''Artificial intelligence will lower the price tag for brokers and financial consultants''

Experts of the Gaidar Forum questioned the forecast of the Russian PM

Realnoe Vremya's reporter visited a discussion of experts of the Gaidar Forum who discussed 'reasons and legal consequences of the destruction of intermediaries in financial markets'. To put it simply, it's the influence of blockchain and cryptocurrencies on the activity of financial institutions and laymen's life. Realnoe Vremya tells the details.

''Somebody plays with tanks, while somebody plays with cryptocurrencies''

Dmitry Medvedev's statement that was made at the forum one day before set the pace for many comments on cryptocurrencies. We should remind it was said that cryptocurrencies could disappear in several years, while blockchain, on the contrary, would become 'part of everyday reality'. Board Chairman of SAFMAR Financial Investments CJSC Oleg Vyugin (former first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank and director of the Federal Financial Markets Service) didn't agree with this forecast:

''The blockchain technology gave an impetus to the appearance and development of cryptocurrencies. And not only. When a community of people is formed (for instance, a community in a messenger), they can exchange not only information but also money there. This is why an interest in the creation of 'private money' is arising. So it's difficult to say what it will bring to, but I wouldn't make such a conclusion that blockchain will remain but cryptocurrencies disappear.''

They won't disappear if they are demanded by life – it was the sense of Vyugin's speech.

However, a more interesting question was formulated at the beginning of the session: how does blockchain threaten the existing system of financial intermediation, particularly intermediations of banks?

''There is more clarity here,'' Oleg Vyugin claimed. ''Let's say a new directive of the EU on financial intermediation made us such a picture of the nearest future in which the margin between traditional and 'new' intermediaries (they are also intermediaries but cheaper) will be simply distributed.''

Deputy Finance Minister of Russian Aleksey Moiseyev supported his colleague. He reminded the reduction of intermediation is a common sign of development of a post-industrial society. It is minimised in cryptocurrencies but doesn't disappear completely (services that store passwords serve as intermediaries here). Evaluating the occurrence, in general, Moiseyev agreed with the top:

''I think it is the next toy that will occupy its niche for those who are keen on it. Somebody plays with tanks, while somebody plays with cryptocurrencies. All the beauty of the latter for many people at the first stage was in the anonymity of transactions. Many countries have already learnt how to identify those who perform transactions with Bitcoin. As means of payment, despite the spread opinion, the cryptocurrency isn't faster than traditional means of payment because it takes time to validate transactions of at least 50% of participants. In addition, it is impossible to sue in debatable cases.

Director of ACRA Analytical Credit Rating Agency Ekaterina Trofimova said the expectations of cryptocurrencies were too high, first of all, because many people have been waiting for a magic and sudden recovery of markets for almost 10 years already, since the world economic crisis in 2008. In fact, the effect of the development of cryptocurrencies and blockchain will be dragged in time.

''Cryptocurrencies haven't become mainstream means of payment yet. But it doesn't mean they can't become so. All depends on people's habit who can evaluate the tool's comfort – in case it is comfortable. At the moment, this market is interesting and promising, yes, but comparably small and doesn't influence pricing.''

Not only banks will suffer from the reduction of the number of intermediaries in supply chain or, speaking a professional language, disintermediation.

''Artificial intelligence, machine learning will lower the price tag for brokers and financial consultants,'' First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov warned. ''This intermediation will become more intellectual and, thanks to its massive scale, more available. From my point of view, we need fundamental research of cryptocurrencies. Our higher school behaves passively here. I will remind you Bill Gates' words: ''We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.''' It's true. So what we're seeing now wasn't even discussed 10 years ago.''

Ruble, dollar or Bitcoin?

Moderator Konstantin Korischenko asked the experts about their attitude to the creation of a 'cryptocurrency offshore centre' in Belarus late last year: ''Won't the neighbouring country be a place where everything will flow to?''

''But mining has not been regulated in Russia too, we have free ICO,'' Aleksey Moiseyev encouraged him. ''Although there are cases of fraudulence here already. Everything that is permitted in Belarus is permitted in Russia. Now we're not going to create concessionary conditions for cryptocurrencies in some of the regions of Russia. But probably we will also have full-fledged offshore centres.''

Oleg Vyugin agreed that there was nothing to worry about because brains won't move to the Belarusian offshore centre forever. In addition, the brains will get an interesting experience. This non-regulation of cryptocurrencies in Russia (we should remind that a bill on regulation of cryptocurrency and tokens was adopted to the Russian State Duma) has a downside, of course, that Ekaterina Trofimova offered to focus on:

''Now one can do this activity 'by default'. But it will be certainly legalised. It means the question 'Who is responsible and what for? arises in front of us, particularly the country. If the population and business participate in it, they can give the country an invoice for their misfortunes at some stage.''

In the end, the speakers were asked cutting questions from the hall: what cryptocurrencies will survive and what is preferable – the ruble, dollar or Bitcoin?

Trofimova stopped attempts to answer because today an answer will be 'speculation' in any case. 'There can be many black swans and forks.'' Meanwhile, Elvira Nabiullina's first deputy presented his version of what was going on:

''Those who want to make money from Bitcoin provide over 90% of demand for Bitcoin and only less than 10% see it as means of payment. In fact, it is a sale of a dream, especially in Russia. Because if you are offered 30% of income, you will doubt; if it is 1,000%, you will rush to invest. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren't money whose main function is to be a unit of value. And we will have to understand what it is.''

By Rustem Shakirov