Cointelegraph in German asks the best minds in the DACH region six questions about the crypto and blockchain industry, straying from the middle ground.
This week our questions go to Mauro Casellini, CEO of Bitcoin Suisse (Liechtenstein) AG and Head of Bitcoin Suisse Europe, where he is responsible for the company’s European operations. Before Casellini joined Bitcoin Suisse, he worked as a Head of Blockchain and Payment Service Providers at Liechtenstein-based Bank Frick. Casellini is also a board member of the Crypto Country Association (CCA) in Liechtenstein, the official representation of the blockchain industry to government, regulators and businesses.
Cointelegraph in German: How and when did you start getting involved in cryptocurrencies?
Mauro Casellini: I first came into contact with Bitcoin (BTC) in 2012 while studying business administration. One of my professors introduced us to blockchain technology, performed a bitcoin transaction, and told us why it’s revolutionary and will change the financial world forever. Unfortunately, I dismissed it as a technical thing at the time, didn’t deal with it further, and lost sight of the topic for about three years.
In 2015, I reconnected with the subject through various customer inquiries at Bank Frick, my employer at the time, and have already dealt with it intensively. I quickly found myself in the “rabbit hole”, reading more and more about blockchain technology and dealing with possible applications and individual cryptocurrencies. The greater my know-how in this field, the more I was convinced and, therefore, I actively advocated with my former employer for us to introduce an offer in the field of crypto. Thanks to the support of my team and the support of the CEO and the board, it worked and gave us the opportunity to be one of the first banks in Europe to implement a blockchain offer.
To this day, we all don’t know what will be possible with blockchain technology. Here I always find the parallels with the world of the internet and blockchain technology fascinating. Compared to the internet, in the blockchain world, we are now in 1998, the year Google was founded. This realization shows me that we are still in our infancy and that everything can still happen or change in the near future.
CT: What have been your most important (professional) experiences over the past three years?
Mauro Casellini: The last three years in the blockchain industry have been exciting and there have been many notable events, both positive and negative. Of course, I could talk about the collapse of Terra (LUNA) or the demise of FTX here, but I want to consciously focus on positive events.
An impressive and much discussed event took place when El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as legal tender in September 2021. In addition to the US dollar, since then it is officially possible to pay with Bitcoin anywhere in the country. Other countries, such as Central Africa, have already followed and others are in the process of introducing Bitcoin as an official means of payment.
I consider the Ethereum merger of September 2022 as another important event. Since that date, the Ethereum blockchain has been operating successfully based on the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) algorithm, and another important step towards sharding, core technology for higher scaling on the Ethereum blockchain has been achieved. The madness of this event is exemplified by the Ethereum Foundation’s apt comparison, which describes this transition from Proof of Work (PoW) to PoS as a spaceship swapping the old engine for a new one mid-flight.
Not a direct event, but a movement is the acceptance of cryptocurrencies by institutional players in the financial markets. Many large financial service providers have initiated or announced their own cryptocurrency investments, new offerings for end customers, and partnerships with blockchain providers. One of the many possible examples is BlackRock, which announced an official partnership with Coinbase in August 2022. The more big players in the traditional financial world discover the added value of Bitcoin and blockchain, the more acceptance and, above all, the market benefits will be broad.
CT: What will happen to Bitcoin and Ethereum in the next 10 years?
Mauro Casellini: Bitcoin will assert itself as a secure store of value, comparable to the function of gold today. Bitcoin has many properties that would justify such development today, but due to the still young history with the Genesis block in 2009, too little time has passed and there is not enough widespread acceptance. . To name a few of these properties, Bitcoin is easily transferable, can be verified for authenticity at any time, and is almost unlimitedly divisible.
Due to the rapid acceleration in the field of digitization and the emergence of central bank digital currencies (CBDC), the need for a completely decentralized and neutral solution, Bitcoin but also other cryptocurrencies, will be very big.
For its part, Ethereum will establish itself as one of the most important infrastructures for Web3.0. Ethereum is the most widely used infrastructure blockchain today and based on the roadmap, I see no reason why it shouldn’t stay that way. The aforementioned merger was one of many steps and, especially in combination with so-called second layer frameworks such as Polygon or Scale, highly scalable solutions are already successfully operational on Ethereum. More and more industries are using blockchain as a base layer for their use cases and many of them are already based on Ethereum or a second layer.
Of course, in addition to Ethereum, there will also be other projects, such as Polkadot or Tezos, which try to establish themselves as a blockchain infrastructure. Therefore, close cooperation and no competitive thinking are necessary for the success of blockchain technology. Interoperability is an important term for me here, because only if a “barrier-free” transition from one blockchain to another works can this technology become established in the long term.
CT: What is the biggest obstacle to the widespread acceptance of cryptocurrencies in Europe (especially in Switzerland and Liechtenstein)?
Mauro Casellini: The biggest hurdle has an immediate solution: effective regulation. Both Switzerland and Liechtenstein are already leaders in regulation, but regulation must be understood in a broader context and, above all, in a broader regional framework. Switzerland itself is too small to be widely accepted in the overall market. Liechtenstein is located in the European Economic Area and must therefore comply with European regulations.
In September 2020, the European Commission published the first draft “Markets in Crypto Assets” (MiCA) regulation. It can currently be assumed that the regulation will enter into force in spring 2023 and will apply 18 months later, i.e. in autumn 2024. This law will give all European regulated participants the possibility to distribute their services throughout Europe. Clear regulations give the entire blockchain industry more clout and legitimacy and allow many institutional market players to devote more attention to the subject. Even though Switzerland itself is not part of the European Economic Area or the European Union, this legislation will also have a positive effect on Switzerland and lead to wider acceptance. In any case, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are currently well positioned and some of the largest and most successful projects – Ethereum, Polkadot, Tezos or Near – have chosen one of the two countries as their location.
CT: Do you think DeFi is the future of finance?
Mauro Casellini: It is clear to me that DeFi will be an important part of the future of finance. Thanks to blockchain technology, we can optimize processes, reduce risks and eliminate unnecessary intermediaries from existing processes. The more parties involved in a process, the greater the risk of errors and problems if one party fails.
But it is important for me to mention that I am not convinced that the CeFi world will completely disappear. It is important for many parties to be able to interact with a counterparty, for example a bank. They want a partner they trust completely. Many end customers will never be willing to own their tokenized assets themselves or interact directly with a blockchain.
There will be regulated financial intermediaries that will store tokens for the end customer, obtain loans through a decentralized protocol, trade tokenized financial instruments or operate the staking validator.
It will be an interaction between DeFi and CeFi and end customers will have the choice to decide how to interact with their digital assets. As a result, this will lead to greater freedom for end customers, which I enthusiastically support and follow.
CT: What superpowers would you most like to have and what would you use them for?
Mauro Casellini: According to World Bank figures, 2.8 billion people worldwide are underbanked. This means that they do not have a bank account or have very limited access to the world of finance. Therefore, with my super power, I would give everyone in this world access to the internet and a smartphone.
On this basis, the first great brick of a fairer world in the field of finance could be created. People could interact with each other more independently, send money to family and friends in other countries at almost no cost, and all without the undue involvement of overpriced and slow intermediaries like well-known money transfer providers. This gives people the opportunity to escape their own inflation-ridden local currency and gain financial security for the first time in their lives.
Blockchain technology is an important element that will lead to more financial freedom. Among other things, blockchain can help build better performing economies in countries with poor financial market infrastructure or facilitate emigration for a better life. Therefore, I am convinced that greater acceptance and use of cryptocurrencies over time will increase the economic freedom of individuals in the world without superpowers.