Hi Pauline, what do you do and what brought you to Asia ?

It is a string of reasons that brought me to Asia. I am originally from the finance and banking industry and 10 years ago I was a CFO in Switzerland. I was given the leadership to turn around and expand the operations of a financial institution in China. I knew that the growth of the world economy in the 21st century would come from Asia, so I accepted the challenge. My mixed Asian and western heritage also gave me the drive and confidence to do so. 

I witnessed the economic and political mutation of China as a giant economic powerhouse. Seeing it with my own eyes and being in the heart of this historical period was a great experience that happens once in a lifetime. 

Western countries took that big market for granted and were not prepared to adapt to its fast changing business environment. With patience and enthusiasm, I was able to close large deals with businesses and government leaders, at the highest level, between Asia and Europe. Develop good relations with the Chinese government is one of the key success factors to do business in China. My dual culture helped me penetrate the most closed circles of the Chinese government. It would have been extremely difficult for an European to build such a network.

Being the General Secretary at the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, I had a pivotal role that combines the economic but also the political aspect and allowed me to help Swiss and European companies settling in China. 

I am deeply honored to have received in January 2019 the “Award of Recognition for Outstanding Contribution to Sino-Swiss Relations” from Swiss Authorities.

As a financial expert my role is to do economic forecast and there is a country we should not underestimate: India. In my opinion, India may be the next giant economic powerhouse. India is the largest democracy in the world, that’s why more time is needed to reach the same level of development as in China.

Moving on from those great experiences and exposure, my interest in new technologies, Blockchain and Art led me to choose an entrepreneurial path by co-founding monart (www.monart.art) which won an Award in Paris in 2018.

Monart aims to bring art to a new Era, launching the first Art Stock Exchange. Users could explore with monart the hottest artworks worldwide and enjoy trading shares on the first art stock exchange.

Monart is also featured in Forbes and recognized as the number two STO worldwide and obtained 5 stars STO rating. We were also selected among the 40 best crypto companies worldwide to be a part of the Malta Blockchain Summit Start-up Village in 2018 and 2019.

 

Could you please describe what is blockchain? Why and how do we use it in art?

Over 50% of the artworks were not attributed to the correct artist (source: a 2014 report, issued by The Fine Arts Expert Institute (FAEI) in Geneva). With blockchain, information and documents are made public, decentralized, linked and secured using cryptography. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, it is impossible for a hacker to corrupt it. Thus, blockchain is currently believed to be the most secure way of transferring digital data. 

Blockchain allows the tracking and authentication of artwork through timestamps on transactions and cryptographic signatures. Blockchain broadens the market’s transparency, tracks ownership and provenance, and provides an infrastructure for the tokenization of fractional artwork sales. Digital currency and blockchain might help shape the art world in the future. But is the art world ready for blockchain?

The report Art Market 2.0 – Blockchain and the Financialization in Visual Arts – draws a parallel between the introduction of blockchain in the art world a and the deployment of internet in 1993. It seems that the art galleries and museums of tomorrow are quite interested in this technology and the possibilities it offers. 

The major use cases from blockchain technology are authentication and provenance tracking, smart asset management, or sell shares of artworks collections with crypto-currencies. Blockchain technology can protect artists by certifying authenticity or helping artists to take advantage from their creative artworks. Blockchain is fostering the emergence of a new generation of artistic content and innovative art experiences (3D Virtual Exhibitions and 3D tours of artists’ studios, Augmented Reality tools, Artificial Intelligence creations and more). Art is also becoming more and more accessible for buyers. Blockchain is indeed good news for art! It will make it possible to democratize the art market, to open it to all audiences, and not only to collectors, investors and gallery owners. We are just at the beginning of a new era for art.

In monart case, the artist identity and work are verified and certified based on proprietary enhanced KYC methods. We use proprietary technology and high definition pictures taken by a large network of certified professional photographers registered with a military grade digital hash in the blockchain transaction, an RFID – NFC tag and an ID tags integrated in the work depending on its nature.

We are building an ecosystem to combine art, trading, cryptocurrencies and Fintech. We want to turn artworks into liquid financial assets that can be further traded through monart tokens. To do this, the team has strong expertise in art, blockchain, banking and fintech. 

Turning art into financial assets requires the same approach as we do in a financial market. The role of the financial market is to guarantee an easy and reliable access to investors and traders. We do the same with monart. We are the pioneer in launching such a art works platform. This gives us a competitive advantage but the downsides typically are difficulties we encounter to define new procedures. Although these procedures already exist in the financial market, we had to adapt them to the specificity of artworks, blockchain and cryptocurrency. We have a clear vision of the service we want to provide: we want to offer a new investment alternative. We focus on providing the best service possible no matter if our customers spend 100 or millions dollars. 

When you make only 100 people love your startup the word of mouth is more powerful than any costly marketing promotion. Some grow too fast and burn their cash too fast. This is not our case because we remain very humble and keep building a top notch platform. A user-friendly platform would overcome not only the cashflow issue but also economic downturn. 

 

What are the main obstacles to bring blockchain into art world?

According to Deloitte, in order to be adopted by enterprises on a mass scale, blockchain technology should overcome five major obstacles – 

  • the possibility of time-consuming operations, 
  • lack of standardization, 
  • high costs and complexity blockchain applications, 
  • regulatory uncertainty, 
  • the absence of collaboration between blockchain-related firms 

One of the most obvious threats to blockchain adoption is the real and perceived lack of cybersecurity. We are all aware of a number of big hacks and exploits on the bitcoin or ethereum blockchain, but each incident increased the overall system security. 

The biggest problem with Bitcoin is its carbon footprint. Bitcoin mining is very  energy consuming. For each transaction that is made on the blockchain, miners have to verify the transaction and update their ledger, this process of verification and updating is called Proof of Work. The community of miners on the blockchain replace the central authority and are therefore crucial to the successful implementation of transactions. Electricity is 90% of the cost of mining bitcoin, somewhere between an estimated 30 terawatt hours alone in 2017 alone. 

Moreover each transaction adds one more block to the chain of transactions. Each block, in turn, increases with data as it also stores the history of the blocks that preceded it. The more users join the networks, the more the transaction histories of individual coins grow, the more it is prone to the danger of collapse.

For me, blockchain is the best infrastructure in Art for accounting and making sure that transactions are properly recorded. A smart contract could settle a transaction based on anything that has been pre-configured by a person / IoT.

 

As you are living in Beijing, tell us more about trends, opportunities and challenges that Blockchain technology is facing in China.

As a fast-growing technology, the Blockchain development is supported by China in its “13th Five-Year Plan.”  The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced that they plan to issue digital currency. 

The China Development Bank also signed a memorandum of understanding for a joint research cooperation on DLT technology like blockchain with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. China is now implementing blockchain for supply-chain management, tax collection, food and drug safety, and more. Blockchain has offered opportunities not only to large corporates, but also to SMEs.

Blockchain and token or cryptocurrency are linked. As much as a decentralized form of token simply cannot exist without the security provided to it by blockchain, a blockchain cannot be created without giving people incentives to create it.

SMEs could leverage the Initial Coin Offering offered by blockchain to raise fund.

Fund-Raising: According to the “One Belt, One Road initiative on the IPO market”, the Chinese SMEs are encouraged to “going out” and enter into the international market. However, they will face more obstacles comparing with the large-sized enterprises. For instance, it is hard to find investment due to the lack of high product evaluation and brand reputation. As an unbreakable contract, the blockchain technology is a risk-free way for businesses to manage and regulate relationships with vendors and subcontractors, which will definitely facilitate the SMEs to explore oversea markets, establish international partnership and obtain the project contracts, moreover, to benefit the branding promotion and building.

– Limited risk of bankruptcy due to liabilities: Blockchain offers real time solutions. Since the business transactions can be settled in real-time, the risk of fraud will be reduced. The automation of the blockchain technology can speed up the problem solving. Smart contracts can aid the efficiency of business processes. Blockchain technology facilitates transactions in the trusted way at the lowest costs. Chinese market is a market where the trust is low and very opaque. Blockchain moves the market towards more transparency and sharing. To some degrees, small and medium-sized enterprises or start-ups may gain more, as they are finally qualified to compete with larger-sized business, thanks to the characteristics of blockchain – “trust, transparency and immutability”, which are inevitable issues for companies of any size. Blockchain allows saving digital information and transactions in a way that they are tamper-proof.

– Payment / money transaction: Blockchain makes the payment and transaction more secure and convenient and faster, and all is recorded on the blockchain. You can accept payments, pay the vendors or subcontractors, or transferring wages to employees without an intermediary to control and charge for the services. Blockchain transactions are not restricted by country borders, which will increase the opportunities for businesses to grow globally, employ foreign workers and collaborate with foreign partners. However, as the cryptos are not considered as financial products by some central banks and therefore are not regulated. If SMEs are considering of paying in cryptocurrencies, they may need to obtain permission in advance in China.

– Human resource: The token system based on the blockchain technology can play an important role in HR. The company can motivate employees by offering tokens, in this way, the SMEs can close the gap with large-sized enterprises in recruiting talents. This kind of incentive will provide companies with more chances to attract and retain the talents not only in China but from overseas. A good project and rewarding system will build an international “community” with talents from all over the world.

– Supply chain: Supply chain is a key on the Chinese market. Blockchain technology allows to keep and track the record of every stage of the shipping and logistics in real-time on the blockchain, get a proof of provenance for all the details of each product. A study showed that over 20% of businesses use supply chain financing and the majority of companies are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The blockchain can be applied into the supply chain finance to optimize cash flow, increase trust between buyers, sellers, and financial institutions, prevent supply chain disruption, secure and save the cost of transactions. Nevertheless, how to optimize the industrial chain and adopt the supply chain finance into the business becomes a challenge for traditional industries.

– Tax/Auditing: Chinese authorities leverage blockchain technology to enhance many fields such as Tax/Auditing and Privacy and safe storage of data and more. By applying the automatic system such as pay-as-you-go (PAYG) for making regular payments towards your expected annual income tax liability, the blockchain technology simplifies tax management and makes verification requests fast and simple. This is evidently save time and cost. 

– Privacy and safe storage of data: The blockchain allows users to store data in a secure way, all blockchain users can mutually store and encrypt data on each other’s computers. Blockchain offers a solution that enables businesses to keep their data secure from hack or cybercrime. 

However Chinese market is always challenging for foreign enterprises particularly for foreign SMEs. Nevertheless it is worth mentioning that the challenges for SMEs in China to develop and adopt the blockchain technology are still tough. China is a country where things are changing very fast: regulations, no loyalty of consumers etc..

 

Do you think blockchain could be a new form of virtual nation ?

In regards to the Mass adaptation of DLT (Blockchain),  It could happen if US or Europe creates or adapts a decentralized currency in their monetary system.  The blockchain raises a more fundamental question about a new world order. The making of a new world order will not happen overnight but when 20% of the world population adheres to the blockchain ecosystem, it is a community large enough to sustain itself. It is more beneficial than a quick and superficial mass adoption. You cannot force people to embrace the values of the blockchain without creating unwelcome tension. Ultimately, the blockchain community may become a new form of virtual nation without borders with its own ecosystem. Although it is difficult to predict a timeline but a larger adoption of the population might happen soon as the “crypto winter” is now over.

Currently, I work with scientists on other topics than art. They help me build solutions to eradicate poverty in the world. The radical truth is that blockchain is intimately related to the digital money. Tokenization is the next quantum leap in asset-based securitization, which is already happening in some of the traditional asset classes, such as real estate, equity funding and even venture capital. The world will eventually move from securitization to tokenization, essentially because blockchain technology can remove  low trust transactions altogether because there is no humans involved.

 

How “Dare you” to be a women in leadership?

Opportunities for women in business have never been greater than today.

Many intelligent corporations started to search high and low for female executives because they have actually realized that female input is an invaluable resource. 

This, by the way, is not an outcome of ethical debates or legal quotas demanding female executives, but simply the obvious conclusion of economic analysis. After all, many studies show that companies with a diverse leadership are more successful than those with a homogeneous one.

Nevertheless, many companies mainly in high tech industries still lack female executives, even if today about 50 percent of their workforce are women. So, if women are needed and wanted in executive roles – why does female advancement still take so long? 

I have been working to promote the progression of women in business for many years and founded the initiative “Club Generation CEO” to enhance the visibility and impact of talented female leaders while engaging European and Asian leaders. 

In close contact with even these highly educated, successful women executives, I could not overlook a few inconvenient truths:

  • The antipathy that many women feel about the intrigues and power games in large organisations that act as a facilitator to the success of their male colleagues.
  • Many women become more and more insecure the higher they climb.
  • Women find themselves isolated as a woman in their environment. 
  • Women admit their mistakes more readily whereas men prefer to talk up their strengths – and as a result, women sometimes are seen to be less confident in the eyes of their superiors.

In order to change the status quo and get more female at highest level in corporate, women need to change their own perception of success, power and decision making. And we also need to work on our lack of confidence.

The power game is one of the key factors in the workplace. Men tend to be more attracted by power than women. Many women do not know how to play the power game that is often practiced in large organizations and that are sometimes facilitating their male colleagues’ career. Most women still have an ambivalent relationship with power.  Most of the time we would only need a role model to teach us that power in combination with responsibility is not a curse, but can be a blessing.

Female leaders are expected to be soft and hard at the same time. Many female executives battle with the challenge of combining those characteristics which are expected of women (such as nurturing others) with characteristics expected of a leader (self-assuredness and being in control). 

Studies across all scientific disciplines and data from a range of nations indicate that women still battle against the odds universally, not only when they attempt to enter the inner temple of corporate leadership. In the “Harvard Business Review” scientists called these interconnected obstacles most fittingly “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership”. 

 

How do you bring more diversity?

This experience taught me a lot about how to navigate in two digit growth economies and bring the best talent onboard. Diversity is an important factor and the leadership of monart team is composed of people from Switzerland, France, Singapore, America, China, India and Africa. Making smart people from different countries and different culture work together is not an easy task but it is a price to pay of you want to build the best company today.

I believe diversity could create a lot of value for everyone, for men, women and companies.

Diversity is not only cultural diversity but also gender parity. First we still need to fight for men and women to be more equal. Our attitude in our daily life can contribute to eliminate all the prejudice against women and stereotypes which are in every society, whether in the most developed country or in the less developed country. The indifference is the worst plague in our society. This attitude can be taught since very young, that’s why education play an important role. To create a virtuous circle, gender equality awareness should start at school from the very young age, within the family and evolve across in every part of our society. As an individual we are also a citizen who can raise this awareness at the governmental level. But it’s easier to say than to do, in their daily routine people consider this is not the most important issue and it is a permanent struggle for an individual who wants to push gender equality cause.

We should insist on the fact that gender equality has a real impact on our GDP.  The world’s GDP would be much higher with the participation of the women in the economy to the same extent as men.

Within the Club Generation CEO, I always promote women leadership, creativity and innovations in the areas of art & culture, energy transition & ecological civilization and new technology with the objective of contributing to building a better society. That is why I have contributed since its inception to the annual Eco-Forum Global Conference, which brings together the main CEOs and government officials from China and around the world on the model of the World Economic Forum. I also launched the Annual Conference “Women Leaders in Ecology and Development” in China and the initiative of Sino-Euro CEO Dialogue. 

People often oppose AI to blockchain because people like to see the world in black and white but the future will be more a combination of AI and blockchain together because both are game changing technologies. It’s a challenging era for women because women are often the leftovers each time there is a technology revolution. Today we talk about AI artificial intelligence, Blockchain, digital money. But my question is what are we going to do to make sure the new generation of women will not again be the leftovers and they are committed from day one to the making of a new world shaped by these new industries ?  

I dream of a future where our ideas have changed the world for the benefit of hundreds, perhaps even thousands or millions. This choice is ours. New technologies such as the blockchain is once a lifetime opportunity for people who need it the most.

Pauline, thank you ! 

Get in touch with us @ womenfrenchtech at gmail dot com

In collaboration with Amel Rigneau & Sophie Guo

 

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