When Lee Birkett launched his online P2P lending and financial product comparison sites on the internet, he says it was a whole new world.
Now, he says, Blockchain has the capacity to plug the leaky plumbing in the banking world, globally.
Having managed portfolios of £5bn in loans and mortgages over 25 years as a regulated individual, Lee sees credibility and corporate governance as key to public acceptance of blockchain.
And while he kept his own head down, hiding from this new technology behind the sofa for many years, the recent involvement of such banks and blue chips as Goldman Sachs with Circle and Barclays with Coinbase, finally convinced him to see some credibility in the sector.
So what was it brought risk-averse Lee round to this world, which has been seen as the financial Wild West?
The 2008 crash saw Lee’s partners including HBOS, Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock, suddenly unable to support his £100m/month lending business. And yet experience and a long contact list of credible people looking for loans and savings advice showed him the appetite was unabated.
The economy had broken due to malpractice in the sector. But he had hundreds and hundreds of borrowers left unserved, and hundreds and hundreds of savers making no returns on their money.
Nobody was lending.
Until Zopa (Zone of Possible Agreement), the innovative peer-to-peer lender, inspired him for the first time to take up the crowd-sourced and crowdfunded mantle and get things working again.
Crowdfunding £450k from 100 investors, JustUs went down the long journey to regulation – 5 years in total, launching fully-regulated a year ago. And having lived every hard minute down this route, Lee was now determined to bring those 5 years of investment in teambuilding, controls and corporate governance, and deploy them on the blockchain.
The BiPS token, created by Lee’s MoneyBrain comparison site with sister company JustUs, is the first asset-backed token created and mined by a regulated entity. At this stage it is a project, a network, for which people can buy tokens – BiPS - not shares, but as a way to expand the network, to develop it around the world.
The more they raise, the bigger and stronger the network will become and faster it can grow.
Next year when the token goes on public sale, using the liquidity platform of JustUs, the majority of proceeds raised will be used to acquire property or other real-world assets, providing stability and growth for the network - and giving bonus tokens back to holders to cash out or buy more BiPS.
Lee aims for BiPS is to bring stability to a global blockchain economy. To be part of building a robust global blockchain with robust token mechanisms. To allow those in underserved countries, especially in the third world with no access to bonus assets, to acquire tokens with accretive value.
The BiPS team is one of the most impressive in the UK in this field, having accrued decades of experience in P2P loans, governance and compliance. And as Lee says, if the stakeholder participants are sound people of good reputation, this can only go from strength to strength.
He has seen, as we all have, amazing things in this space. Transformative things. Including the potential for third-world countries running their economies on digital currencies. Bringing stability, security and prosperity.
Host Barry James asked Lee about the potential, and what was the one thing he’d like people to remember from this interview as BiPS starts its pre-sale. It was: This could be the start of fair finance - Globally.