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The Irregular Newsletter of Z/Yen Group Limited

Catch up with current projects, new ventures and see some very bad puns (Editor: bad metaphor) via Z/Yen's blog or the eagerly awaited newsletter.

To receive your copy electronically, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Security Forward-Risk and Intelligence Forum’s quarterly meeting was held on 11 January at the HSBC Head Office in Canada Square, Canary Wharf, hosted by Chris Smith, Global Head of Security Risk and Member of Security Forward, who welcomed us and gave us a short introduction to our rather splendid venue.

Our first talk was by our ‘Speaker in Residence’ and Senior Adviser, Lt Col Crispin Black MBE MPhil, who gave a presentation entitled "Catastrophe in Catalonia". Crispin spoke on the political difficulties in Catalonia.  He wasn't optimistic.  After the failed 27 October 2017 Referendum on Independence, the imposition of direct rule by the government in Madrid, and the imprisonment or exile of the main independence leaders, it looked for a short period as if the crisis would gradually be defused.  Spanish prime minister Rajoy gambled that a fresh set of provincial elections would take the wind out of the sails of the independence movement whose main leader. Carles Puigdemont. was forced to campaign from Brussels.  Rajoy miscalculated.  The independence bloc, despite massive state propaganda against them, managed to secure 70 of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament.  It looks likely that the bloc will seek to re-appoint the exiled Puigdemont as President of the Generalitat - the official name of the Catalan government - when the new Catalan parliament meets for the first time on 17 January.  Rajoy's allies look set to insist that exiled or imprisoned independence MPs cannot vote unless physically present in the parliament, thus preventing Puigdemont from taking office.  Feelings are running high and it is hard to imagine a new Catalonian government being formed without considerable unrest on the streets, perhaps spilling over into inter-communal violence and attacks on the security forces.  Neither side seems ready to back down and a number of previously moderate Catalans were radicalised by Madrid's heavy handed response to 27 October Referendum.  Watch this space.  There was a lively debate following Crispin’s presentation which led us into the coffee break. 

Our second speaker was Simon Dukes, the CEO of CIFAS since 2013, before which he spent his career working for the UK Government in a variety of roles and specialisms including: counter terrorism, serious and organised crime investigations, defence & security policy, public affairs, media & communications strategy, and cyber security.  As Head of Cyber Security for the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, Simon worked on the first UK Cyber Security Strategy, focusing on increasing cyber security awareness in those companies of greatest value to the UK.  In addition to being CIFAS Chief Executive, Simon is also on the Oversight Board of the Home Secretary’s Joint Fraud Task Force, and the Management Board of the NCA-led joint Money Laundering Intelligence Task Force.  The title of Simon’s presentation was "The Fraud Threat from Inside" and he gave a fascinating and anecdot-filled talk which led to much discussion around the table.

As usual, we then held our ‘Sharing Your Current In-Tray’ session in which participants highlighted their current ‘hot issues’ and debated future topics that we should cover. T his is very valuable session and allows for the group to identify future threats and concerns, and share intelligence. 

We then moved to a different room for cocktails, followed by an excellent dinner hosted by Chris Smith, HSBC.  The smooth organisation and excellent service from all the staff at HSBC Head Office enhanced the day’s proceedings and allowed for a relaxed atmosphere where networking could flourish. 

Our final speaker was John McHugo who spoke about his book "A Concise History of the Arabs".  A signed copy was presented to each participant.  The question and answer session was particularly interesting as the group contained quite a few people with a deep knowledge of the Middle East (including a three star General) and John demonstrated his broad and detailed knowledge of the Arab world and Islam.  His insightful analysis and impressive scholarship allowed for an excellent discussion.  His latest book is entitled "A Concise History of the Sunnis and Shi’is".  We were delighted to have him as a guest speaker.  Following a very fine dinner there was the opportunity for the usual sharing of cards and networking which will allow our Members to share best practice with each other.

Our Easter meeting will take place on 22 March 2018 and we will confirm the venue when we send out the invitations.

Following the March 2017 publication of the House of Lords select committee report on Brexit , replete with quotes from Ian Harris’s evidence provided in October 2016 , thanks to hundreds of Now and Z/Yen readers…

…Ian has been summoned again to give follow-up evidence on developments (or lack thereof) in trade in non-financial services.

Ian would again be interested to hear from Now and Z/Yen readers if you have relevant comments or examples of developments in non-financial services.

Please e-mail Ian directly on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

An autumn dinner discussion at the London Capital Club under the Distributed Futures banner, sponsored by Z/Yen Group and The Cardano Foundation. The gathering was designed to "explore issues of interest to global stock exchanges and other trading platforms”.

The evening was held under the Chatham House Rule. There was an eclectic mixture of guests, some from the blockchain/distributed ledgers world, some from more traditional finance plus some representation from regulatory and academic circles.  Issues for discussion included trading technology, ICOs & ITOs (initial coin offerings and initial token offerings), smart ledgers & disintermediation, plus politics, geo-economics and social reactions. The aim was to identify areas worthy of further research.  The resulting fizzy conversation was prefaced with Aperol Spritz aperitifs.

There was a great deal of discussion around digital security and cryptography generally. The resulting suggestions for further research included some generic questions around sovereignty and governance of platforms, e.g. “usability, understanding and acceptance” of platforms and “taking back control of our data”. Also geopolitical questions such as, “should we look at what Russia and China are doing to understand the future in these areas?”. Plus meta questions, e.g. “is this important enough topic” and “are these emerging platforms really a means to a better end”, plus questions around the possible use of deontic logic in such platforms, e.g. to regulate permissions and obligations.

Still, there was a great deal of conversation about tokens and cryptocurrencies specifically. Some participants were concerned about the cost (e.g. energy use) of tokens. Other wondered whether digital currencies should be backed, e.g. with fiat currencies and/or whether mechanisms for convertibility simply need to be improved.  Are cryptocurrencies potentially most useful as transactional, commercial currencies or will they be preferred as stores of value or a mixture of uses? What are they being used for primarily at the moment? Do distributed ledgers without underlying currencies allow for transactional secure e-trading without the “friction” of cryptocurrencies? What does “friction” actually mean in this context?  How might distributed ledger exchanges be genuinely interoperable?

Others mused used on whether ICOs/ITOs are Ponzi schemes and how we might tell. Even if not Ponzi schemes, some felt that the volatility of prices and soaring supply might be a warning sign of an impending crash in conventional finance.  Nevertheless, the tone, on the whole, was upbeat. There was a sense in the room that the emerging technologies and techniques have the potential to be, if deployed well, a great force for good.  The agenda sheet for the evening included a quote that seemed even more apposite as the evening concluded:

“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.”  William Gibson.

We had some quite amazing discussions at December’s Distributed Futures Forum. The main topic of the event was “Cryptocurrencies, ICOs, and ITOs”. Members from cryptocurrency firms, government departments, banks, insurers, media, and technology firms made for a diverse audience, with one person flying in from recent research in San Diego.

Our ever-controversial Professor Ian Angell launched a wonderful attack on the ICO and ITO bubble, and kindly supplied the text - There’s One Born Every Minute - Black Sky Thinking About Crypto-currencies . He passed around a number of interesting items, not least a token for The Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas, “Good For All Night”. Ian was followed by Emad Mostaque who shared an idea cooked up with Michael Mainelli and Vinay Gupta, the PopCoin. PopCoins would be an individual currency for every person born on earth. Discuss. Indeed, both presentations resulted in vigorous discussion.

The venue was the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’ Hall. It was just right for the fairly large gathering. While the Hall was readied for dinner, we whiled away the interval with Mainelli-Bergs (an interesting combination of citrus, Aperol, and gin). Over dinner the discussion continued with a few remarks about the evolution of IT and the continuing centralisation-decentralisation debate that cryptocurrencies rightly generate.