Ripple Labs is thrilled to announce that Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is joining the advisory board. Mr. zu Guttenberg is the Chairman and a Founder of Spitzberg Partners LLC, a New York-based boutique corporate advisory and investment firm that provides strategic counsel and investment insights on European and international political, economic, diplomatic, technology, and security issues.
He served as Minister of Economics and Technology and then as Minister of Defense in the cabinet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As the youngest Defense Minister in German history, he led the most significant structural reform of the German armed forces since the Bundeswehr’s founding. During his time in office, Minister zu Guttenberg was Germany’s most popular politician.
What was your motivation to join the advisory board? What sort of a role do you see yourself playing?
My motivation for joining the advisory board is to help Ripple Labs successfully navigate key regulatory pitfalls that it will inevitably face throughout Europe and the rest of the world. I am also happy to provide Ripple Labs with my global network in the finance industry and to be a critical sounding board.
I’m confident that my background as former Economics, Technology, and Defense Minister combined with my work at Spitzberg Partners—focusing specifically on the political and regulatory challenges facing the technology sector—will be valuable for Ripple Labs.
The current ecosystem is fragile, and Ripple Labs will need to make informed and prudent decisions in an uncertain and fluid political environment.
What’s your assessment of the current space regarding payments? Where do you see us headed?
The traditional payments system is antiquated, costly, inefficient, and in need of disruption. The problem is that it is very profitable for entrenched players (oligopolists) who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Additionally, it is not in the DNA of large firms to innovate effectively.
There is no question that cryptocurrency and the associated infrastructure—specifically the Ripple protocol—represents a dramatic step forward that cannot be ignored. Put another way—this technology cannot be un-invented or have the genie put back in the bottle. Even more important is Ripple Lab’s approach and potential to redefine the environment of (international) financial transactions.
Traditional banking models like correspondent banking urgently need to adapt to the realities of a digitized and interconnected world. Large and small firms across the financial services industry will need to integrate this technology into their operations or risk being passed by competitors.
As one government official recently told my firm—we cannot stick our heads in the ground and pretend this technology does not exist. The vision of Chris Larsen and his team is in my eyes the most innovative and promising concept on the market.
This space has historically been difficult to navigate from an entrepreneurial or innovation perspective. There are so many factors at play: whether it’s entrenched players, politics and regulation, or simply the operational risks of dealing with money. But there is this sense that real change could be coming. What’s different today than say 10 or even 20 or 30 years ago?
This is an interesting question because it is important to understand some key differences between innovations in the financial sector as opposed to emerging tech in other fields such as cloud computing, robotics, social media, etc. While people are willing to accept growing pains with certain new technologies, financial products and transactions have no margin of error. In a sense, I think that the unique challenges faced by financial innovators mirror those seeking to disrupt healthcare.
Despite these challenges, we are riding a wave of innovation that will fundamentally change many elements of our lives. It is impacting the entire world in one form or another. The Ripple protocol, Bitcoin, and general innovation in finance are key parts of this movement—and as such, I believe that it reaps the benefits of the credibility that earlier innovations have built. Financial innovation will be ignored at your own peril.
About Mr. zu Guttenberg
He was a Member of Parliament (Bundestag) during 2002-2011 and served as spokesman on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He was also a Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Secretary General of Germany’s co-governing CSU party.
Mr. zu Guttenberg is a Distinguished Statesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC and serves as Senior Advisor to the European Commission leadership on global Internet freedom. He sits on a variety of international corporate and not-for-profit boards, has published numerous op-eds and articles, and holds a law degree from the University of Bayreuth. He currently lives with his wife and two daughters in Greenwich, CT.
Enabling the world to move value like it moves information today.
Ripple provides global financial settlement solutions to enable the world to exchange value like it already exchanges information – giving rise to an Internet of Value (IoV). Ripple solutions lower the total cost of settlement by enabling banks to transact directly, instantly and with certainty of settlement. Banks around the world are partnering with Ripple to improve their cross-border payment offerings, and to join the growing, global network of financial institutions and market makers laying the foundation for the Internet of Value.
Ripple is a venture-backed startup with offices in San Francisco, New York and Sydney. As an industry advocate for the Internet of Value, Ripple sits on the Federal Reserve’s Faster Payments Task Force Steering Committee and co-chairs the W3C’s Web Payments Working Group.
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