[Professor Interview] Professor Kim Claes Talks about the Future of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies
Kim Claes, Professor of Management at SKK GSB, teaches the “Cryptoeconomics and Blockchain Technologies” course in both the Full-time MBA and the Professional MBA Programs. Here Professor Claes provides his analytical insights on the potential implications of this novel technology and its further development.
Q. First, could you share with us how you developed an interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency, given that your academic specialization is in Management?
A. I studied physics for my bachelor’s and actuarial science for my master’s at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium). After that I obtained my Ph.D. in Management from INSEAD. Before joining SKK GSB as a Management professor, I worked in global capital markets at BNP Paribas where I was pricing derivatives and options. Therefore, mathematics and finance have been a part of my academic and professional background throughout much of my life.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul. For the first time, I heard several speakers there talking about how big blockchain technology - the technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies - could become. Since then, I have developed a growing interest in this field, and I started to read books and articles on blockchain and did research on the industry. In fact, it was challenging to get information about blockchain five years ago, as the subject was very new to everyone. I could only find highly technical, very complex cryptography/IT books or bad quality vulgarization that was mostly imprecise or even outright inaccurate. Luckily, I made some friends in this industry who pointed me in the right direction. Since early 2019, information in the field has become widely available and is improving in quality and clarity by the day.
Aside from entrepreneurship and venture capital, therefore, my current research interests also include blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Q. How do you assess the future of cryptocurrencies?
A. While more and more people are becoming aware of blockchain technology with all the hype around cryptocurrencies, not many people are using them yet - for reasons other than speculation - due to the infancy of the industry; the lack of user-friendliness; the somewhat negative press from mainstream media; and the lack of understanding of the technology.
In the long run, however, I have no doubt that blockchain technology will permeate many areas of our lives, starting with the financial industries. Moreover, some cryptocurrencies will be used as actual currencies and as a medium of exchange in several countries. Nevertheless, how cryptos will develop or which ones will survive will be heavily affected by government regulations.
Q. Why do you think it is crucial for students to learn about blockchain and cryptocurrencies?
A. Blockchain technology is here to stay, and cryptocurrencies will become significant components of our economy in the future. Just by looking at the development of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) projects all over the globe, we can tell that governing bodies are trying to ride that wave too. Looking for ways to play a part in that digital ecosystem, many companies have already been seeking people who have a good grasp of the industry and its current dynamics, and are able to directly help firms in that endeavor. As proof, three of my students who took my class at SKK GSB and had internships in the industry, received job offers shortly after.
So far, people knowledgeable in cryptocurrencies and Blockchain have usually come from a computer science background. However, aside from these technically-oriented people, firms also need business-minded people who can merge technical knowledge into business practices. Accordingly, students in our MBA programs are now being offered training in this area. My class covers the fundamentals of this technology and some of its applications in the business world. It also covers some valuation methodologies and offers insights from industry expert guests such as the anchor from CNBC Cryptocurrency Channel, the co-founder of Proof Suite (a blockchain-based asset management platform), a manager of Line’s crypto-related VC fund, etc.
In addition to the regular MBA programs, SKK GSB has started offering a specialized degree in data analytics, thereby granting students the opportunity to meet with industry experts in order to understand the current applications of technology in the real business world.
Q. Do you have any recommendations for students who want to know more about the field?
A. As a (future) business leader, you do not need to learn the latest technical details in the way that computer scientists do; instead, you have to understand the principles behind it. If you feel like you lack understanding in this field currently, do not be discouraged. However, I advise you to step out of your comfort zone and tackle this issue right now. Attending the MBA program and taking classes related to this field is undoubtedly a great way for you to acquire the building blocks of that knowledge.
Irene So and Bomi Kim, SKK GSB PR Committee, Class of 2022