ICON utilises Hedera Hashgraph to achieve the gold standard for security in the field of distributed consensus: Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (ABFT). Other platforms that use coordinators, leaders, or communication timeouts tend to be vulnerable to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against those vulnerable areas. Hashgraph is resilient to these types of attacks against the consensus algorithm, and achieves the theoretical limits of security defined by ABFT. Achieving this level of security at a scale of hundreds of thousands of transactions per second is a fundamental advance in the field of distributed systems and it is the gold standard for security in this category.
Many applications require that the consensus order of transactions match the actual order in which the transactions are received by the network. It should not be possible for a single party to prevent the flow of transactions into the network, nor influence the order of transactions in the eventual community consensus. A fair consensus algorithm ensures that if a user can submit a transaction to the network at all, then the transaction will be received by the network and the order in which it was received will be a fair ordering. Hashgraph uniquely ensures that the actual order transactions are received by the community will be reflected in the consensus order. In other words, hashgraph ensures both Fair Access and Fair Ordering.
Formal proofs of the ABFT and fairness properties for the hashgraph consensus algorithm exist and have been available for public review since June, 2016. Furthermore, the hashgraph algorithm has been validated as ABFT by a math proof checked by computer using the Coq system in October, 2018.
Creators and Custodians of Intergenerational wealth readily acknowledge that new statutes and regulations targeting their wealth ensures that Privacy and Compliance are top of mind. There are four states of Privacy including:
In 2010, as part of FATCA, US Congress enacted new disclosure requirements for specified foreign financial assets (“SFFAs”). The types of reportable assets include: direct holdings of stock in foreign entities, interests in foreign funds, depository accounts, custodial accounts, or interests in financial institutions.
In 2018, the CRS was adopted across the G20 requiring the name and identifying number of the reporting foreign financial institution (FFI) as well as the name and the account number, year end balance, address, tax identification number, date and place of birth of each reportable person.
Interestingly, Gold held in a custodial account maintained by an FFI (bank) would be considered reportable, however, Gold held in an independent vault or safety deposit box is exempt from declaration provided (i) the vault is not in an FFI (bank) or (ii) the storage arrangement is not a financial account.
ICON CAPITAL RESERVE SA is not an FFI.
Fibonacci’s Golden Mean is a mathematical formula that permeates the fractal design of our world from subatomic DNA structures the patterns of the stars in the universe. The Golden Mean is embedded in the architecture of our most iconic buildings from the Great Pyramids to Sydney’s Opera House. Since the dawn of humanity, Trusted Sacred Symbols found in places of worship have been generating carrier waves that are literally broadcasting information.
Trust can be traced to the neurobiological activity of our human brain. Our increasingly complex world slows decision making, so we use heuristic defaults like intuition and common sense to help the process. Gold has become the heuristic default for 6000 years because across geography, language, culture and economics, it is the numeraire that the entire world agrees on. Gold is Value.
The stock of Gold refers to the available c200,000MT mined throughout history and the flow refers to the c2,700MT mined annually. Mathematically, Gold has a stock and flow ratio of 1.35%. The stock of our Planet refers to the c7.45b inhabitants and the flow is a net 80m people added per year. Mathematically, Humanity has a stock and flow ratio of 1.20%. As people move up through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they create surpluses that are stored in a trusted reserve asset like Gold. Hall’s Law suggests that the stock and flow ratios of Gold and Humanity have been correlated for centuries and the ratios are immune to manipulation.
J. Bradley Hall our Founder, Chairman and CEO is interviewed by Servanne Sohier, Editorial Director of Investor Media.
Servanne Sohier: Hi Brad. I want to welcome you back and thank you again for the thoughtful interview in our December Family Office Issue. We are eager for an update on what has been happening in the digital currency space and importantly, developments with ICON.
Brad: Hi Servanne. It is my pleasure and I am very excited to be speaking with you again.
SS: Ok let’s begin. In December, you provided the following quote when we were discussing whether Bitcoin was in a bubble? “I hear that question quite frequently. Bitcoin (BTC) is clearly in Bubble territory and as Voltaire noted, all fiat currencies revert to the mean, which is zero. BTC will follow the trend as it remains a ‘claim check with nothing to claim’, however it may go to $20k first, so if you are trader, enjoy, otherwise I would advise caution.”
Brad: And you are now wondering if I have a crystal ball? (laughing)
SS: Well BTC did almost immediately ascend to $20k, collapse to $6k and is now back where we started in December at $8-9k, so if you don’t have a crystal ball, how did this happen?
Brad: To quote Jamaican singer Shaggy, “It wasn’t me”. Candidly, after 32 years working in tech and finance in 35+ countries, I have reasonably concluded that innovation comes in waves and is often evolutionary vs. revolutionary. There are well-defined patterns that reflect how disruptive technologies are adopted and everything can be calibrated within a shorter term trend or longer-term cycle. I have been a student of these for a very long time and of course, having trusted Advisors like Bob Flohr and George Kanaan doesn’t hurt. Bob has served as an advisor to the boards and executive leadership of several major banks, consulting on issues related to corporate restructuring and integration, strategic planning, business growth, management development, succession planning, leadership and change management. He is a graduate of Princeton University where he also spent four years as an Assistant Dean and academic advisor. George has been Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Arab Bankers Association in London since August 2009. The association serves through its events and publications as a focus for Arab bankers in London, Europe and throughout the Arab World. He has been involved in banking and finance for most of his professional career and has written extensively on banking and finance. George studied at the American University of Beirut, Carnegie- Mellon University, the University of Bridgeport and the Harvard Business School. He holds degrees in Engineering and Business Administration.
SS: So, Past Really is Prologue and you have a number of lenses to observe it through?
Brad: Absolutely! At the moment, I am in London after recent trips through Zurich, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and New York as we continue to work with UHNW and Family Office investors. We launched ICON well ahead of the curve in 2013 and as you know, I have spent several years speaking at events promoting the Blockchain as the next and much more important version of the internet. Looking back, I can laugh at how some of the most successful families in the world thought I had completely lost the plot or maybe even beamed down from another planet. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to 2018, the future got a little more evenly distributed.
SS: The amount of capital flowing into digital currencies must feel like a validation.
Brad: Well many of the families still think I’m crazy but for different reasons now (smiling). Since 2016, USD$9.8 billion has been raised by companies through ICO’s or Initial Coin Offerings and the asset class is now worth over USD$400 billion.
SS: I’m sure many of our Family Office investors are now trying to understand ICO’s looking for the next Google. Can you help?
Brad: I think I can and I rely on other trusted advisors like Aly Madhavji, the Founder and Former CEO of Global DCX, an innovative technology company launching secure digital currency exchanges across the globe starting in India. He is also an avid investor in early-stage companies, digital currencies, and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). He is an internationally acclaimed author and has served in several advisory roles including as a Governor of the University of Toronto where he was a member of the Executive Committee of the university. He has lived and worked across 4 continents (North/South America, Europe, and Asia) with PwC, PayPal, Microsoft, Bloomberg, and INSEAD. He also holds the Chartered Professional Accountant, Chartered Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Investment Manager designations and an MBA from INSEAD.
The next growth phase in the space will be focused on ‘stable coins’ or ‘asset-backed tokens’ like AUREALS™ which are a fusion of Gold and the Blockchain, as BTC and the other 1600 so called utility tokens remain ‘claim checks with nothing to claim’ and will no doubt revert to the mean which is zero. This is not nearly as much of an opportunistic statement as it may sound.
The genesis of ICON can be traced back to August 09, 2007 when 185-year-old BNP Paribas announced to the world that they did not know how to value their derivatives book and the re-set of the monetary system began in earnest. BNP were quietly bailed out and months later, Bear Sterns was offered up in a fire sale to JPM. The pace accelerated with Lehman Brothers, a 157-year-old legend, imploding leaving USD$613 billion in debt. US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, convinced US Congress that the world was going to end. Congress capitulated, agreeing to authorize the creation of USD$800bn in fresh debt called quantitative easing. How anyone could believe that more debt was the answer to a monetary system already choking on it, remains a mystery. The accounting principals (GAAP) were re-written with FASB 157 approved on April 09, 2009 allowing financial institutions to as Warren Buffet dubbed ‘mark-to-myth’ for balance sheet assets (on an interim basis) and US banks have just now requested an extension until 2022. If you look at any stock market chart you can see a parabolic rise that can be traced back to this exact date. The FED is believed to have
“The next growth phase in the space will be focused on ‘stable coins’ or ‘asset backed token’ like AUREALS which are a fusion of Gold and the Blockchain.”
transferred between $20-$100 trillion of their USD$ debt notes to the cabal of 80+ cross-owned private Central banks and global commercial banks since that time. Also in 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto published Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System and the first units of exchange called Bitcoins were mined, registered and circulated on a distributed ledger called the Blockchain. The genesis block had a timestamp of 18:15:05 GMT on January 3 2009 and the inventor left a text message in the first mined block which reads
“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of the second bailout for banks.”
SS: Perhaps it is reasonable to suggest that BTC launched in 2009 was not just random timing, that in fact, the ongoing financial crisis may have been the stimulus.
Brad: When you start to connect the dots, some things become increasingly self-evident. I can now share some observations that may provide validation or for some, maybe even an epiphany for others a sure cure for insomnia. So come down the rabbit hole with me for a while (laughing again).
Aristotle considered that every object has two uses, the first being the design utility of the object, and the second, as an Asset to sell or directly exchange for some other Asset. The capacity to carry out direct transactions was limited to a coincidence of wants. To trade grain for fruit, both items needed to be available at the same time and place, with each trader desiring what the other is offering. The Babylonians and their neighbouring city-states led by King Hammurabi, developed the earliest system of accounting, ledgers, banking and money supported by legal contracts and law codes relating to the trading of Shekels (Financial Liabilities), indexed to Gold Receipts (Gold Financial Assets) directly indexed to Physical Gold Bullion (Gold Physical Assets).
In 1816, the Bank Of England (BOE) deployed the same architecture with: (i) 400 oz Gold Bars stored in the vaults as Gold Physical assets; (ii) Sovereigns entered BOE ledger as Gold Financial Assets and (iii) £1 Sterling Silver Tokens, issued to trade as money and entered as Financial Liabilities in BOE ledger.
In 1913, both the FED and the IRS were created, with a fractional reserve architecture with: (i) 400 oz Gold bars reserved in Fort Knox as Gold Physical Assets; (ii) In a sleight of hand, T-Bills that were 60% indexed to future IRS tax obligations and 40% indexed to Physical Gold as ‘Fractional Gold’ Financial Assets and (iii) USD$ Notes issued to trade as money and entered as Financial Liabilities in the FED ledger.
In 1944, the Bretton Woods Accord, this fractional reserve was replaced with a new gold standard of (i) 400 oz Gold bars in Fort Knox as underlying physical assets; (ii) USD$ that were indexed to Physical Gold as financial assets but also traded as money and (iii) Various Global Currency Notes issued to trade as money and entered as financial liabilities in the FED ledger when swapped for USD$.
In 1971, Nixon closed the US Treasury window ending the convertibility of USD$ debt notes to gold. The USD$ was dead, at least until 1973 when Henry Kissinger persuaded King Faisal of the House of Saud to clear and settle oil trades exclusively in USD$ in exchange for a US military commitment to keep the oil flowing. Top FED Economist Dr. John Exter observed “We are in a world of irredeemable paper money, a state of affairs unprecedented in history.”
Monetary scholar Dr. Edwin Vieira of Harvard has observed that every 30 to 40 years the reigning monetary system fails and has to be retooled. When the financial system hits an apex, collapses and resets, Gold is reasserted as the numeraire against which value is indexed to start the next economic cycle. The current Petro Dollar System began 45 years ago and appeared poised for a reset right on schedule in 2007/2008 with the FED leading the efforts to defer or kick the can down the road as long as possible. Dr. Viera also noted that the average life expectancy for financial liabilities in the form of currencies is 27 years. Voltaire put it succinctly when he observed “All paper money eventually returns to its’ intrinsic value ~ ZERO.”
SS: OK I am still with you, this is a lot of information to digest!
Brad: It is amazing what can be revealed when you identify trends and get a clear understanding of what might be coming next. Throughout history the command and control hierarchies were largely centred around religious leaders who were well educated and could read and write. 577 years ago when Gutenberg invented the printing press, it democratized the creation, storage and trading of centrally controlled knowledge. The Chinese later used the presses to create paper money (and inflation!) rendering Gutenberg’s invention on par with gunpowder in terms of historical significance.
In 1944, the year that Bretton Woods ushered in a global, gold-backed USD$, IBM developed its first mainframe computer, known as the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC). It solved addition and multiplication problems in less than six seconds.
In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT (later DARPA) revealed his “Galactic Network” concept, a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site, which was a radical departure from centralized computing being done on room-sized mainframes.
In 1972, ARPANET, complete with the original killer app ~ electronic mail was demonstrated. In 1982, Xerox PARC research revealed Ethernet leading to the development of LANS, PCs and workstations.
SS: Is it fair to say that the pace of innovation is evolutionary with certain breakthrough moments followed by a rapid pace of iteration?
Brad: I agree with your observation. I think that is exactly how innovation works. To continue, in 1994, a NRC report ~ Realizing The Information Future: The Internet and Beyond was released as a blueprint highlighting critical issues of IP property rights, ethics, pricing, education, architecture and regulation. 1994 also marked the launch of Apple Computers by Steve jobs and Steve Wozniak who as first movers in the personal computer space democratized the creation, storage and trading of centrally controlled digital knowledge.
In 1994, it also marked the launch of Netscape where founder Marc Andreessen created the Mosaic browser based on research done earlier by Tim Berners Lee. In many ways the Company sparked the internet boom of the 90’s which democratized the creation, storage and trading of decentralized digital knowledge. If the internet was the information superhighway, then Netscape browsers were the on-ramps.
In 1994, a company called Cadabra was launched as a first mover in the internet retailing space. Founder Jeff Bezos renamed the company Amazon a year later and it is now the world’s most valuable retailer. Today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) the cloud storage business, contributes virtually 100% of Amazon’s elusive profits.
Also at that time, I began working with some very clever guys who had developed software that could allow non-programmers to write software. They went down a path of using traditional resellers, while we negotiated a site license and created North America’s first software factory, offering firm prices and delivery dates. Remember, evolutionary not revolutionary. We sold that company to an Indian Group that went on to become a leader in offshore software development.
SS: How did that sale compare to a public exit like some of your previous ventures?
Brad: Great question. At the time, it seemed like a lot of money but that Indian company is now worth $80 billion, so I guess I should have taken shares (laughing again). Next up for me was a year at IBM helping them position OS2 in the retail channel to compete with Microsoft. We collectively enrolled 6 new million customers and generated $1 billion in revenue and I left with two important takeaways. First, the best technology does not always win and Second, I would rather learn to Samba barefoot on broken glass than deal with large bureaucracies on a daily basis.
SS: Sometimes experiences teach us about what we enjoy or are good at and also re-enforce what we do not enjoy or prefer to avoid.
Brad: Yes! The important thing is to find that key lesson or takeaway from every experience. Next up was a bit of a whirlwind for me. We re-packaged Canadian tax credits into a structured products hedge fund that invested into public companies. We moved a somewhat boutique offering with an attractive 6% management fee for 10 years into retail brokerage distribution. I was responsible for fundraising and we brought in $128 million through 25,000 investors in just 25 days. I believe it still stands as a new launch record 22 years later. The fund had $1.8 billion AUM when it was sold and when I exited, I ended up re-domiciling to Barbados.
“I left with two important takeaways. First, the best technology does not always win and second, I would rather learn to Samba barefoot on broken glass than deal with large”
SS: I’m guessing for some well-deserved beach time?
Brad: Looking back, I think I successfully channelled Captain Morgan for a while but I also established a merchant bank called ICON Capital Corp. based on the thesis that software, telco and finance would all ultimately converge as interchangeable 1’s and 0’s and I ended up in San Francisco in the original dot com boom investing in pre-IPO software companies. The IPO culture actually reminds me a lot of the ICO mania we are seeing now. Many remember www.pets.com spending $30 million on a sock puppet commercial for the Super Bowl with most of the IPO’s imploding but that was also the era where Amazon, Google, E-bay and Netscape were created. So thinking about ICO‘s today, many if not most will certainly fail but there are some iconic companies being created right now.
SS: Iconic? Really Brad?
Brad: Sorry Servanne, I couldn’t resist. I realise this is a lengthy overview and I wanted to see if you were still listening! Anyway, after the dot com turned into dot bomb, I spent a few years in Southern California and Whistler, golfing, skiing etc until things settled down a bit and then launched a company to acquire orphan IP (from all the billions invested in the 90’s) and distribution in the form of emerging market partners of Oracle, working closely with Charles Phillips who was their President at the time. We acquired companies across Europe and the CIS in places like Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and from Venezuela and Colombia down to Argentina as well as throughout Asia and Australia. We really developed some important skills that allowed us to thrive across culture, geography and language.
SS: So you have lived and worked all over the world and these experiences have helped shape your vision for ICON and what is coming next in digital currencies.
Brad: That is a very nice way of putting it. As an entrepreneur, essentially my job is getting in front of a trend and waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. About 10 years ago, I began to learn about Gold and the role it plays as the ultimate store of value. I discovered that sovereigns, dynasties and some of the smartest families in the world use Gold to store the wealth they create through their other commercial activities. This understanding led to the launch of a Gold trading platform in Hong Kong that was ranked the #1 new start up there at the time. Gold trading is rather opaque and can be challenging with many sellers not owning the Gold and buyers not having the money, so we invested in a number of innovative approaches to remove friction by verifying bullion, dematerialising it for trading and then moving it back into physical form anywhere in the world, on demand.
SS: Would you describe yourself as a gold bug?
Brad: No not at all, I do understand the role gold plays as a store of value for 6000 years and we are enhancing those unique characteristics with cutting edge encryption and distributed ledgers.
SS: I see. ICON builds on the trust of Gold and the power of the Blockchain.
Brad: Exactly! You may recall the 3 legs of the stool underpinning my investment thesis from 1996: software (faster/cheaper); telco (global network); finance (money) all converging into 1’s and 0’s. It became clear that Gold underpinned the global financial system and seigniorage involved in converting/creating money had historically been the right of Kings. It was 2013 and I was thinking we would need to acquire a global telco network or secure expensive bandwidth in order to manifest the vision. It was then, I was reluctantly persuaded to attend a Bitcoin event in Buenos Aires.
SS: I believe that 2013 was still early days in Bitcoin?
Brad: Yes it certainly was and in many ways it still is. I arrived at the event in BA to find a couple hundred young, motivated anarchists. There was tremendous energy and excitement but not too many business models or plans being discussed. For us older guys in the crowd, we felt a bit like adult supervision but when I sat in on a presentation on the Blockchain it was an epiphany. I felt like I had been hit by lightning and I now had the missing piece to our puzzle! Our new company was launched days later and we began building ICON to issue AUREALS™ around the Coloured Coin Protocol of the original Blockchain.
SS: What is the current state of the original Blockchain?
Brad: Well, technology is a faster, cheaper business. As we see in all our devices, things like memory and processing power expand while becoming cheaper over time. In the last 9 years, settlement times on the Blockchain have actually increased from the original 10 minutes and the cost of mining BTC has increased to USD$3200 per token. I would suggest that neither of these are sustainable.
SS: Do you see better alternatives?
Brad: Yes, in fact, we have shifted to Ethereum. In late 2013, Vitalik Buterin published a white paper that proposed the development of a new platform for building decentralized applications on a Blockchain called Ethereum and it was launched in July 2015. Unlike real computers that have limited physical resources like memory and processing speed (linear bounded automation complete), the Ethereum platform is a universal computer existing on networked computers across the globe. It is described as ‘Turing Complete’ meaning that the platform can simulate the aspects of any other real computer or computer language but also offer infinite memory and availability with no downtime. This was a game changer.
In plain language there are three important caveats of the Ethereum Turing Complete distributed ledger platform including: (i) it runs 24×7 and has no single point of technology failure; (ii) it is based on open source software protocols insuring that records or entries cannot be manipulated by an owner/vendor; (iii) there is no single point of regulatory capture.
Ethereum utilizes smart contracts or a Blockchain transaction protocol that executes the terms of a contract. A Blockchain based smart contract is visible to all users on the Blockchain and smart contract infrastructure can be implemented by replicated asset registries across the distributed ledger with contract execution using cryptographic hash chains and Byzantine fault tolerant replication.
Buterin opined that new contracts could be built that would become self-executing, programmatically enforcing themselves instead of being enforceable through a legal system. Advantages of a smart contract over conventional contracts would minimize counterparty risk, reducing settlement times and increase transparency. As a result, the definition of property has expanded with the idea that cryptographic, Blockchain based tokens now serve as representations of physical assets and AUREALS™ are the first scalable example of these smart contracts fully indexed to real assets like Gold.
The implementation of smart contracts in Ethereum is relatively new, however, the phrase was coined by Nick Szabo in 1996 and reworked as “Formalizing and Securing Relationships on Public Networks” describing how it would be possible to establish contract law and related business practices through the design of protocols between strangers on the Internet. Szabo described smart contracts as: new institutions, and new ways to formalize the relationships that make up these institutions. Contracts were smart, because they are far more functional than their inanimate paper-based ancestors, specifically with a smart contract composed of a set of digital promises including protocols within which the parties perform on these promises. Ethereum utilizes Ether to fuel transactions and the current value of Ether Tokens in circulation is USD$68 billion.
SS: Is it fair to suggest that you feel Ethereum will dominate?
Brad: It will certainly be one of the dominate Blockchains. As BTC tokens disrupted fiat currencies they have not achieved escape velocity and although fun and potentially lucrative for traders they do not solve any real-world problems. In Disruption of an Incumbent, the Disruptor introduces a new product with a distinct point of view knowing it does not solve all the needs of the entire existing market but advances the start of the art in terms of technology. Next, in Rapid Linear Evolution, the Disruptor proceeds to rapidly add features and capabilities, filling out the value proposition after initial traction with select early adopters. This is followed by Appealing Convergence, where the Disruptor sees an opportunity to acquire broader customer base by appealing to slower movers who are now showing interest in the offering. This is followed by a Complete re-imagination, where the Disruptor focuses on new entrants who enter the market without embracing the legacy customers.
SS: Perhaps BTC will become the Betamax or Myspace of Digital currencies?
Brad: Yes, an interesting footnote displaced by much more compelling offerings like AUREALS™.
SS: Can you remind us of how AUREALS™ work?
Brad: Of course. We have relationships with insured vaults in free zones in places like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Switzerland where our partners operate a former military facility inside a mountain complete with a private airstrip. ICON is not a bank, so the Gold we store is fully compliant and exempt from declaration under FATCA and similar schemes in 109 countries. We store 1-kilo bars and receive safekeeping receipts (SKR’s), which do not involve a change in title. Each receipt details all of the 1-kilo gold bars specifications.
SS: You mentioned previously that the Gold is secure, discreet and private.
Brad: Great memory! We use these SKR’s to create a smart contract called a CINTAMANI™, which in Sanskrit means converting thought energy into Gold. Each of these contracts entitles the holder to the Physical Gold and we register and reserve these on the Blockchain. They are encrypted and can’t be double spent or stolen. We convert physical gold assets to financial gold assets that can be verified on demand.
SS: You are using the Ethereum Blockchain as a de-centralized ledger to register and exchange these assets?
Brad: Indeed and so it follows that each CINTAMANI™ allows us to create 1000 AUREALS™, which are also smart contracts registered on the Ethereum Blockchain, as 1 gram financial gold liabilities.
“You can literally send USD$100m in AUREALS phone to phone, in 15 second without going through a bank.”
SS: Please remind me how does a Private client get AUREALS™?
Brad: In seconds they can set up a digital wallet that looks very much like an online banking dashboard but acts like a virtual safety deposit box. We use AI to create an encrypted key to the box and the address is registered on the Blockchain. All of the T’s & C’s & subscription agreements are in the wallet. A software licence is executed and then funds are sent our bank pursuant to a commercial invoice.
SS: That sounds like a crucial aspect, so now the private client is simply paying a commercial invoice and then presumably keeps the contract as evidence of source of funds when they liquidate?
Brad: Yes that is an important observation and it allows banking compliance to tick the box on inbound and outbound transfers. We price the AUREALS™ based on 99.99% of spot gold and they are issued into the wallet.
SS: So now I have my AUREALS™ what can I do with them?
Brad: You can use them as a compliant and exempt store of value that sits outside the banking system. You can exchange them with any other wallet holder and we use the Blockchain to clear, settle and irrevocably register those transfers in 15 seconds. You can literally send USD$100m in AUREALS™ phone to phone, in 15 seconds without going through a bank. AUREALS™ will be bought and sold on various digital exchanges and of course at a minimum threshold of USD$1m you can exchange for the underlying physical gold.
SS: I can see how UHNW and Family Offices might love AUREALS™. How have sales been going?
Brad: ICON has begun the process of our Collateralised Coin Offering in an environment where tremendous awareness has been created by BTC, ETH and other tokens and although sophisticated investors and institutions have been watching, they not been active investors. They have shifted from a sense of scepticism to not wanting to miss out which is cool. I’m excited to confirm that our Private pre-sale of AUREALS™ exceeded our expectations with close to 3 million AUREALS™ issued at a 10% discount, representing subscriptions worth over USD$100million (goal was 2.5m AUREALS™).
SS: Congratulations! That has to make AUREALS™ one of the most successful launches?
Brad: We are just getting started. Our Public pre-sale kicks off in London on May 16th where we have targeted issuing up to 5 million AUREALS™ at a 5% discount, which if fully subscribed, would be an additional USD$200m+. That is expected to be followed by a Public General sale and we have again targeted issuing up to an additional 5 million AUREALS™ at a 2% discount with our goal over the next 12 months of issuing USD$5 billion+ in AUREALS™ at 99.99% of spot Gold prices. Let the Games Begin!
SS: So the next leg up in the digital currency asset class will be stable coins or Collateralised Coin Offerings like AUREALS™. What else is driving the trend?
Brad: Well the USD$400 billion asset class is made up of correlated assets that draft up and down together. Informed observers suggest that an unrelated numeraire that can be used to facilitate trading of all digital tokens would be extremely valuable and AUREALS™ seem to be particularly well suited for this task.
SS: AUREALS™ could be a clearing currency for all digital assets?
Brad: Exactly! And of course from a macro perspective, we are seeing the sun-setting of the Petro Dollar which came into being in 1973 that may create significant upward pressure on Gold prices. Former Head of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan has noted “History has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low-risk premiums. In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. The Federal Reserve era of quantitative easing and zero- interest rate policies cannot be exited without some significant market event that will result in gold prices moving measurably higher.” Famed investor Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of Doubleline, who is also known as the bond king was quoted on the prospects for Gold recently “We see a massive base building in Gold. Massive. It’s a four-year, five-year base in gold. If we break above this resistance line, one can expect gold to go up by $1,000 or more.”
SS: We are potentially seeing significant potential growth in CCO’s or stable coins along with a renaissance for Gold. This sounds like the perfect storm for ICON and AUREALS™!
Brad: Yes the timing is optimal. I am lucky to also be able to tap into the psyche of one of the leading Gold experts on the planet, Marcus Grubb, who led the World Gold Councils’ Investment team and was the global investment strategist and spokesperson for seven years. A key focus of his role was the oversight of new product innovation, which saw him initiate the WGC’s involvement with BullionVault and with ICBC, to launch the gold accumulation scheme in China. He played a key role in the marketing of the gold ETFs in the USA and Europe and also enjoyed a career in banking as founding CEO of Swapstream, an inter- bank dealing exchange for interest rate swaps, now owned by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Marcus was also global head of equities at Rabobank and a top-rated investment strategist at the investment houses UBS, Salomon Brothers and SBC Warburg and he holds a first class degree in modern history and economics from Queen’s College, Oxford.
SS: You have surrounded yourself with some clever, experienced people.
Brad: Well I have found the more successful and motivated people I enrol into the success of what I am doing, the greater the likelihood. I’d also like to leave you with a final thought. In 2004, the World Gold Council in London and partner State Street in Boston launched the GLD ETF. This structured product innovation allowed Gold to become an exchange-traded offering targeting institutional investors. When opportunity and timing collide amazing and occasionally historic things can happen. Gold was trading at cUSD$445 per ounce and the initial AUM in the GLD ETF was USD$115 million growing to USD$3.5 billion in the first year. In the second year, the AUM grew to USD$8.3 billion and ultimately up to USD$76 billion setting a benchmark for a timely Gold structured product offering that some objective observers of ICON believe is about to be eclipsed with AUREALS™.
SS: Thank you Brad. It sounds like you have created an incredible opportunity and I’m confident our audience will be eager to learn more about AUREALS™.
Brad: My pleasure as always. This was really enjoyable and I look forward to our next conversation when the asset class has grown to USD$1 trillion+.