Ariel Ling, as the co-founder and COO of BitMax.io (BTMX.com), was invited to the interview by Fred Schebesta, the CEO of Crypto Finder (Finder.com). Ariel has 18-year progressive executive experience in strategic planning, business development, budgeting and financial analysis risk management, regulatory program implementation, and process improvement for operational efficiency. She has an in-depth understanding of capital market products (stocks, fixed income, foreign exchange) in financial services and the development of international banking strategic trends (M&A, market structure, regulatory reforms and their impact). Her lustrous career on Wall Street made this interview a popular link on YouTube.
F: Do you believe this going to help bring more institutions into the space?
A: I am not very familiar with TokenSoft. It really depends on who are the backers, institutional backers of this venture. If the institutional backers of this venture are well regarded, are reputable, absolutely. Because at the end of day if you look at the value chain, the exchanges they are doing trading, they are doing broker dealer, they are doing wallet management themselves, and they are doing custody themselves. It becomes very nebulous. So for TokenSoft, they understand security token, which means under my prediction, it’s completely regulated just like securities. For securities, you must have a custody, and you must have a clearing house. Those are inevitable. So for them, they want to take a step ahead, and I also think that’s a smart move.
F: And we had T0 exchange launched just last week as well. Let’s get back to that question. From a broader base of adoption in the space, for 2019, Ariel, what’s your prediction in where those are going to be cleaned up?
A: I can’t predict the regulatory progress because it really comes down to how each step the government takes; sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it takes shorter. And when the lawmaking takes place, it always takes more time to get implemented.
F: Yes. And we also talked about the digital asset, the tokenization of asset.
A: Yeah, when I’m looking at it, there are people always saying there’s coin, and there’s token. So I like to use the word: digital asset. So there’s one aspect of currency coin. Those are typical like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and stable coins. So their functionality is actually getting interesting. The origin of Bitcoin is really a payment processing platform. So their development is kind of like FX. You can either hold it, hoping the value goes up, or use it to buy product and services. So they’re like foreign currencies. And there is the other aspect, securitized token. So the token itself would present, whether equity or debt, certain percentage of the underlying project or underlying venture. So for those, as long as they pass certain security test, they are treated as securities. From security trading perspective, if you look at how the Wall Street is structured, and how the US equity trading market is structured, it’s very simple. №1, You must have a broker dealer license in order to take the client order and to put on the risk; №2, all what exchanges do is order matching, and then providing liquidity to the market right? On the primary market it’s IPO, while on the secondary market it’s trading. And after the exchanges trade it, execute it, and then the clearing house comes in to make sure the books and records are verified. Money is moved from the banks to the brokerage accounts. And then the custody piece is that everybody can pick their own custody to hold the assets. So those are the components where I think for the US, the regulator has to make a very strong distinction between what will be subjected on CFCT, what is currency, or what is commodity, and then the rest of it falls under the SEC regime and what it takes — Is it the same as equity or slightly different? This I would think is similar to UK where the FCA has to think about as well. That leads to an interesting dynamic about utility token. This is where I don’t have a particular view, because utility token value is very diminished if you take the token outside of this particular platform. So it is designed to be used on a platform. So this is where I am actually interested in. I want to see how that gets developed from a regulatory perspective. And from a BitMax.io perspective, we put actually a bit more stringent requirement on ourselves. When we list a utility token and when we design it, we just follow the security markets. For example in US, that’s why you need a trusted custody structure just to support that. And in BitMax.io, it’s crypto to crypto; there is no fiat. So that aspect diminishes a little bit. And from a market trading manipulation surveillance perspective which is very heavy for equity, for example, if you trade anything, the regulator will get your report in real time, knowing every single step. So nobody could actually manipulate the market. We also take the same stand for our exchange. We monitor the volume, and we monitor trading behavior. If there’s someone abusing the market, meaning a robot or anything, we identify the account, we notify the account owners, saying whether it is wash trade or whether this is artificially to jag up the price and then dump it, and we give the time to correct. And if he/she doesn’t, we basically freeze the account. So the users can see that it is a fair market. We have probably applied this called market manipulation kind of rule. This is very classical for equity trading. Every single exchange must demonstrate the capability and behavior to do that.
F: OK. Two last things. You have been through four crises as you said through, like the dot-com bubble, Sarbanes Oxley, Lehman Brother collapse and European financial crisis. From your experience seeing all the rise and bust, where do you think we’re at in the cryptocurrency market.
A: I think this goes back to the trading aspect, depending on whether this is a V down or a U down or U curve. So the U curve is basically when the market collapses, it takes a longer time to find a bottom. It takes a longer time for the market to find the equilibrium. And once they find it, they rise up. Or, it’s like a quick collapse. It’s down very fast and reaches the bottom. And then, there’s some catalyst event, either catalyst from a market structure, or catalyst from the market expansion itself. Suddenly it gives a boost. And then it bounces right back up. So when I look at what is happening with digital asset or crypto trading, it’s a bubble to the extent, but it’s also a market correction. And I always compare this to the internet bubble to some extent, because I remember very vividly when I first started working in 1999 on the Wall Street, the Internet was so hot that you could get an IPO without even having a website. And Nasdaq peaked in basically 2000. But then, it collapsed. It took until 2015 for Nasdaq to reach back to the last peak. So you can see how many bubbles right about dot-com because people literally just forget about the economic valuation, the intrinsic business model that kind of aspects of it. So when you look at what happened in the crypto, the Bitcoin peaked at December of 2017. Around that period, there were many many projects that could raise money so easily. This is what we call air-projects. Do they really have fundamentals? Do they really have a viable business model? Do they really have a solid user base? If they do not have those three, then you would expect what would happen when people recognize the value of that token is not sustainable, going back to my finance view. When people see through that, with Bitcoin itself it’s going through a hard time, the rest of the altcoins are actually crushing a lot more dramatically than Bitcoin. So where do we see the balance, it is just my personal view that there are couple economic theories, and one of the theories is about cost. In the financial crisis, the worst, darkest day of banking crisis is the Lehman collapse. I was right in Lehman when they fell off the cliff. And then the domino went from Lehman to Morgan to every single bank. Every single bank felt the pressure. The bank stocks got depressed so hard. At that time one of the things from investors, especially those really smart traditional investors, was looking at the book value. So if the bank stock price, was lower than a quarter of book value, of course it was a value play. It’s below the cost, basically. So you go back to Bitcoin. Assuming it costs 3,000 dollars to mine a Bitcoin, maybe that’s where certain value investor will hold a view like from a valuation perspective that if the valuation is lower than what it takes to make it, it can be called a good value. So this is where it goes back to the market that from a trading perspective, the volatility you could see where there might be some breakthrough of different resistance levels. But at the end of day, it’s all about finding the equilibrium from a valuation perspective. When it hits there, then you will see the value investors come in. If it’s cheaper enough, there are more people who will probably look into it. So when it’s 20,000 for Bitcoin, do you know how many people can afford it? Maybe not, but what if it’s getting down 4000, 3000, and especially for certain countries are way more developed than certain countries, where people understand the liquidity and usage behind Bitcoin like you can use it, you can buy piece of coffee from Starbucks. Then it comes down to the value. So right now I think it really goes back to the fundamental from a finance perspective. It’s finding the valuation, the intrinsic value. Whether it’s currency token, or it’s an altcoin from a security type of token perspective.
F: Alright Ariel. That was incredible. We asked everybody on the show that what the price they think is going to be of Bitcoin on New Year’s Eve 2019 the clock strikes 12:00. We had a whole series of predictions last year in US dollars. What’s your prediction for the price of Bitcoin?
A: I think right now… hmm the Bitcoin right now is what? 35 hundred?
F: We are trading at 3468 dollars.
A: I don’t know. It’s crazy. I actually really like Bitcoin. I mean I like Bitcoin more now because it’s cheaper and I can buy it. But when you look at it before the crisis hit, I already hoped by the end of year if they could get back to 5000 I would be really happy, because it’s pretty much a psychologic level.
A: Let’s hope for that.
F: Awesome. Ariel, thank you again for coming on to the show, and your incredible insight into the Wall Street market right now. And do check out guys on BitMax.io! We’ve got margin trading and some derivatives coming up, some new improvements we can see on the platform. Thank you very much again Ariel! We will see you guys TOMORROW!