Nuno Silva Vieira, partner at Antas da Cunha ECIJA, leading the Legal Intelligence department, and Executive Coordinator of the Blockchain & Smart Contracts program, explains why it is essential to invest in knowledge about this technology to stay relevant in the market.
Are crypto assets legal?
Crypto assets have never been illegal. They are the result of human invention, particularly this technological wave, associated with the fourth industrial revolution, which takes on a foundational nature for many industries.
Anyone can own a crypto asset, with the assurance that there is no law or legal guidance preventing it. All that is required is to own a digital wallet and use a blockchain that allows access to this type of asset.
Commercialization is another thing. Whoever commercializes this type of asset has to respect the law and cannot, in any way, impose losses on third parties, often unaware of this type of technological reality.
Hence the need for regulation. Blockchain technology is too relevant not to be leveraged by individuals, businesses, and the public sector.
Are crypto assets more volatile than other markets?
We could say so. But to answer this way we would be assuming that all crypto assets are investments. In fact, when we talk about security tokens, we are talking about investment. But when we talk about another type of tokens - utilitytokens or NFT's - we are not talking about investment - we are talking about tokens that deliver to their holder a type of utility that is not investment. Of course, the human mind is very creative and there are many people trying to speculate around many virtual assets, NFT's being one of the most publicly known cases.
To combat this kind of speculation we must invest in digital literacy and financial literacy. These two realities are fundamental pillars for basic education in the 21st century.
How is the world preparing for the regulation of virtual assets?
Virtually everyone has assimilated that virtual assets are a reality of the 21st century. There are countries that are being quicker and more assertive, others that have not done anything and those that have done something, but have done it badly. The UK, for example, is being very assertive and is betting on the implementation of smart contracts in the economy, with the British judicial system being very active in this matter. Other countries have bet on the immediate application of taxes, practically without their citizens knowing what realities are being taxed. The EU (European Union) is developing a regulation - expected to come into force in 2024 - concerning the crypto asset market. One of the things that is being done well is to create a strong legal - and regulatory - order of this whole digital economy, in safeguarding consumers and investors. Things are happening. Just these days, the US Federal Reserve and the ECB have published guidelines for banks that want to trade virtual assets.
Why is it important to stay abreast of this technological transformation and gain knowledge about technologies like Blockchain or Smart Contracts?
Anyone without solid knowledge about blockchain technology will not be prepared for the times ahead. The IMF estimates that in 2025 30% of the world GDP will be associated with the digital economy. This means that in the next three years Portugal may need 30% of available workforce with solid knowledge in topics such as Blockchain and Smart Contracts. We are in the Web3 era and no company can escape this reality. For some professions, we may be entering a new era of multiple opportunities. I would highlight, among others, all the technological professions associated with Web3 content, management positions, and legal professions.
Can you give us some examples of the potential and possible practical applications of Blockchain in the business world?
I would immediately highlight smart contracts, or smart contracts, because they allow the automatic execution of a contract, or several contracts, simultaneously, with the elimination of many "bottlenecks" that generate delays and inefficiencies.
Then there are the digital currencies, which are completely decentralized, fast, efficient, and generate a trail that can guarantee a drastic reduction in tax evasion. This type of currency already allows, for example, the acquisition of real estate.
We also have the new payment systems, with blockchain technology playing a key role in increasing the security of its users. There are Portuguese companies leading the way in this type of service, fully licensed by the Bank of Portugal to carry out their activity.
One of the things that some companies already do very well is cloud storage using blockchain technology, generating gains in data security and reducing costs.
Then comes logistics, health, justice, education or energy. Our whole lives can be affected by the potential of this kind of technology, and for this reason, ignoring it may not be the best option.