them instantly. Consumers who couldn’t get services from traditional banks are now able to access alternatives.

Financial Technology Adoption in Emerging Markets

A lot of the growth of FinTech adoption is coming from emerging markets. In China, 69 percent of the population uses financial technology services. India also has a high adoption rate, with 52 percent of its population using financial technology services.

In these countries, there are many people who are tech-literate but underserved by financial services. In China, both consumers and businesses have struggled to get services from traditional banks. In the past, they had to make do without banking services. Now, FinTech companies are eager to meet their needs. The same pattern is occurring in other emerging markets like South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico.

The Future of Financial Technology

FinTech services have become more popular in the last 18 months, and this trend will probably continue in the future. Consumers like using financial technology services, and they intend to keep using them in the future. In the U.S., FinTech adoption could reach 46 percent overall in the not-too-distant future. Worldwide, adoption of financial technology services could reach 52 percent.

For people working in the financial technology industry, this is an exciting time. There are many opportunities to gain customers for new services. Innovative companies can get in on the impressive growth of the industry.

Tips for Hiring in Financial Technology

To stay competitive in this fast-growing industry, you need to have the right people on your team. IT professionals are in high demand, so it can be hard to find the right employees. The best candidates may already be employed, and qualified unemployed candidates get hired quickly.

Often, it makes sense to outsource recruitment in high-demand industries. When you turn to an experienced technical recruiter, you can get access to better candidates. That’s because recruiters know where to look to find the right candidates, and they can convince them to join your company. They also have the expertise to find good candidates quickly, before your competitors can find them.

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Understanding Blockchain, Cryptocurrency & Bitcoin

New technologies are being developed all the time, and it can be hard to keep up.

In the past few years, blockchain, cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin have been getting more attention. You’ve probably heard of them before, but you may not know what they are or how they work.

As a CIO, you also have to think about how new technologies could be used at your company and how they could fit into your budget. Staying on top of new technologies helps you prepare to hire the IT professionals required to implement them.

Here’s what you need to know about blockchain, cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin.

Blockchain

Blockchain is a shared digital ledger that can be used to record transactions. Every record in the ledger is known as a block, and each block is linked to the next. Blocks can’t be erased, and the chain can only be updated with consensus from the participants in the ledger. Since it’s a peer-to-peer network, there’s no need for an administrator to manage the database.

This new technology has exciting implications for businesses.

Since blockchain records can’t be modified, this technology is ideal for recordkeeping purposes. It’s also ideal for auditing purposes. Companies in the financial services and healthcare industries have been exploring using blockchain technology. In financial services, blockchain can be used to transfer money without paying fees to a middleman, among its other uses. In healthcare, blockchain can be used to securely store and transfer sensitive patient records.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies are digital, alternative currencies. They’re not issued by authorities like central banks. Instead, they’re decentralized. They’re peer-to-peer currencies, so people can electronically send payments to each other without involving a middleman. Cryptocurrencies use cryptography as their main security feature. Cryptography means the information is encrypted.

Cryptocurrencies are recognized at an international level. That means people in different countries can send money to each other without worrying about exchange rates. For companies who do business internationally, this could be an attractive alternative to traditional money transfers.

Transactions made with cryptocurrency are anonymous, unlike other digital payment methods. The anonymity has benefits for businesses and customers. When customers pay with cryptocurrency, merchants don’t get access to their whole credit line. Merchants are only sent the cryptocurrency. This could help reduce identity theft, which is good for everyone.

In total, there are over 700 types of cryptocurrencies. These cryptocurrencies range from very well-known to obscure. There are so many cryptocurrencies because anyone can make one. If someone thinks they can improve on existing cryptocurrencies, nothing is stopping them from trying.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin was the first decentralized cryptocurrency. It’s the most well-known type of cryptocurrency, and that means it’s the de facto standard. It leads other cryptocurrencies in the size of its user base and its popularity. Other cryptocurrencies are gaining in popularity, but they still haven’t reached the level of Bitcoin.

People can use bitcoins to send money directly to each other, but they can also use them to pay businesses. Many companies are now accepting bitcoins. Even large companies like Microsoft and Overstock.com are accepting payments through Bitcoin. Small businesses are also starting to accept these payments.

For businesses, there are advantages to accepting Bitcoin payments. When you get paid through credit cards, you have to pay merchant fees to the credit card companies. These fees can be as high as three percent, which means the charges add up quickly. Accepting payments through services like PayPal also subject your company to merchant fees. Using Bitcoin allows you to bypass the middleman and cut out the merchant fees. This means you can make more money and also pass some savings on to your customers. It could also help you attract customers who like paying with Bitcoin, rather than with traditional payment methods.

Hire a Recruiter

Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin are set to disrupt many industries. Work with a recruiter to hire the tech experts you need to prepare for these changes and stay ahead of the curve.

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What is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology is getting a lot of attention these days. You’ve probably read an article in a newspaper about this technology or heard people at work talking about it. If you aren’t quite sure what the technology is, don’t worry. The technology is complicated and fairly new, so there’s no shame in not knowing much about it.

As a CIO, you don’t need to be an expert in this technology, but you should understand the basics. This can help your company take advantage of it. You can hire IT professionals who have a strong understanding of the technology and can help your company innovate.

Read on to learn what this technology is and how it works.

What It Is

This new technology was first described back in 2008. A person or group of people calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto released a whitepaper that launched Bitcoin, now a popular cryptocurrency. This whitepaper descripted blockchain, the new technology that made Bitcoin work. The real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto still hasn’t been revealed, which adds a compelling mystery to this technology.

Blockchain is a decentralized, digital ledger. Different people can add records to the ledger since it’s decentralized. Once a record has been added, it can’t be changed or tampered with. This means the ledger provides a complete, trustworthy record of all prior transactions.

How It Works

Now that you know what this technology is, it’s time to find out more about how it works. A global network of computers manages the database that records transactions. Millions of computers around the world host the data. Since the database is decentralized, these computers can be owned by anyone.

To create a new record, the information first has to be entered. Think of this like typing data into a cell in a spreadsheet. However, unlike a spreadsheet, one person’s input isn’t enough to make a change. Before the record can be added, multiple nodes in the network need to agree on it. One way this occurs is the proof-of-work method. In this method, users’ computers repeatedly run hashing algorithms to verify the records. When you hear about people mining Bitcoins on their computers, they’re running these hashing algorithms.

Current Uses for This Technology

Right now, a major use for this technology is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the world’s biggest cryptocurrency. People can use their bitcoins to purchase goods and services anonymously. Many reputable companies, like WordPress.com and Microsoft, let users pay for services with bitcoins.

Other cryptocurrencies use this technology, too. Cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin are known as altcoins. Popular altcoins include Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin. Altcoins try to improve on Bitcoin. For example, Litecoin transactions are faster than Bitcoin transactions.

Cryptocurrencies aren’t the only current use for this technology. Startups are using this technology for many exciting purposes in various industries. Abra uses a blockchain-enabled mobile wallet to let users send money to people around the world, with no bank account or credit card. Startups like Tierion have built platforms for healthcare data storage with this technology. Storj is beta-testing a blockchain-enabled cloud service network. Many other startups are using this technology for their products and services, too.

Potential Future Uses for This Technology

Right now, blockchain projects are fairly small in scale. Startups are creating exciting platforms with the technology, but they’re not widely used. Even Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, only has about 10 million global users. That may seem like a lot, but to put that figure into perspective, there are more than 3.5 billion internet users in the world. Blockchain and its related applications have a long way to go before they reach their potential.

In the future, this technology may have major impacts on the banking industry. Since people can send money without fees with this technology, banks could potentially save a lot of money by using it. Banks could also offer faster transactions. They could also keep secure records; fraud is a big concern for banks, so a tamper-proof ledger is understandably very interesting to them. Many large banks are testing this technology and looking to see how they can adapt it to meet their needs.

Other industries could be affected too. Goldman Sachs has predicted that the electricity market could be much different in the future thanks to blockchain. Right now, central power providers send electricity to homes and businesses. In the future, a distributed network could be created with this technology. People could generate their own electricity and sell it through the network.

Blockchain could also be used to build trust online. People’s identities could be securely stored with the technology, and their identities could be linked to various sites online. This could help prevent people from causing trouble online and then creating new accounts to try to hide their reputation. For companies like Airbnb, this future application could be very useful. Guests wouldn’t need to worry as much about safety, and hosts wouldn’t need to worry as much about bad guests who cause damage.

Obstacles to Adoption

While blockchain is an innovative technology with a lot of potential, there are also obstacles holding back adoption. Since the technology is still fairly new, challenges like data limits still need to be ironed out. The regulatory status of blockchain and cryptocurrencies is also unsettled. National governments regulate traditional currencies, but no one regulates blockchain or cryptocurrencies. Some business owners may not want to start using this technology until they’re sure of its legal status.

Cultural adoption is another obstacle. Right now, users and operators are used to centralized systems, like the ones traditional banks have. Eighty-seven percent of Canadians say banks are stable and secure, and 80 percent trust banks to keep their personal information safe. Since most people are satisfied, they may not want to take a chance on a new technology they don’t know much about. Blockchain enthusiasts will need to sell the benefits of the technology to the general population and to businesses.

Another obstacle is that companies already have systems that work. The systems may not be perfect, but they’re getting the job done. To start using new technology, these companies could need to make significant changes to their current systems. They could even need to completely replace their current systems to make them compatible with blockchain. Risk-averse companies may not want to do this anytime soon. Even innovative companies will need to strategize about making the transition, which can’t happen overnight.

Energy use is another obstacle with this technology. Storing and verifying the records takes up a lot of computer resources. When computers around the world are all processing transactions, the electricity demands add up quickly. In June 2015, a single Bitcoin transaction used enough electricity to power 1.57 American households for a day. That was bad enough, but the electricity demands have gotten worse. Now, one transaction uses enough energy to power 3.67 American households for a day.

As more people start using Bitcoin and other blockchain-enabled technologies, even more electricity will be needed. Engineers will need to figure out ways to make these technologies use less electricity. You’ll need to hire talented employees now to tackle this problem.

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Blockchain & Banking: Just the Beginning

Blockchain is a technology that keeps records of transactions. The records, called blocks, are linked together in a chain. Once a record is created, it can’t be tampered with, so users can trust the data is accurate. This technology is very exciting for the banking industry.

With this technology, banks can speed up their back-office functions and reduce their costs. Startups in the financial services industry can also use the technology, which means the industry could potentially be disrupted.

If you don’t work in banking, you may think this technology is irrelevant to you. Not so fast. This technology has wide-ranging applications and could affect many industries. CIOs in many sectors need to be aware of how this technology could affect their companies. By hiring top IT professionals, they can take advantage of this new technology.

Here are some other major industries that could be affected by blockchain technology.

Online Music

Streaming music is popular with consumers, but it’s hard for artists to make money this way. They make less money from streaming services than they do from selling CDs or other physical music formats.

Blockchain initiatives could help artists make more money, while letting consumers keep streaming music. Artists could bypass streaming companies and use blockchain to send music to their fans. Smart contracts could also be created. These contracts would pay money to artists every time their songs are streamed or downloaded.

Healthcare

Doctors and hospitals use electronic health records to track patient data but often can’t share the records with each other. When patients go to new doctors or clinics, their records don’t follow them. This could lead to patients not getting the right care.

In the future, blockchain technology could solve this problem. Doctors and hospitals could add patients’ records to one shared ledger, and those records would be viewable to other medical professionals.

This could provide secure access to patients’ entire healthcare records. Researchers at MIT are testing a pilot, called MedRec, that could be widely deployed in the future.

Supply Chain Management

Between manufacture and sale, products change hands many times. The average international shipment is estimated to change hands 25 or more times. Keeping track of the transfers can be challenging, especially since various carriers don’t always have access to the same technology. Products can get lost or delayed, which drives up costs.

Blockchain technology may be able to solve these problems. That’s because this technology provides a permanent, decentralized record of transactions. Shipments can be securely tracked with technology, and suppliers throughout the supply chain will be able to track products.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage companies store customers’ data on centralized servers. While these companies take precautions to protect customers’ data, the data could be at risk since it’s all in one place.

If hackers are interested in the data, they know where to target.

Since blockchain is decentralized, it could provide an answer to this security problem. Customers’ data could be stored in a secure, decentralized manner. Decentralized storage could also be less expensive for users—great news for CIOs on a budget—since expensive data centres don’t need to be maintained. Companies like Resilio, Tresorit, and Storj offer peer-to-peer cloud storage platforms.

Retail

Traditionally, people who wanted to sell products online needed to go through a middleman. Popular sites like eBay and Amazon connect sellers with buyers, but they also take a cut of the fees.

In the future, buyers and sellers may be able to bypass these traditional online marketplaces. They may be able to use decentralized networks to trade with each other directly, and they won’t need to pay mandatory fees. OpenBazaar is an example of a startup providing peer-to-peer trading services online.

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The Rise of Blockchain Technology: How Your Business Can Adapt

The rise of blockchain technology is coming. How quickly the tech becomes ubiquitous, and who will embrace it, still remains to be seen. But big companies in the tech sector  (e.g. Microsoft) and in financial industries are spending R&D dollars on discovering just what this distributed ledger can do. 

Blockchain is a tracking database that was originally developed to run Bitcoin. The database uses algorithms to record digital transactions reliably with an impressive amount of anonymity. “Blocks” of data are created and sent across a peer-to-peer network without the need for a central authority or third party to verify or confirm the exchange; the system does all that itself through cryptographic methods. 

Though full adoption of this system is still unsure, and a timeline on feasibility is still in the works, being ready to be an early blockchain adopter can, theoretically, put businesses on the frontlines of the new cutting-edge digital culture. 

Here are a few ways your business can adapt to blockchain technology.

What Could Blockchain Do for My Company?

The potential effects of Blockchain technology are numerous, but here are some of the largest. 

Blockchain might streamline transactions by offering a single source of information, always updated, and in near real time. All your records will be digitized and available at a speed faster than what you currently experience. 

The cost of intermediaries will also go down and enable better, immutable ledger records. By adopting what some are calling “smart contracts”—coded sets of rules designed to execute when specific actions occur—automation of many financial services that require timely back-and-forth communication could happen in a fraction of the time.

Pilots and Working Groups

A good place to start the consideration of blockchain technology is by putting together a small working group tasked with designing a path to successfully using the tech in a way that aligns with your company’s overarching goals.

Start with a Hypothesis

Once this talented group is formed, develop a working hypothesis on how a distributed ledger can not only support, but improve, several aspects of your business. 

Focus the working group to select a couple of these hypotheses and transform them into working pilots. From there, it’s a matter of learning as you go. If it’s going to work, you should see ROI based on your hypothesis.

Scalable Efforts

One of two things will happen: you see ROI or you don’t. If you don’t, then it’s likely time to reconsider blockchains for your company, at least for now. If you do see good ROI, then it’s time for you to consider a strategy for the new technology. 

Develop a long-term plan that could be integrated deeper into your business strategy. Consider the successes you found with the pilot, but also any new awareness you may have gleaned from working on the pilot. 

You’ll then have to decide whether the risk is worth scaling now or whether you should wait to see how distributed ledgers come into play across your industry. You may also decide to never scale, depending on the results and where the technology goes. Either way, you haven’t committed the core of your business to this new technology, nor are you unprepared if it takes off overnight. 

Blockchain technology is still very new and largely untested. Many companies and startups are exploring the possibilities of distributed ledgers, but its future is still unsure. Exploring the possibilities early in smaller, controlled ways may give you a head start on your competition as you hurtle into the future of the digital age.

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Understanding FinTech Categories

These days, traditional banks and financial services companies have a lot of competition. Innovative companies in the financial technology industry are transforming many categories of the financial services market. As a CIO, you need to be familiar with the many categories of financial technology. With this knowledge, you can stay on top of trends and hire the IT professionals you need to stay competitive.

Here are some of the major categories in the financial technology market.

Lending

Financial technology companies are changing the lending process. People don’t need to turn to banks or credit unions to borrow money anymore. Many FinTech companies are now making loans directly to consumers.

Consumers can request loans online and get approval quickly.

FinTech lenders assess borrowers’ credit worthiness quickly and automate the underwriting process. These new models allow FinTech lenders like Kabbage and Borrowell to offer loans to more borrowers.

Payments

Payments are another category of the financial technology market. Companies in this category let people send money to each other without needing to turn to banks. Banks tend to charge exorbitant fees for simple payments like peer-to-peer transfers.

FinTech companies let consumers send money quickly and cost effectively. Technologies like blockchain are making it possible for these companies to process payments more cost effectively than banks can.

International Money Transfers

Traditionally, internal money transfers have been very expensive. Banks and traditional money transfer companies charge up to eight percent in fees. For large money transfers, these fees add up quickly. Worse, traditional transfers are slow.

Financial technology companies in this category are offering faster, less expensive international money transfers. Ripple, a company in this category, can send international money transfers in eight seconds, according to Financial Post.

Personal Finance

Personal finance is another major category of the financial technology market. In the past, people needed to talk to financial advisors at banks to get personal finance advice. To budget, they needed to use spreadsheets or an envelope system.

Now, there are plenty of apps on the market that can offer advice and help with budgeting. Consumers can get personal finance advice anywhere, at any time. Companies like Mint help consumers create budgets, while Level Money helps consumers save. There are also FinTech companies providing retirement or investment advice.

Equity Financing

Financial technology companies are transforming equity financing, too. Companies in this category of the FinTech market are making it easy for businesses to raise money. Some companies work to connect accredited investors with vetted startups. Others use a crowdfunding model and let anyone invest in new businesses.

These companies simplify the fundraising process for businesses. Virtual fundraising is also easier for investors, since everything can be done online.

Consumer Banking

Consumer banking is another category of the financial technology market. Traditional banks charge high fees, so companies in this category present an alternative for consumers.

These companies also have the opportunity to reach underbanked consumers. Consumers who can’t get approved for a credit card—or don’t want one—can get prepaid cards from FinTech companies. Companies like Green Dot and Netspend are active in this category. Some companies, like Moven, provide digital banking services. Consumers can use digital bank accounts instead of using a traditional bank.

Insurance

Financial technology companies have recently branched out into the insurance market, too. Many companies in this category are focusing on distribution. They’re using new technologies like apps to reach customers that are underserved by insurance. They’re also more flexible than traditional insurers.

For example, people who want to borrow a friend’s car can buy car insurance for just a few hours. Since the insurance market is highly regulated, companies in this category tend to partner with traditional insurance companies.

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9 Big Industries Blockchain Tech Will Disrupt

When new technologies are developed, they provide new opportunities to innovative companies and disrupt whole industries.

There are many examples of this throughout history, and as a CIO, you’ve probably experienced disruptive technologies firsthand. The internet, the mobile web, and cloud computing are some of the very disruptive technologies your company and others needed to adapt to. Companies and industries as a whole were forever changed or made obsolete by the advances.

Technology is still moving forward, and CIOs will need to deal with many more disruptive technologies in their careers. They’ll need to hire talented IT professionals to help them adapt to the changes. One disruptive technology that’s getting a lot of attention right now is blockchain.

Blockchain is a digital ledger that’s used to record transactions. The ledger is stored on a network of personal computers. The records, called blocks, are time-stamped and linked to the previous blocks. This forms an unchangeable record. Once new data is entered, it can never be erased. This is the technology behind Bitcoin, a well-known cryptocurrency.

While your company may not be interested in using Bitcoin any time soon, the technology behind it may still affect you. This technology has many possible uses for businesses. It’s projected to disrupt many industries, just like the other technologies that came before it.

Here are nine big industries blockchain technology will disrupt in the future.

1. The Banking Industry

Banks securely store money for their customers and handle money transfers. For these services, they charge high fees. On top of monthly service fees, customers could need to pay fees for things like making payments on their credit cards. These fees aren’t optimal for customers.

Blockchain’s secure system could solve several problems for banks. The indisputable, permanent record of transactions could lower risks for banks. Customers will be able to see the status of their payments at any time. Money could also be transferred both cheaper and faster.

Banks that take advantage of this technology could provide better services to their customers at lower prices.

2. The Money Transfer Industry

Many companies allow people to transfer money to each other, both domestically and internationally. They make their money by collecting a fee every time someone sends a money transfer. As the middleman, they’re vulnerable to disruption by blockchain technology.

Some FinTech companies are taking advantage of this technology. They offer money transfers for lower fees than traditional providers charge. Traditional money transfer companies will need to be adapt or they’ll be left behind.

The FinTech startups could be left behind, too. With blockchain, people can send money to each other directly, without paying any fees. Since the technology is new, this isn’t widely used but should be a concern for any company in the money transfer industry.

3. The Stock Trading Industry

The stock trading industry profits from commissions and fees. When people buy or sell stocks, they need to pay a broker or middleman. Companies have worked to make the process of buying and selling stocks easier, but there are still more improvements that could be made.

These improvements could be made with the help of blockchain technology. With this technology, trades can be made accurately and inexpensively. While traditional trades can take up to three days to be settled, blockchain trades can be settled instantly. The trades can also eliminate middlemen. Overstock.com was the first publicly traded company to start issuing its stock through this new technology. In the long term, more companies may follow its lead.

4. The Online Music Industry

There are many criticisms of the online music industry in its current form. Streaming services don’t pay artists much per stream, and the streaming service and record label also get a cut of the profits. Some artists even go as far as removing their songs from streaming services.

Blockchain technology has the potential to shake up this industry. With this technology, artists may be able to offer their songs directly to their listeners. This will let them bypass the streaming services entirely. Artists may also decide to offer songs through the new technology instead of going through a record label. This could be worrying for streaming services and record labels alike.

5. The Real Estate Industry

Right now, there’s a lot of paperwork involved with real estate transactions. Errors in this paperwork could slip into public records, and fraud is another potential complication. These issues keep real estate agents, financial institutions, and mortgage companies busy.

With blockchain technology, real estate data like liens and land titles can be stored safely and permanently. Documents will be secured, with less work and less expense.

Blockchain could also eliminate escrow companies. With this technology, smart contracts could be created that would only release funds when contract conditions are met. That’s what escrow companies do now, so this new technology could be quite disruptive for them.

6. The Healthcare Industry

For patients to get good care, their medical records need to follow them from one doctor to another. When patients see several doctors, it’s easy for records to get lost or not be transferred between doctors. This causes continuity-of-care issues, and patients could receive poor care. They could be misdiagnosed or receive treatments that aren’t effective due to their incomplete records.

This problem could be solved with blockchain technology. It’s an excellent platform for data storage, and it can be used to hold patients’ medical records. Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and other healthcare institutions could all see patients’ complete medical records. Some startups are working to make this a reality.

7. The Legal Industry

Some types of litigation could be impacted by blockchain technology. Wills are a good example. Currently, family members may doubt the genuineness of a will and turn to litigation to resolve a deceased loved one’s estate. Lawyers need to determine if the will and other documents relating to the estate are genuine.

Blockchain can make this process much easier. Since the records can’t be altered, information relating to wills can be securely stored. No one will have any doubt the will is genuine or that it’s the most recent version of the document. Lawyers who specialize in wills and similar disputes could find themselves out of the job.

8. The Ride Sharing Industry

Ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft disrupted the taxi industry. However, that doesn’t make them immune to disruptions of their own. To use ride sharing companies, customers need to go through a centralized network—an app—to find drivers. The ride sharing companies are a middleman between riders and drivers, and take a cut of the fees.

With blockchain, customers could bypass current ride sharing companies. La’Zooz is a ride sharing startup that’s taking advantage of this technology. The startup lets riders find drivers who are already making the trips they’d like to make. The company is decentralized, just like the technology it uses to process payments.

9. The Human Resources Industry

Human resources professionals have to do a lot of time-consuming verification tasks during hiring. They need to verify candidates’ employment histories and perform background checks. Right now, the relevant records could get misplaced or even be falsified.

Blockchain ledgers can make HR’s verification tasks much easier. The ledgers can’t be falsified or tampered with, so it’s a good place to store records. If employment records and criminal records were safely stored in the ledger, HR professionals could quickly verify candidates’ background.

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Don Tapscott

10 Blockchain Industry Thought Leaders to Follow

Blockchain is a digital ledger that accepts input from many users. Posts to the ledger can’t be revised or tampered with, and the ledger is decentralized. This technology has the potential to disrupt many industries, like banking.

Click here to get started with Ian Martin

For CIOs, staying on top of the latest developments in this area is essential. Without a strong knowledge of developments in this new technology, it’s harder for CIOs to hire IT professionals and compete with other companies. To stay up to date on the latest developments, follow these ten industry thought leaders.

1. Don Tapscott

Don Tapscott is one of the leading analysts of the impacts of technology, and he’s written more than 15 books on related subjects. He recently wrote a book, The BlockChain Revolution, about how this technology will change the internet. Tapscott has also spoken at TEDGlobal about this technology.

2. Marc Andreessen

Marc Andreessen is well-known for founding Netscape, an early web browser. Now, Andreessen is an investor and Bitcoin enthusiast. His venture capitalist firm invests in Bitcoin and related startups. The firm recently raised $1.5 billion to invest in more breakthroughs.

3. Vitalik Buterin

This 23-year-old entrepreneur is famous for being the co-founder of Ethereum, a blockchain-based software platform. This platform is designed to handle financial transactions that can’t be handled by Bitcoin. The platform has the potential to create a decentralized version of the internet, called Internet 3.0.

4. Laura Shin

Laura Shin is a senior editor at Forbes. She manages Forbes’ coverage of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and related technologies, and explains these technologies in clear language. Shin speaks at conferences about these technologies and won the 2016 Blockchain Award for Most Insightful Journalist.

5. Nick Ayton

Nick Ayton is a global blockchain expert. He’s written many whitepapers and articles on the subject and also writes for CoinTelegraph, a publication that covers cryptocurrencies. Ayton is also a speaker and lecturer, and he has been a keynote speaker at various events. His latest project, 21 Million, is a crypto-funded television series about cryptocurrencies.

6. Naval Ravikant

Ravikant is the CEO of AngelList, a website that lets startups raise money from investors. He tweets about blockchain technology and how it can transform the world. Recently, he predicted this technology would replace networks with markets. For interesting predictions about the future of this technology, be sure to follow Ravikant.

7. Roger Ver

Roger Ver is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He’s famous for being an early investor in Bitcoin. Ver believes Bitcoin could rival major fiat currencies and thinks the cryptocurrency could promote economic freedom. He’s one of the five founders of the Bitcoin Foundation and has funded the seed rounds of many Bitcoin startups.

8. Vinny Lingham

Lingham is a major technology entrepreneur from South Africa. He’s been nicknamed the “Bitcoin Oracle” for his predictions of Bitcoin’s value. His latest venture is a business called Civic.com, which is a decentralized identity system that uses blockchain technology to create a digital ID. The end goals are protecting people’s identities and getting rid of usernames and passwords.

9. Jim Marous

Marous is a publisher, FinTech strategist, and keynote speaker. He’s the co-publisher of The Financial Brand, a digital publication for banks and credit unions. Marous also owns the Digital Banking Report, which covers current topics in banking. As a thought leader on disruption in the banking industry, he provides insights in new technologies.

10. Erik Voorhees

Voorhees is the founder and CEO of Shapeshift, a Bitcoin and altcoin exchange. He’s predicted Bitcoin could be replaced as the dominant cryptocurrency if it can’t continue to scale. Voorhees also talks about governance methods for cryptocurrencies.

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FinTech mobile payments

How FinTech Companies Are Solving Long-Standing Payment Problems

Technology is progressing at a rapid pace, and new technologies give companies opportunities to solve problems. Mobile technology allowed ride-sharing companies to improve the experience of taxi passengers. Cloud technology allowed software companies to provide cheaper, simpler applications. In the same vein, FinTech companies are now using technology to solve customers’ long-standing payment problems.

In the past, established banks, insurance companies, and private equity companies dominated the industry. Customers had no choice but to suffer through payment problems. Exorbitant fees, slow transfers and payments, and inconvenience were inevitable parts of the customer experience. That’s changing thanks to FinTech companies.

Today’s FinTech companies are solving customers’ problems and disrupting established financial companies.

Here’s how FinTech companies are solving long-standing payment problems.

Taking Advantage of Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology is one of the new technologies FinTech companies are using to disrupt the financial industry. Blockchain is a shared digital ledger that can be used to record transactions. It can also be used to track the movement of assets. Anyone with an internet connection can use blockchain. Information is stored across a network of personal computers. Each record, known as a block, is timestamped and linked in a chronological chain to other blocks. Cryptography prevents users from being able to change previous entries.

The most famous use of blockchain technology is Bitcoin. Other cryptocurrencies, like BlackCoin, Nxt, and Dash also use blockchain technology. However, blockchain technology can be useful for other applications, too.

With blockchain technology, people can send money quickly and cost efficiently. This technology cuts out intermediaries like banks or payment processors. FinTech startups are using this technology to let customers send money transfers inexpensively. Now, customers don’t need to pay exorbitant fees to banks when they want to send money to their friends or family members.

This is especially useful for people who need to send money internationally. Traditional banks charge an average of $43 for international money transfers, which is an extremely high fee. FinTech companies are able to send money at a very low cost thanks to blockchain, and then they can pass the savings on to their customers.

Partnering with Banks

Consumers aren’t happy with their banks. In fact, only 23 percent of consumers say their banks are meeting their expectations. Transparency with pricing and fees is one of the big problems keeping consumers unhappy. They want more clarity about fees, and they want to be able to avoid paying outrageous fees.

While consumers aren’t fans of traditional banks, they may not be aware there are other options. Only two in five Canadians report using a non-bank alternative for financial services in the past year. FinTech companies could solve their long-standing payment problems, but they just don’t know it yet.

To mutually benefit from these tech solutions, FinTech companies and banks are becoming partners. The banks can provide the brand recognition and the existing customer base. The FinTech companies can provide an improved service that makes customers happy. By working together, both companies can benefit, and customers benefit, too.

For example, CIBC recently partnered with Borrowell, a FinTech company that provides online lending solutions. CIBC’s existing banking customers can get online loans quickly through Borrowell. Loans are adjudicated in real time, and the funds usually appear the next day in customers’ bank accounts. That’s a lot faster than a traditional bank loan.

Many banks have also partnered with R3 to use blockchain technology in the financial market. Seventy-five of the world’s largest banks are now part of this partnership. By partnering and using blockchain technology, banks will be able to make their payment transactions more secure. They’ll also be able to reduce their costs, and hopefully pass those savings on to customers.

Creating More Customer Convenience

One of the long-standing payment problems with traditional banks is inconvenience. When customers send money to their friends or families, they need to wait hours or even days for the money to arrive. In some situations, waiting may not be a big deal. In others, even a short wait can be a major inconvenience.

For example, consider a group of friends dining at a restaurant. The restaurant won’t split the bill, so everyone needs to pay together. The problem is, no one has any cash. They all just have their bank cards. The friends pull out their phones and transfer the cost of their meals to one person, who will then pay for everyone on a card. If that money doesn’t arrive instantly, the friends could be stuck at their table for hours, waiting for the transfers to arrive.

What a hassle! Fortunately, FinTech companies are solving this problem. Now, friends can instantly send money to each other with apps like Venmo. This makes sharing costs at restaurants a lot more convenient.

Creating Alternative Payment Channels

Traditionally, if you wanted to make a payment, you needed to log in to your bank account to do it. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with needing to go a bank’s website to make a payment, but it’s not the most efficient method. FinTech companies are creating alternative payment channels. These payment channels let customers pay for services without having to log in to their bank accounts. This makes payments simpler and faster.

For example, some FinTech companies are using chat messaging to process payments. PayKey is one of the companies doing this. Users can send instant money transfers to their friends or family members through Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or other social apps. This makes it easy for friends to pay each other back or for family members to send money to each other. When a friend asks for money, you don’t need to leave the app and log in to your bank’s app. You can just push a button to instantly send the money you owe.

Revolutionizing Mobile Payments

In the past, consumers paid with their plastic debit or credit cards in stores. A long-standing problem with this arrangement is the visibility of the data. For example, it’s easy for someone to get a look at your credit card number and watch you enter your PIN in the terminal. With that information, that onlooker could spend your money.

Mobile payments are a way to solve this long-standing payment problem for consumers. Mobile wallets are encrypted, so they offer increased security. They make it easier for consumers to shop online, since they don’t need to type in as many numbers as they shop. Mobile wallets are also able to store information from loyalty rewards programs. Today’s consumers are very comfortable paying with their mobile phones. Among retail banking consumers, one-third pay with their phones at least once a week. There’s still a lot of opportunity in this area since so many consumers still aren’t regularly using mobile payments.

One big area of opportunity for FinTech companies is the corporate market. While consumers are starting to embrace mobile payments, corporate users aren’t. Corporate users are worried about the security risks of mobile payments. They may worry about security vulnerabilities in the technology or phishing attacks.

To overcome these problems, FinTech companies need to focus on hiring highly skilled IT professionals. When you hire great people for your team, you’re better equipped to solve problems.

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