MaltaChamber.org.mt interviews Steve Mercieca on Blockchain Technology
Q: Blockchain is making inroads in all industries, including property. Has your company ever considered in investing in Blockchain technology? If no, why not? If yes, what kind of investment has been made so far?
A: By nature, Quicklets and Zanzi Homes, forming part of the QLZH Group (QLZH), are known to be a PropTech company. Our core business strategy is focused on purpose, sustainability and technology. We are always open to consider all possible ways on how we can make our service more tech oriented. The team at QLZH is considering Blockchain technology. We are in fact redeveloping our entire back office system at the moment to improve our performance and keep up to date with trends such as Virtual Reality and Blockchain. Although we still believe the market is extremely small and still a long way away, we want to be ready for and possible fast track.
Q: Do you personally believe Blockchain has a future within the property industry? What kind of role do you think it will play?
A: Technology is bringing people closer in many aspects of life, including financial transactions. Removing a layer (the intermediary) will achieve this and I personally believe it is something customers want, including in the property industry.
Blockchain technologies allow us to uniquely identify assets online through the use of safe and distributed trusted databases. These databases allow us to assign value to assets online, and to facilitate the transfer of these assets from one individual to another, similar to the way Bitcoin does with online currency. Uniquely identifying and assigning value to property online will simplify and streamline the transfer of assets from one individual to another by removing the need for most of the current intermediaries that exist within the transfer process. The removal of intermediaries, paper work, and verifications such as identity verification, asset ownership verification, property history verification, which currently take weeks to complete, could be done within minutes, saving time and money for both the seller and the buyer. The existence of these decentralised property databases will also increase transparency and security, and will assist in fraud prevention.
We will start seeing distributed applications built on top of these decentralised property databases which will allow for interoperability across existing property agencies. We can imagine a marketplace where agencies share data, where online services owned by agencies may communicate and collaborate with each other offering incentives in the form of tokens to do so, ultimately allowing us to find the best deals for our clients. However as I mentioned before I believe we are still over a decade away.
Q: What are your thoughts on cryptocurrency when it comes to property? Do you think the day will come soon in Malta where people buy a property with Bitcoin or other similar currencies?
A: Technology and money are two of the things we use most frequently in our day to day life. When they become one, it is a beautiful thing. Malta has has made leaps in terms of modernizing itself in the last decade, in various industries. Our financial sector performs well and I therefore believe cryptocurrency is the next natural evolutionary step for our country. We also see ourselves extending our virtual agent model to make use of this token based incentive structure. Slowly but surely I believe it will eventually start to replace the traditional banking system, unless of course the banks anticipate the disruption heading their way and innovate around it.
Q: Should the government stay away and warn against the use of cryptocurrencies or should regulations change to include cryptocurrency transactions and lending and increase protections for cryptocurrency users?
With its resources, the Government is in the best position to study the impact and possible benefits cryptocurrencies can bring to the country. In our efforts to become Europe's, and the world's most attractive country to live and invest in, I feel we should not discard, but also not rush into, innovations such cryptocurrencies. After thorough analysis, legislation should include cryptocurrencies transactions but moreover offer security and protection to its users. There is definitely a lot of buzz about Blockchain in the international start up community. Malta, being such a start up and tech hub should work hard on attracting this market.