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Welcome to Innovation in the Burg, a podcast about science and innovation in St. Petersburg. If you’re a self-described science or technology geek, or even if you aren’t, this will be a fun and informative conversation. Each week, we’ll be joined by a local science or technology expert who will talk about what they’re working on. But to make sure we keep this in perspective and we don’t become too technical, we have a community member joining us. Our hope is that you learn something new and enjoy our conversation.

07/10/2019 | Episode 008 | 19:42

Blockchain breakdown: Special guest Sean Stein Smith talks blockchain, cryptocurrency and the intersection of financial industries

Blockchain breakdown: Special guest Sean Stein Smith talks blockchain, cryptocurrency and the intersection of financial industries

We've all heard the buzz about blockchain, but do you really know what blockchain is or how it will change industries in the future? On this episode of Innovation in the 'Burg, Alison helps answer those questions. She is joined in the studio by blockchain expert and associate professor at Lehman College, Sean Stein Smith. Smith was brought to St. Pete by the firm Gregory, Sharer & Stuart to talk to CPAs and clients about how blockchain will change the financial industry as they know it. Smith took the time to explain those changes in this long-form, easy-to-follow conversation.

Key Insights

  • On this episode of Innovation in the 'Burg, Alison and her guests cover all things blockchain to help you understand what it is and why it's important for the future of the financial industry and much more.
  • Today's expert: Sean Stein Smith, Associate Professor of Business and Economics at Lehman College. He is an expert and well-known speaker on the intersection of financial services, blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
  • Today's community member: Jim Newman, Managing Shareholder at Gregory Sharer and Stuart, Certified Public Accountants and Business Consultants.
  • Why is an accounting firm looking at blockchain? According to Newman, blockchain is going to change our world. He and the other shareholders at GSS felt they needed to understand it and get in front of its use in the financial industry.
  • GSS brought in Sean Stein Smith for a two day CPE training for both clients and CPAs to better understand blockchain and its application to accounting and financial services.
  • What is blockchain? "Think of it as a decentralized platform where firms and individuals are capable of sharing, storing and transmitting data in an encrypted manner on a continuous basis."
  • Used in an accounting setting, blockchain is set to shift paradigms. According to Smith it will change bank recs, confirmations, inventory counts, audits, tax returns, complications. It will affect nearly all aspects of current firm functions.
  • The front end experience of data will remain relatively constant, but blockchain has major implications for the back end. Core difference: At a core blockchain level, data storage/encryption lies at the core of the whole network. Whereas cloud-based computing isn't any more secure than our current models of storing data on hard drives.
  • How is blockchain being used around the world? Walmart is using blockchain to track food and other goods from producer to consumer. Sweden is using blockchain to transfer real estate.
  • Many larger firms are on their way to creating private blockchain networks. Unlike large cryptocurrency networks, private blockchain access can be customized. Firms can put in place a process where other authorized people have access to the data.
  • Important questions surrounding bitcoin, cryptocurrencies: How do you transfer private keys for bitcoin from parents to children, or firm to firm; what are the implications for tax purposes?
  • Big things coming in blockchain: Two sides - Crypto-angle and corporate angle. Smith sees blockchain becoming more legitimate and standardized. From a crypto angle, more communication and regulation around the financial aspects. From the corporate side: Internal operationally-driven tasks for each industry, like healthcare, manufacturing, and more.
  • Smith's recommended resources: AI CPA, Wallstreet Blockchain Alliance, CoinDesk, Forbes.
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About the host

Alison Barlow is the Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Innovation District. Her role is to harness expertise in health science, marine science, education, and art to form unique collaborations. These multi-sector, cross discipline collaborations strive to identify innovative solutions that will grow the economic and social vibrancy of St. Petersburg and address key global issues. Alison grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Boca Ciega High School, received a Bachelors in Hospitality Administration from Florida State University, and later a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Management of Global Information Systems from American University in Washington D.C. For 17 years, Alison worked as a business and technology consultant based in Washington DC, often for the Department of Defense. She focused on strategic planning, process improvement and technology collaboration. Following her relocation back to St. Petersburg, Alison became the manager and a lead facilitator for Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College. Alison joined the St. Petersburg Innovation District as its inaugural Executive Director in June of 2017. In addition to her work, Alison is involved with the Leadership St. Petersburg Alumni Association, Friends of Strays Animal Shelter Board, and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.


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