Bank Blog Crypto

Bank Blog Publication: WHERE BITCOINS MEET HIGH SECURITY FACILITIES

State-of-the-art crypto custody

by JOCHEN WERNE

Original published in German at DER-BANK-BLOG. Please click HERE Translation created with DeepL.com

14 February 2022

Digital assets are as safe as their encryption? Unfortunately not. After all, the dangers do not only come from hackers. Security must be thought of more broadly, as examples of state-of-the-art crypto custody solutions show.

The protection of crypto assets can only be guaranteed if there is a clear awareness of the dangers. Attacks on digital assets such as cryptocurrencies or asstes no longer end with the numerous attack vectors of cyberattacks, but unfortunately already extend to the use of physical force against their owners. It is therefore important to raise awareness of possible dangers, as shown by examples of the state of today’s state-of-the-art crypto custody solutions.

According to Investing.com, the total number of cryptocurrencies as of 12 December 2021 is 9,004 with a total market capitalisation of US$2.24 trillion. After Bitcoin, Ether, XRP, Litecoin and co, the Libra Coin initiated by Facebook received unprecedented media attention, triggered by the announcement of the project alone. And the emotionality and sharpness with which the discussion was conducted shows how seriously the topic is taken internationally at the state level. It is about reputation, influence, control, responsibility and only in the last instance about technology. And for every investor, it is first and foremost about protecting his assets.

The right sense of danger

In the future, protecting our assets will not just mean keeping our wallet in the deepest pocket of our jacket or handbag or turning the key to our flat twice in the lock. In the future, we will have invested part of the fruits of our labour, our fortunes, in crypto investments and cryptocurrencies. This part of our wealth needs to be kept safe, and we need to understand exactly where and how. This requires that we understand the risks. The sense of danger must therefore adapt, as must the lure of the new opportunities. For this, it is of utmost importance to understand the real dangers and to take appropriate protective measures.

As yet, however, this sense does not seem to be all that pronounced. According to Slowmist Hacked , which specialises in aggregating information on detected attacks on blockchain projects, apps and tokens, the total amount of crypto assets stolen in 122 different attacks in 2020 is $3.78 billion. Even though the evaluation is based on the Bitcoin peaks of January 2021, it clearly shows the importance of greater efficiency in security.

In comparison, only 1.63 billion US dollars were captured in the ten largest bank robberies of all time. Considering that the largest robbery took place when dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his son Qusay to withdraw nearly US$1 billion from Iraq’s central bank with a handwritten note, and the tenth largest robbery netted the perpetrators just US$18.9 million, crypto-cybercrime has become an extremely lucrative business.

Crypto custody: Do hot and cold wallets offer sufficient security?

The famous military scientist Carl von Clausewitz argued in the early 19th century: “An army on the defensive, without fortifications, has a hundred vulnerable points; it is a body without armour”. “We must always retain sufficient forces beyond the garrisons to be a match for the enemy in the open field, unless we can rely on the arrival of an ally to relieve our fortresses and free our army.” In cryptocurrencies, the wallet is the fortress and the blockchain – the distributed ledger – is the army in the open field. It is the job of modern crypto custodians – as guardians of their clients’ assets – to ask themselves daily what additional measures can be taken to best protect cryptocurrencies and crypto assets.

Crypto custody solutions typically involve a combination of hot storage or crypto custody that is connected to the internet and cold storage or crypto custody that is not. Rakesh Sharma comments on Investopia, “Both types of storage have advantages and disadvantages. For example, hot storage is connected to the internet and therefore offers better liquidity. But hot storage options can be vulnerable to hacks due to online presence. Cold storage solutions offer more security. However, it can be difficult to generate liquidity from crypto holdings in the short term because they are offline. Vaulting is a combination of both types of cryptocurrency custody solutions, where the majority of funds are stored offline and can only be accessed with a private key.”

The risk of becoming a victim of physical violence in private crypto custody

The risk of theft of crypto assets is no longer solely about digital robbery in cyberattacks and hacks. Physical violence against the owner of crypto assets or threats to family members is already sadly present. In November 2021, for example, the American co-founder of Tuenti, once billed as the Spanish Facebook, Zaryn Dentzel, was the victim of such an attack in his private Madrid flat.

Dentzel stated on record that the gangsters beat him and stabbed him in the chest with a knife while shooting him several times with a Taser.

Thus it becomes clear that the protection of crypto-assets must also go hand in hand with the fact that a perpetrator who is prepared to use physical force understands in advance that his alleged victim does not readily have power of disposal over his total crypto-assets. Cold storage not at home, but in a cold space, for example a high-security facility, can provide the necessary protection.

State of the art crypto storage meets high security facilities

In July 2021, Prosegur Crypto – the crypto custody subsidiary of Prosegur, one of the largest security companies in the world – announced the creation of the world’s first “digital asset custody bunker”. The consistent combination of a physically and digitally inaccessible environment here is unique to date.

In collaboration with cybersecurity company GK8, Prosegur Crypto brings together all the infrastructure, facilities, technologies and security protocols required to minimise all risk areas identified in the digital asset custody chain.

The solution consists of state-of-the-art cyber security systems provided by GK8’s patented technology and the highest level of a military-grade secured protection environment. It is based on a “360° inaccessibility” approach, mapping over 100 protection measures into 6 integrated layers of security. This ensures the highest possible protection against physical and cyber attacks.

The HSM (hardware security module, a device that generates, stores and protects cryptographic keys) is housed in a military grade briefcase within the high security vault. This vault is only accessible to a limited number of people who manage the data manually and offline. Staff have restricted access to the information they handle to avoid any risk of internal theft and work from a secure facility where there is no risk of physical attack, copying or theft of systems or passwords. In the event of an unauthorised attempt to access the HSM, its contents are permanently deleted. Immediately, a recovery plan is activated, including a protocol for recovering private keys using seeds located in various other vaults.

The module is connected to an MPC (Multi-party Computation) system, which provides a fast signature process on a state-of-the-art computer network and generates transactions on the blockchain without a direct internet connection. This minimises the possibility of fraudulent access and eliminates any potential vector for cyber attacks. These system features are patented and represent a highly differentiated offering in the market.

Plea for openness: danger recognised – danger averted

The analysis shows that from Clausewitz to the latest developments in cyber security and crypto-custody, the security perspective has hardly changed. The more you rely on a single system or fortress, the more vulnerable you are. It’s all about layered security, which makes it time-consuming and very costly for attackers to get what they desperately want.

We are still only at the beginning of a new era for our monetary systems. An era driven by technology in which it is increasingly important for every actor to develop a good understanding of it in order to build sustainable ones. Technology has never been right or wrong, only the way we humans use it can make it so.

New technologies offer the opportunity to make our world more prosperous for all – let’s use it!

Robo-Advisor: Will the force be with you - Reality Challenge 2022

Robo-Advisor: WILL THE FORCE BE WITH YOU? Reality Challenge 2022

Ein besonderes Jahr steht der Robo-Avisor Szene bevor. Ihre Algorithmen sind herausgefordert gute Anlageempfehlungen in einem äußerst schwierigen Marktumfeld 2022 zu geben. Steigende Inflation, globale politische Spannungen und eine endende Liquiditätsschwemme die auf eine vulnerable Industrie mit maroden Lieferketten stößt, bilden das Szenario.

Als Bernhard Bomke im November 2019 den Artikel „Automatisch Geld verdienen – Die besten Rendite Robos“ in der Euro am Sonntag veröffentlichte stand die Szene noch am Anfang. Heute verdient sie zwar noch kein Geld und die Firmen weiten die Verluste laut eines aktuellen Berichtes der Börsenzeitung aus, doch dies aus einem gutem Grund: der Erlangung von Relevanz durch Größe.

Ob dies den Robos – wie sie von manchen liebevoll genannt werden – gelingen wird, wird 2022 zeigen. Die Challenge hat das Private Banking Magazin zu Weihnachten als Headline zu ihrem Echtgeld-Test wie folgt formuliert: „Benchmarks für Robos kaum zu knacken“. Estably, Scalable Capital, Invesdor, Deutsche Bank, bevestor, Oskar, Warburg Navigator, visualvest, zeedin, comdirect, whitebox, quirion, investify, ginmon und viele mehr stehen in den Startlöchern um zu beweisen, dass es doch möglich ist.

Wer einen tiefen Einblick in die Szene erhalten möchte, kann dies mit dem von Prof. Peter Scholz herausgegebenen und bei palgrave macmillan erschienen Standardwerk; „Robo Advisory – Investing in the Digital Age“. Das Buch bietet neben einem Überblick, tiefgreifende Einblicke in Investmentmodelle, Case Studies, Behavioral Finance Komponenten und Zukunfsaussichten. Die Autoren der einzelnen Kapitel zählen zu den führenden Experten ihres Fachs.

AUSZUG aus ROBO ADVISORY: Foreword – Man or Machine; Jochen Werne.-Part I. The Status Quo of Robo-Advisory.- Chapter 1. Robo-Advisory: The Rise of the Investment Machines; Peter Scholz and Michael Tertilt.- Chapter 2. Situating Robo-Advisory; Sinan Krueckeberg.- Part II. The Implementation of Robo-Advisory.- Chapter 3. Risk Preferences of Investors; Monika Mueller, Paul Resnik and Craig Saunders.- Chapter 4. Robo-Economicus: The Impact of Behavioral Biases on Robo-Advisory; Peter Scholz, David Grossmann and Joachim Goldberg.- Chapter 5. Quant Models for Robo-Advisors; Thorsten Ruehl.- Chapter 6. The Analysis of Robo-Advisors as a Replacement for Personal Selling; Goetz Greve and Frederike Meyer.- Chapter 7. The Regulation of Robo-Advisors in the United States; Melanie L. Fein.- Chapter 8. The Regulation of Robo-Advisory in Europe and Germany; Christian Hammer.- Part III. Case Studies of Robo-Advisory.- Chapter 9. (Re)Launching a Robo-Advisor as a Bank; Theodor Schabicki, Yvonne Quint and Soeren Schroeder.- Chapter 10. How Can Robo-Advisory be Implemented and Integrated into Existing Banks?; Ana-Maria Climescu, Christian von Keitz, Jan Rocholl and Madeleine Sander.- Part IV. The Future of Robo-Advisory.- Chapter 11. The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Robo-Advisory; Alexander D. Beck.- Chapter 12. What Role does Social Media Play for Robo-Advisors?; Ana-Maria Climescu.- Chapter 13. Success Factors for Robo-Advisory: Now and Then; Madeleine Sander.

Book recommendation: Robo-Advisory: Investing in the Digital Age

Edited by Prof. Dr. Peter Scholz; published by Palgrave Studies in Financial Services Technologies. Buy a copy here

Congratulations to Peter Scholz for publishing this excellent book on new technological investment methods. It was an honour for me to write the foreword and I wish every reader enriching insights into this new field of investing in the digital age.

Jochen Werne
Prof. Dr. Peter Scholz

This book is the first to provide comprehensive answers to these questions in a fundamental, decisive, detailed and nuanced way. It clarifies the basics, the technology and the tactics behind those clever, financial machines, gives insights into their previous track record to date and much more. Looking ahead, it provides a preview of what is and may be yet to come. As a matter of fact, so far only a relatively small percentage of the global investment community have more or less relied on robo-advisors, depending on their respective culture. It is also a fact that we are only at the beginning of development. We have all borne witness to how exponentially fast things can move forward. One such example is the evolution of smartphones—which by the way have been around for just a little longer than robo-advisors.

Handelsblatt KI-Summit – Thoughtleaders in AI meet in Munich

It’s a great pleasure having the chance to meet international experts and supporting the Summit as Speaker on AI in Finance and with an evening fireside chat about leadership, transformation and the sea.

HANDELSBLATT KI-SUMMIT

DETAILS & LINK TO THE SUMMIT
Fireside Chat in der Future Lounge about Leadership in times of transformation

KI-INsights Businessguide

Read interviews and articles from experts in the KI-Businessguide published by the Handelsblatt for the Summit and free to download on this website

It was a pleasure supporting the publication with reflection on AI developments in the Financial Industry called: “Google, how are my stocks doing and what to do?” AI in the financial sector – the next big thing?
AI in Finance Session in the Handelsblatt KI-SUMMIT
AI in Finance Session in the Handelsblatt KI-SUMMIT

The bank is perceived as a brand

Original Source in German: published on Oct 5, 2018 – “Die Bank wird als Marke wahrgenommen” Translation by DeepL Pro

Author: Angelika Breinich-Schilly interviewed Jochen Werne, Director Marketing, Business Development, Treasury & Payment Services at Bankhaus August Lenz.

Banks need to do a lot to keep pace in an increasingly digital world. In an interview with Springer Professional, Jochen Werne from Bankhaus August Lenz talks about the challenges they have to face and the right strategies.

(c) Bankhaus August Lenz

Springer Professional: Mr. Werne, what do you see as the most important driver of change in banks that is being invoked everywhere? Is it just the ongoing digitalization or do you see other reasons that require a strategic change process of the institutes?


Jochen Werne: The industry is undergoing what is probably a historic upheaval. We live in times of exponential technologies and in addition to the cost-side necessity of digitizing a large part of the processes of the institutes, the rapid change in customer expectations associated with technology, poses great challenges to an industry which is not known for being greatly agile. This disruption will eclipse many things and later perhaps be judged as revolutionary as the invention of the steam engine. In recent weeks, this has hardly made anything as clear as the rise of the online payment processor Wirecard. Wirecard was not only able to outperform Commerzbank in the DAX in September. Founded in 1999, the company has already overtaken Deutsche Bank in terms of market capitalization. In addition to the ongoing digitalization, there are also other current challenges: The low interest rate phase, which has now already lasted for a long time, is putting massive pressure on the margins of traditional houses. Political crises, trade disputes, currency problems such as in Turkey and Brexit naturally also have a direct effect on the classic business models of banks: In the future, they will have to adapt more than ever and increasingly prove their agility.
The exponential leaps in technology and ever shorter product cycles are forcing the global economy as a whole to change and adapt to changing circumstances more than ever before. Kodak is a good example. For the sake of simplification, the company has often been accused of not being far-sighted, but it has failed because of a culture that has allowed little change. Two letters are currently electrifying the economy: AI. After decades of disinterest, artificial intelligence is suddenly once again regarded as the decisive guarantor of a company’s future viability. The immediate integration of AI into one’s own business model seems indispensable, even vital for survival. Without smart software, you’d think you were dedicated to meaninglessness.
Similar to Facebook, the financial industry holds very valuable data. The preparation and processing of this data will not only become easier with maturing AI systems, but also much faster, cheaper and more targeted. It is nevertheless private and sensitive data. In order to make this resource usable in conjunction with external data, the industry must at the same time ensure its long-term security. Data may only be used in the sense of the customer, the human being – an objective that certainly has to apply to all AI-based approaches. Artificial intelligence offers an enormous range of opportunities for companies to be closer to their customers. But it also has its limits and here we are not only talking about technical limits, but also about limits that arise when the customer’s mindset does not go hand in hand with what is technically possible. Technology will only prevail if people accept it. Too radical a step, without consideration for all three areas Human, Digital and Culture, is always counterproductive.

Springer Professional: You describe that many decision-makers in the banks are well aware of the necessary changes in the business model. At the same time, however, top management often does not seem to set a concrete course and have corresponding visions. Why do you think that is?

Jochen Werne: Digitization, technological advances and the acceleration of product cycles are forcing executives to reposition their businesses. The question is no longer whether and why companies should change and introduce a more flexible organizational form, but only: How quickly and sustainably can they do it? The need for successful Change Management is not new and digitization was not an unforeseeable event. What is new, however, is the sum of the technical innovations, the possibilities offered by the technological leaps and the resulting need for extremely high implementation speeds. This circumstance has far-reaching effects on the entire management of the company. This often leads to different change processes overlaying each other, individual change processes being interrupted, modified or restarted and the organization being in a state of continuous change. And this also applies to the manager.

Springer Professional: In order to become a driver of innovation as a bank, it is necessary to anticipate not only upcoming technological but also social changes, some of which still vary greatly from region to region. One example is the payment behaviour of customers, which looks different in Germany than in other European countries or even in Asia. Many financial service providers now have think tanks or innovation labs to take on this task. But does some good ideas go up in smoke due to poorly thought-out change management?

Jochen Werne: Every new innovative offering must be easy for the customer to understand, intuitive to use and as a bank, absolutely trustworthy in terms of data security. The customer relies on the security of the communication channels as well as the careful handling of his private data. The challenge is to ensure data protection while at the same time providing the highest possible level of customer convenience. The resources of traditional banks offer enormous advantages here. An established bank is perceived as a brand by its clients, who at best associate it with important values such as trustworthiness, competence, industry knowledge and personal service. This trust is enormously important to us and should definitely be used.

Springer Professional: Companies in other industries sometimes find it easier to cope with change processes because they are not subject to additional strict regulations, as is the case with banks. Nevertheless, financial service providers such as Wirecard have succeeded in clearly differentiating themselves from traditional banks with their business model. Recently, the share value of this Fintech has even overtaken Deutsche Bank, the industry leader, as the most valuable institution. What can the industry learn from this?

Jochen Werne: Laws and guidelines have a strong influence on the competitive situation. MIFID II and PSD II are prime examples of this. In the second case, industry experts predicted that the mere opening of the banking infrastructure to third parties would lead to a major shift in competition.
This is a big advantage for FinTechs, but also the FinTech industry, which is already in the process of market consolidation, has to make considerable investments and adjustments, even if the new regulations now also open up new market opportunities. Non-adaptable service providers without sustainable and a viable business models will be driven out of the market, as will banks whose offerings do not meet the needs of customers in a digital world.
The example shows not only the usefulness of cooperation, but also its necessity. The advantages of banks, such as routine handling of regulatory issues or cross-selling opportunities due to the existing customer base, will continue to exist even after the market consolidation of the FinTech industry and the introduction of new technological standards.

Springer Professional: In order to be a driver of innovation, a bank does not necessarily have to handle all tasks alone. Where and when do cooperations with Fintechs make sense from your point of view?

Jochen Werne: What some have, others lack. Banks have a solid customer base, greater financial resources and, most importantly, a banking licence and the necessary know-how to deal with the relevant regulatory authorities. In addition, traditional financial institutions with many years of market experience, expertise in customer business and their trust can score points. Fintechs, on the other hand, have business models that are geared precisely to bringing innovative, customer-centric digital tools to market in a short space of time. Strategic alliances make sense, because ultimately everyone benefits – especially the customers. Not only the young generation today has very high demands on innovative mobile banking, but all age groups have discovered the new mobile possibilities in a very short time. Personal access to customers, which has persisted despite all the financial crises to date, is a sign that banks have preserved their most important asset – the trust of their customers. In an increasingly transparent and open financial world, however, the extent to which the customer’s loyalty to his bank will remain, is open.