The Modern Programmer

IT professionals often don’t get an honest portrayal in the entertainment industry and, for better or worse, the mass perception of Computer Science has been influenced by what people see on their TV screens. Either we sit in a dingy dark room, littered with empty energy drink cans, staring at a terminal with green font flashing and passing by at light speed – with sound effects, or we are cool rich guys creating programs that become self-aware.

IT professionals often don’t get an honest portrayal in the entertainment industry and, for better or worse, the mass perception of Computer Science has been influenced by what people see on their TV screens. Either we sit in a dingy dark room, littered with empty energy drink cans, staring at a terminal with green font flashing and passing by at light speed – with sound effects, or we are cool rich guys creating programs that become self-aware. There really isn’t a middle ground and these perceptions either drive people to developing an insatiable curiosity in the field or becoming fearful and believing that they aren’t mentally fit to join the club.

The demographic of the modern programmer isn’t what it was back in the 70’s. Most IT professionals were – well…Professionals. They were mathematicians, engineers, scientists, accountants, etc. often in their 30’s or 40’s. The programming industry was almost 50% women. What on earth happened?

Well, I have a theory. Computer Science (CS) wasn’t a course at any universities at that time, so youngsters really had no way of entering the field. Not to mention the fact that what they called a computer back then isn’t what we have today. They were big, expensive and obviously fewer. There were no operating systems. They wrote code by hand which was then converted into punch cards that could be fed into the computer and you had better pray that what you wrote was correct – which, if you code, you know it often isn’t – because then you would have to start that lengthy process from scratch. Blessed are those that came before us, for they were a resilient few. By the time we had a CS course it was the 80’s and young adults could learn how to code.

The 80’s was definitely one of the most defining times in modern history. We saw technology really being embraced in the media. Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Terminator and many more franchises showed us a world of technology that seemed almost impossible. In lots of ways we are still catching up the imaginations of the filmmakers and science fiction writers. But I find this time very interesting because it gave birth to the geek culture which has lasted to this day. This culture was very young and male dominated. It was a kind of cult to those who were part of it. This must have driven the women away. Women in general still don’t get the culture. Heck, even I don’t get it to the degree of hardcore followers. Now think about how we perceive these “geeks” in society. Beady eyed, brace faced, drooling, good-grade-getting teens with bad acne (is there good acne?) and thick glasses, always getting bullied by the “jocks”. Truth is, in a quest to fit in, teens only hang out with the group that they relate to and/or accepts them. Learning became the uncool thing and Disco was in. The media neatly crafted and packaged nerd culture. Being a cool kid meant you didn’t even greet the nerd – unless shoving someone into a wall counted as a greeting. And so that was that. Programmers were part of a culture that embraced creativity, logic and intelligence and frowned upon anything less, because in order to be a programmer you needed to love learning and solving problems. Being a cool kid meant you had to love partying, gossip and creating problems.

Things have changed somewhat. Programmers today come in different shapes and sizes. Still not many hourglass shapes, but we’re getting there. The next generation of teens will definitely be more in-tune with technology and the true culture of the geek or the “hacker”. Those that fail to see the power of new technologies will be left behind. Computers are so much more accessible and all schools are starting to teach coding. With innovative colleges like We Think Code and 42, the future of what we perceive as an IT professional will be completely different to what we have today.

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It’s now up to us to make sure that our kids become programmers rather than the programmed. It’s in the small things that we spot the young coder. The little kid that breaks his/her toys to find out how they work. Kids are naturally curious and it’s up to us to nurture that curiosity and not reprimand or punish them for it. We interact with technology every day and we would only be empowering them by encouraging them to learn how to control that technology as creators in the same way that we might teach them how to play a musical instrument. I envision a world where the modern programmer is anyone, in a society that frowns on those that shun learning. Let’s make it happen.

by Sherwin Hulley

Looking through the exponential looking glass

We are now in what some are calling the next industrial revolution. In this time, we are experiencing exponentials more than at any other time in history. An example of this is the exponential decrease in the cost of solar electricity generating technology: the cost of electricity will, in our lifetime, tend to zero.

We are now in what some are calling the next industrial revolution. In this time, we are experiencing exponentials more than at any other time in history. An example of this is the exponential decrease in the cost of solar electricity generating technology: the cost of electricity will, in our lifetime, tend to zero. This not only allows us to solve our own electricity challenges here in South Africa but opens many possibilities on how we solve other challenges such as water security. With the cost of electricity tending to zero the business case for large scale desalination plants more realistic. Given that South Africa has just survived the worst drought in living memory many people are now conscious of water security and are looking for their own solutions.


I’ve just described some of the positive effects of exponentials. There are going to be some effects that will be harder humanity to deal with. Let’s consider another exponential that encapsulates artificial intelligence, deep learning and robotics. We already have driverless cars, experiments on primitive driverless cars began in the 1920’s – the technology is now mainstream. Whether human beings are ready for them is another question. The impact driverless cars have is profound, firstly we no longer need human drivers, secondly, we have fewer accidents as computers driver better than humans and thirdly all our current motor vehicles become obsolete and have little value other than in remote areas of the world.


Let’s extend a bit further into robotics and genetics. Robots will replace human farmers as they will be able to manage the entire farm. Crops will be farmed as raw materials for the advanced food printing technology. Animals will no longer be farmed as any protein can now be printed more cost effectively. Maintenance robots will maintain other robots as well as themselves. Food will be almost free as costs for electricity, water and robots are negligible. In this time of abundance human beings will live in homes built by machines, food, water, healthcare and education will all be free. Disease will be eradicated by genetic medicine that is printed at home after diagnosis by doctor robots. Our children will all have online tutors who are dedicated and configured to optimally educate each child. Humans may take real holidays from time to time but mostly they will prefer alternative reality holidays that they can take from the comfort of their homes.


In this time of great abundance, human beings have lots of time on their hands. With many needs met, people are looking to find purpose in their lives. There are many schools of thought around what we as humans will be focusing on. I believe that the simple answer is that humans will be looking forward at bigger challenges. Humanity has the gift of being able to manifest to the extent of imagination and now there will be focus on terraforming deserts on Earth into arable land, colonization of the Moon and Mars. Since very few people have volunteered for Moon and Mars missions the robots are sent to establish good living conditions before humans move in earnest. Humanity has finally closed the ecological divide – that is the divide in the mind of humans between their actions the impact on the planet. Technology has been very useful in helping to undo the sins of the past, vast ships extract plastics from the ocean. Localized plants remove toxins from the air. Genetically modified plants and animals extract poisons from our waterways. Ecosystems begin to re-establish after animal farming stops. Nature reserves still exist to contain the more dangerous animals.

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Exponentials are the key to these dramatic shifts in the world and these changes may happen faster than we think. We are experiencing exponentials in almost every aspect of our lives, look forward to profound positive changes for both humanity and the Earth soon.

by Jason Suttie


Blockchain in Finance: From Buzzword to Watchword in 2016

In this feature, Farzam Ehsani looks back at the evolution of blockchain development – and nomenclature – in the finance space over the course of 2016. Further, he anticipates the introduction of central bank-issued cryptocurrencies that will truly usher in the age of the blockchain.

If 2015 was the year when many first heard about blockchain, 2016 was the year when many pretended to understand what it was – it was just too embarrassing to admit ignorance of a term that had become such a buzzword.

After all, everyone else seemed to know what it was. “It’s a distributed ledger!” became the battle cry to fend off those that came close to uncovering our lack of understanding.

Yet, the truth is that we’re all learning. Whether it is figuring out what a “node” is or understanding the intricacies of homomorphic encryption and zk-SNARKs, we are all witnessing the unfoldment of this beautiful technology and its implications for the world.

I like to compare blockchain to an extraordinary vehicle that we’ve heard can travel from Cape Town to Cairo in a matter of seconds.

As news spreads of the discovery of this amazing vehicle, more and more people imagine new possibilities, and announcements proliferate: the vehicle will be used to transport maize, coal, sunflowers and more. But when asked what this vehicle looks like – whether it has wings or wheels, belts or brakes – few can offer satisfactory answers.

Such has been the state of blockchain in 2016: a magnificent technology has been discovered, and numerous use cases abound, however, much work needs to be done to better understand and build the underlying platform or “vehicle”.

Protocol growth

While we fell in love with bitcoin and the genius of Satoshi, we also realized that the bitcoin vehicle wasn’t designed for all terrains.

The financial services industry requires a multi-asset platform which is not what bitcoin was designed for. Furthermore, in a regulated environment, actors are known to one another and a breach of trust has punitive consequences. As such, a consensus algorithm such as proof-of-work, intended for trustless participants, serves little purpose except to increase costs and transaction times in a permissioned network.

With this recognition, 2016 saw the emergence of several open-source platforms for the financial services industry, from Hyperledger to Chain Core to Corda (adding to other open-source platforms such as ethereum and Monax released in previous years).

Several more platforms exist in the proprietary space, and many of these will head into open-source territory in 2017. I believe their proprietors will come to acknowledge that any chance of long-term success at the protocol level lies in the network effect, which is hindered by any attempts of monetization.

After all, no one makes money from TCP/IP or HTTP.

Use case among use cases

As vehicle designs (permissioned blockchain protocols) emerged this year, the proclamation of use cases grew louder. One use case in particular will allow all others to reach their highest potential: money.

Moving the most common asset in our economies – fiat currency – onto a blockchain is currently the most significant use case of all. This is because nearly all transactions in our economies involve two parts, one of which is virtually always money.

Money is the lubricant of our economies and its value is in being the most frictionless asset of all (currently, it is not). Unregulated cryptocurrencies have outperformed fiat currency in this regard and the financial world has woken up to this.

Central banks from Canada to China, England to Europe, Sweden to Singapore, USA to the RSA, and many more, are researching, testing, or actively pursuing the establishment of a central bank issued cryptocurrency* (CBCC).

The issuance of CBCC on a sovereign blockchain will allow other financial instruments such as bonds, equities, derivatives, and even land and car registries, to be migrated to the same blockchain and permit a plethora of use cases to come to full fruition.

Without CBCC on a sovereign blockchain, most use cases are stymied. For example, reducing the settlement time of equities to zero isn’t very helpful if the money used to buy those equities still takes a day or two to settle.

Catalyst for the future

The issuance of CBCC on a sovereign blockchain would not only catalyse other use cases, it would also transform the very nature of the banking industry itself.

In the paper “The Advent of Crypto Banking”, I describe a future in which banks might not be deposit-taking institutions, in which bank runs could not exist, and in which banking systems could be more stable and inclusive. The case for fiat currency on a blockchain is indisputable for central banks and regulators.

As we move into 2017, we will see the transformation of blockchain from a buzzword to a watchword. We will see the custodians of our fiat currencies, central banks, move closer to harnessing the power of blockchain technology for the benefit of entire economies.

The amazing blockchain vehicle that once only existed in Satoshi’s imagination will soon benefit the lives of all. Humanity awaits.

*I intentionally use the word “crypto” and not “digital” as central bank-issued digital currency has existed for several decades already.

by Farzam Ehsani


Farzam Ehsani is the leader of the Blockchain Initiative for the FirstRand Group (Africa’s largest bank by market cap).

This piece was originally published on on 20 December 2016 here


A case of keeping up with the Joneses?

The world is changing. Drones are fighting in armies, driverless cars are no longer a fiction of someone’s imagination, robots have the ability to outsmart humans in offering legal and financial advice. Exciting? Most definitely. But for a developing country such as South Africa there is also a sense of uneasiness.

South Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution


The world is changing. Drones are fighting in armies, driverless cars are no longer a fiction of someone’s imagination, robots have the ability to outsmart humans in offering legal and financial advice. Exciting? Most definitely. But for a developing country such as South Africa there is also a sense of uneasiness. How will our economy keep up with a changing world while having to fight poverty, inequality, corruption? As one of the most unequal societies of the current age one has to wonder what technological advances will do to the already high Gini coefficient? Are we entering a dystopian world order where some countries will ride the wave of a revolution and others will be left behind, feeding on the scraps?

Prof. Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum has proposed that a fourth industrial revolution is imminent. An industrial revolution is seen as a change in the basic economic structure, driven by innovation and invention. In the late 18th century coal and locomotives introduced the first industrial revolution with mechanization being the key driver.  The fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally change the world that we live in through so-called cyber physical systems where the natural, human and digital world meet. In short, extreme automation and connectivity might mean that boundary lines between humans and technology are blurred with concepts such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the internet of things taking civilization where it has not gone before.

While South Africa’s economy relies heavily on its natural resources the question is whether the country has progressed sufficiently on the ladder of previous industrial revolutions, or rather whether a platform has been created from which to launch into the rising age. One simply has to look at the state of railways and even the huge amount of manufacturing that happens off-shore to wonder whether South Africa has been able to progress industrially with the rest of the world. UBS highlights in a white paper (Davos 2016 White Paper) that South Africa is behind the curve with regard to the evolving of manufacturing along with demographics. In effect, the failure to move to high level of manufacturing with the demographic prime could indicate that SA has not adequately adapted to the second and third industrial revolutions.

The question remains whether the fourth industrial revolution would be a case of keeping up with the Joneses or whether it would be possible to fast track development in order to launch South Africa into the new era.

Africa is a continent that upholds a certain reputation for innovation particularly to overcome obstacles often created by the lack of development in a certain area. The continent is also seen as an early adopter of technology, with success stories of financial applications such as M-Pesa flying the flag for an innovative continent. Pockets of excellence mean that it is not all doom and gloom for South Africa. The financial sector is one of the best in the world and may well be a field in which new technologies will get traction.

The WEF looks favourably towards South Africa in terms of innovation and new fourth industrial revolution indexes in their Global Competitiveness Report (2016-2017) (WEF – Global Competitiveness Report ) with the following global ranks: innovation and sophistication (31st), business dynamism (50th) and innovation capacity (38th ) perhaps indicative of the silver lining of promise that the country will punch above its weight in the revolution.

Although ranked low in basic requirements and some efficiency parameters indicating a lag in fully adapting to previous industrial revolutions, positive innovation rankings paired with the right industry, such as financial markets, could position South Africa favourably in terms of moving towards the fourth industrial revolution.

It would be easy for South Africa to adopt a fearful approach towards the new era of automation and robotics. In a country with high unemployment low-skilled workers are likely to face a world where the job-market has no space for them. Some pessimists are predicting a world where humans are not needed. The reality is that change is coming and being a country that is able to adapt is non-negotiable. Education has been a pain point and South Africa is ranked a low 123d on the Global Competitiveness index for Health and Primary Education. Education is a critical factor to the challenges that a new revolution would bring forth and ensuring that a new generation can hold their own in a changing world will make the difference between those running the race well and those falling out along the way. Adapting education models is an important measure to be put in place if South Africa wants to approach the fourth industrial revolution with courage.

In our experience, it is evident that successful disruption is often birthed within a start-up atmosphere. Where current incumbents, especially in the financial sector, are faced with issues such as integration and legacy systems, a start-up with a dedicated and talented team and a great innovative idea have a greenfield approach that lends itself toward disruption.

Drawing the parallel to country-wide development there is a case for cheering on Africa and South Africa’s jump to the fourth Industrial Revolution modelled as a start-up with leeway to embrace the new era and its corresponding shifting boundaries. Leapfrogging some of the essential factors of previous revolutions toward a new disruptive way of using computer systems to address fundamental social problems. But investments in skills, particularly software development and the required infrastructure will need to be fast-tracked to create an enabling environment for the innovative nature of South Africans – to not just keep up with the rest of the world but to leverage a strong innovative culture and excel.

                               by Charlotte Hauman


Our book is yet unwritten

2016 was a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries. For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “But who says?”.
As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is this simply a matter of perspective?

2016 was a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries.  For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “But who says?”

img_6768As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is this simply a matter of perspective? Much of our lives as innovators requires us to quiet the voices in our heads yelling out “You can’t do that! It’s crazy!”. And it’s exactly this act of changing perspective that allows us to see possibility and create a new future – to disrupt our worlds. It takes a special kind of crazy to question assumptions that are years old, to challenge ideals and concepts that work well enough, to be that person in the room asking “why?”

In Adam Grant’s “Originals” (if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s incredible!), he speaks about “Vuja De” –  the obvious reverse of Déjà vu – the concept of facing something familiar but seeing it with a fresh perspective that enables new insights into old problems.

In today’s world of work, one of the biggest issues we face is creating spaces where people can bring their excellence, where the uniqueness of the individual can be expressed to create winning innovation.  How do we create that winning culture?

For years we’ve followed the rules on how “work” is, a kind of imaginary Encyclopaedia Britannica of how we work. But that imaginary book was written before “we” were working! It was written before many of “us” entered the world of work! Us being women and millennials and innovators and also closet creatives, and evening gardeners and day-time-suit-wearing-iron-men and also… well, most everyone.

Let’s face it, this book was written for a bunch of folk who are now in the minority. And don’t get me wrong, it worked really really well back then, but for “us” in the workplace now, it really does fall short. Many of us feel that our workplaces just don’t enable the way we need to work. So why then are we still using that imaginary book as our core reference guide?

That way of work was perfect for specific workplaces, for a workforce that were all very similar (or were told that they had to be) and for a time that was, well…industrial revolution. We’re in a whole new time, with a whole new workforce, and yet – there is no new book!  We have moved from a world where work was about creating consistency, to a world where work is about embracing each individual’s unique contribution and, if we wish to see that reality, it means we are going to need that bravery to change our worlds of work.

img_6779And it’s right about at this point that I hear Natasha Bedingfield belting out “I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned” and then…a great big ol’ penny drops…it’s time to do some re-writing!

In 2017 I’m keen to see these new chapters take shape.  Let’s take the time to write “the Wikipedia of work” for our future, one that works for us, one that creates space for innovation, for creativity, one that allows every person to thrive, one that isn’t creating a whole workforce of ill-fitting pegs.

We have already rewritten the chapter on dynamic working (literally rewritten), but there are still many chapters that we haven’t even begun to write. We’ve only just started the chapters on what the world of work look could like for single moms? What about the chapters on working dads? Or insomniacs? Or those that live far from their workplaces? Or nocturnals?

And what about the chapter on success? Does it still mean becoming the CEO? Really? What is success if you believe in balancing family and sport and work and creative hobbies? What could that chapter look like?

And what is a career? Is it really a straight-line 20-year plan? What if there was a chapter on changing careers mid-way? Or one on taking a break from your career? Or one on how to come back after a break?

Now is the time for a massive cultural innovation.  It’s the time for new chapters. It’s time for all you brave crazies out there to start recreating, it’s time to get writing. Take it home Natasha… “Live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten”

by Liesl Bebb-McKay

Brain food for the festive season

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration over the holiday season then have a look at some of our team’s favourite TED talks all wrapped up in a festive poem.


As the year comes to an end with the festive season in full swing,
Perhaps you’d like to watch a little something inspiring!

If you only have three minutes here is one to make you smile,
Or get yourself some radical wisdom if you have a while.

Andrew can help you if you have a story waiting to hatch;
You’ll need tissues nearby when you see this windmill made from scratch!

Can you relate to a master procrastinator who shares what’s in his head?
Or if you have cool science to share then listen to what Melissa said.

Finally, don’t miss your chance to see these amazing drones fly!
And with that, from us at Foundery: Go well! ‘Till next year! Goodbye!


If rhyming couplets aren’t your thing then here is a more systematic list of some of our team’s favourite TED talks:

  • Terry Moore – How to tie your shoes (2:59)
  • Ricardo Semler – Radical wisdom for a company, a school, a life (21:42)
  • Andrew Stanton – The clues to a great story (19:09)
  • William Kamkwamba – How I harnessed the wind (5:59)
  • Tim Urban – Inside the mind of a master procrastinator (14:03)
  • Melissa Marshall – Talk nerdy to me (4:34)
  • Raffaello d’Andrea – Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future (11:35)


If you enjoyed these and you want more then go to where you can specify the amount of time you have and the kind of talks you’d like to see (jaw-dropping, beautiful, informative, etc.) and the algorithm will curate something for you there and then.

Thank you to everyone from the Foundery team who contributed to the compilation of this list by sharing their favourite TED talks!

by Bryony Martin

RegTech: a key component of the burgeoning FinTech movement

Unpacking the opportunity to build a robust, compliance function with innovative tech solutions promising many benefits, derived from a number of applications.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be “the chosen one” at our consulting firm to join the rest of our team working at the Foundery. I was told that the Foundery was all about developing FinTech capabilities to solve inherent challenges within banking in a unique way. Thus, we had to be up-to-date with the new technologies in this space. “RegTech” was one of these new technologies that were on our radar, and I had to develop a research pack on it… My initial reaction was that of a student opening up her exam paper having no idea where to begin… and in this case, there would be no “winging it” either! Yet, as I embarked upon this journey, I was fascinated by the immense potential of reducing compliance costs for financial institutions using this technology of today to facilitate the delivery of regulatory requirements in an innovative way and wanted to delve deeper into this amazing world of RegTech. So, here are some of my discoveries from this journey:

What is RegTech?

RegTech, as the word suggests, is an amalgamation of regulation and

technology, a niche carved out from Fintech. Javier Sebastián, BBVA Research’s expert in digital regulation, also explains that it is deemed a subarea of what is generically known as Fintech. He adds that RegTech providers who are, “harnessing the capabilities enabled by new technologies such as cloud computing, big data, and blockchain, are devising solutions to help companies across all sectors of activity ensure that they comply with regulatory requirements.”

What type of solutions does RegTech offer?

Globally, RegTech encompasses many different technologies that can reduce the cost of compliance & show commitment to high standards of regulatory compliance, through the use of advanced data analytics, risk & control convergence, and sustainable & scalable solutions. The solutions can fall into three buckets: Interpretation, Implementation & Optimisation.

  • Interpretation solutions are solutions that help in decoding regulatory requirements. These include regulatory gap analysis tools, compliance universe tools and training tools to track and understand the regulations & help build risk management plans thereof.
  • Implementation solutions assist in doing the actual work to meet the regulatory requirements. These include regulatory reporting & health check tools, incorporating everything from compiling and interpreting data, to producing gap analyses and ad-hoc reports.
  • Optimisation solutions are customised solutions that simplify the compliance process further, on an organisation level, through automation and machine learning. Management information, transaction reporting & analysis, and case management tools fall under this category. These tools empower compliance functions to make informed risk choices based on data-provided insights about the compliance risks the company faced and how it mitigates and manages risks.

Is there really a need for RegTech?

The cost of compliance in the financial services industry is high, and continuously rising, with the supervisory backdrop growing more complex, and constantly changing regulations and processes. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the United States of America, on an average, large banks with an asset size of $1 billion to $100 billion, have total compliance costs of 1.4% of estimated retail deposit operating expense. Operations, HR and IT carry the largest share of these costs. The cost of non-compliance is even higher than the cost of compliance, with increasing penalties and fines paid by banks year-on-year.

Investments in regulatory software have the potential to address this immediate challenge of regulatory compliance which can lead to an ROI of 600+% with a payback period of less than three years, according to letstalkpayments. Hence, the global demand for regulatory, compliance and governance software is expected to reach USD 118.7 billion by 2020. But, yet it still remains a relatively small recipient of Fintech funding. This is because dominant, widely used solutions are yet to emerge, and financial institutions are often still unfamiliar with the technology. Regulatory reform is also not yet complete; uncertainty about the exact reporting requirements makes it harder for financial institutions to choose a particular compliance solution.

Is RegTech here to stay?

With growing regulations, there is a growing demand to oversee data, reporting, and operational processes. A growing number of start-ups have the potential to meet this demand. But, RegTech is about the application of technology to solve a specific regulatory problem, rather than the technology itself. Thus, each of the key players in the system has a distinct role to play in the growth of this technology, through the development of common industry solutions and successful integration into risk management frameworks within the wider regulatory change agenda. Financial Institutions have a primary responsibility for supporting this development, by creating IT and risk infrastructures that are capable of integrating these new solutions.

Supervisors and regulators can also provide support by creating an enabling regulatory environment, where financial institutions can safely share their challenges in compliance and opportunities. The UK is taking the lead to encourage the rest of the world to follow suit. In 2015, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced its 2016/17 business plan focussed on supporting the widespread adoption of RegTech. The FCA, through its ongoing roundtables and bilateral meetings, has provided a platform for collaboration between software developers, financial institutions and the public sector.

My final take on this?

South Africa has a lot of catching up to do!

by: Rachana Bedekar

Fintech and Graffiti – Distant Cousins

Buzzwords such as innovation, disruption and FinTech seem to be so popular that they have found their way into almost all spheres of life. In this article, however, I feel the need to reintroduce a long-lost cousin, graffiti.

Buzzwords such as innovation, disruption and FinTech seem to be so popular that they have found their way into almost all spheres of life. In this article, however, I feel the need to reintroduce a long-lost cousin, graffiti.

About 9 months into our journey, the Foundery team had seen multiple new partners join the initiative. It was therefore pertinent to pull everyone away from their beloved desks, get together as a team and get to know each other a bit better. After searching far and wide we decided to partner with The Talking Vandals ( for a graffiti team building.  The Talking Vandals structured the event for us utilising graffiti as a medium to explore concepts that have been pervasive in the graffiti world and that can be applied in the new business domains of innovation and disruption. Three of these concepts resonated with us at the Foundery:

Graffiti Principle 1 – Know your history

Any graffiti artist that wants to be taken seriously needs to have a thorough understanding of the graffiti sub-culture and its history. Graffiti artists pride themselves on knowing about pieces of work in their area and the story behind these pieces. Before we got to the painting, The Talking Vandals gave us a crash course in graffiti culture and terminology so that we could better understand what we were about to do.

In the worlds of Fintech and disruption this too is a critical piece of the puzzle. Knowing the history of how existing systems and solutions evolved is the first step in understanding how to disrupt them.

Graffiti Principle 2 – Plan


You would be mistaken if you assume that graffiti artists pitch up at a wall (or any other surface) and just “wing it”. These pieces of art are carefully designed and planned. The mural that we painted was planned in numerous layers beforehand and even rendered in photoshop. Print-outs of the plan were distributed to all team members on the day so that we could all picture the final masterpiece. These plans, however, still allowed team members room to add their own flair to the mural.

Salim Ismail is a director of Singularity University. In his book, Exponential Organizations, Salim outlines a common trait between all companies that show exponential growth: a Multi-Transformational Purpose (MTP). Both the graffiti plan and an MTP enable the team to focus on a common goal while still allowing enough room for individuals within the team to flex their creative muscles.

Graffiti Principle 3 – Don’t be a Toy


Finally, some slang! In the graffiti subculture a Toy is slang for… well let’s just say that people labelled as Toys are considered undesirables and you wouldn’t collaborate with an artist that you considered a Toy.

Innovation and disruption is not easy. Teams will often find themselves fighting in the trenches together. Would you choose to have a Toy with you? Fundamental to any high performing team is the team members’ ability to interact with each other as humans. To be able to create something beautiful, it is critical therefore to ensure first that you construct your teams with human beings that can co-exist in the same space and only then focus on understanding the required skill sets.

The team thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with the Talking Vandals. Along with sharing in a part of the graffiti sub-culture, we had the opportunity to watch two amazing artists apply their skill and it was a treat. It is no surprise that we could learn about the disruption world from graffiti artists who have been disruptive in their own world for much longer. We look forward to applying some of these principles in how we disrupt the world of corporate and investment banking.

by Tyrone Naidoo

The Evolution of Money – Part 1:

Any monetary value in our society exists in one of two ways: bearer instruments or registered instruments. A bearer instrument is an asset that is assumed to be owned by the holder of the instrument for which no transaction record is kept.


Any monetary value in our society exists in one of two ways: bearer instruments or registered instruments.  A bearer instrument is an asset that is assumed to be owned by the holder of the instrument for which no transaction record is kept.  An example is physical cash.  You do not need to prove to anyone that the physical cash in your wallet is yours.  You have it and so you are the presumed owner.  Society keeps no record of who previously had the $20 dollar bill that now sits in your wallet.  Registered instruments, on the other hand, are assets whose ownership is determined by referencing a ledger managed by a trusted institution (e.g., properties at the Deeds Office, bonds and equities at the Central Securities Depository, or digital money in a bank account).  While all assets can be categorised as either bearer or registered instruments, assets can also be categorised as either physical or digital assets.  Overlaying asset form (i.e., physical vs. digital) onto instrument type (i.e., bearer vs. registered) helps us understand the evolution of monetary instruments in our society.

Figure 1: The evolution of monetary instruments in society


Physical bearer instruments were the first monetary instruments of humanity (e.g., animal hides, shells, salt, etc.), but communities came to realise that such forms of monetary value had their limitations.  Land, for example, would be a disastrous bearer instrument.  If you left your land to hunt, and came back to find someone else standing on your land claiming it as theirs, one of two outcomes could result:  The loss of the land to the new “owner”; or violence to resolve the dispute.  Furthermore, there would be an incentive to remain on your land to maintain ownership and avoid any potential disputes.  None of these outcomes is conducive to an advancing civilisation.  So as communities came together, physical registered instruments emerged where the community collectively agreed on a trusted intermediary to keep the record of ownership (the source of truth) of a particular asset and update it on the community’s behalf.

As computers became more widely adopted, many of these physical registered instruments migrated from physical to digital registers.  The birth of digital registers also gave rise to digital registered instruments – instruments that have no physical form, and are defined purely by an entry onto a digital register (e.g., a government bond or money in a bank account).  Physical forms of value are easy to understand in this framework.  Digital instruments are less intuitive.

A purely digital bearer instrument (e.g., a digital coin) cannot function as a monetary instrument due to the double-spending problem.  Think of a photograph on your smartphone.  Sending this photograph to someone else does not delete it from your phone – you retain a copy.  This poses a problem for anything digital that is meant to represent value.  What is critically important in any monetary system is that when someone spends their money, they no longer have it.  The ability to copy and paste the digital coin ID mentioned above ad infinitum – the ability to double-spend it – reduces its scarcity and ultimately debases its value.  To avoid double-spending of digital monetary instruments, society has established trusted institutions (such as banks, deeds offices, CSDs) that ensure that when someone receives digital value, someone else must by definition no longer have it.  This is a fundamental principle of our double-entry accounting system where every debit must be equal to a corresponding credit.

In summary, three types of monetary instruments have been described:

  • Physical bearer instrument;
  • Physical registered instrument; and
  • Digital registered instrument.

These three instrument types were the only ones available to humanity until 2009.  That year, Satoshi Nakamoto’s seminal paper “Bitcoin: a peer-to-peer electronic cash system” combined advances in computer science, cryptography and game theory to develop what has now become known as blockchain technology.  This technology has allowed the emergence of a fourth type of monetary instrument:

  • Crypto instrument

The crypto instrument is a digital hybrid instrument with characteristics of both bearer and registered instruments.  It’s like a bearer instrument because the holder of a digital private key is the presumed owner of the value it controls, and a registered instrument because that value is recorded on a ledger (albeit a distributed one).  The presence of both bearer and registered instrument characteristics are necessary for the existence of a crypto instrument.  All assets issued onto a blockchain are crypto instruments.

The Evolution of Money – Part 2 coming soon!

by Farzam Ehsani