UK: Blockchain - The Ultimate Disruptor

Blockchain technology is changing the landscape in a major way. However, this innovative technology comes with highly complex laws and processes that require sophisticated legal and technical expertise, and an insider's understanding of the ever-evolving regulatory space. Our experts provide an introduction to Blockchain and its use across a wide variety of scenarios and sectors.

To Listen the podcast click here


Michael Luckman: Hello, my name is Michael Luckman and welcome to this ThinkHouse podcast on blockchain, the ultimate disrupter.

Blockchain is very much a hot topic in the news and in business conversations, and when it comes to understanding the technology and how to make it work effectively for your business, there is a lot to consider. Today I am joined by David Brennan, Corporate Partner and co-chair of Gowling WLG's Tech Group and Jody Jansen, Head of Architecture and Innovation at Gowling WLG, who will both look more closely at what Blockchain is, how the technology works and where it can be used really successfully to add value. So, Jody, to take things back to fundamental principles, can you explain what Blockchain actually is?

Jody Jansen: Thank you Michael, yes, so to describe blockchain, in the simplest form, you would call it a ledger - a ledger that has multiple ledger holders called "nodes" in the blockchain. By having multiple ledger holders, it becomes decentralised, or distributed. Adding the benefit of cryptographic signing of that data in the ledger, it becomes very hard to change. It becomes immutable, and to put that in an example, you could think of a ledger that holds diamond information.

David would buy a diamond in a diamond shop and he is looking for a two carat diamond. The shop owner only has 1.8 carats, but funnily enough he knows me as the ledger holder of this diamond list. He asks me to change that information into two carats so when David asks me for the information on the diamond, I would show him a two carat diamond information sheet. Now if I the ledger had been copied 99 times and distributed to different people and David asks the same question to me and the rest of these ledger holders, I will come up with a two carat diamond and the rest of them will come up with 1.8 carats and that principle makes it immutable.

It's very important to understand that bitcoin is not blockchain, but bitcoin should be seen as an application that works on the blockchain. For example, to compare, we have the medium that is the internet and on that we can use the application called email or web browsing or, nowadays, your video doorbell.

Michael: So, blockchain really extends far beyond bitcoin and is a very clever tool that can deal with highly complex processes. For our in-house counsel audience, how do you foresee blockchain impacting on their roles day-to-day, David?

David Brennan: Thank you Michael. There are quite a lot of use cases for blockchain that would apply to general counsel and their day-to-day roles, but I will just highlight a couple. The first one is cyber security and the other one is regulatory compliance.

So, how does blockchain come in here? Cyber security is something that keeps most GCs awake at night. Security and protection of data is clearly key to businesses and the onus is on the general counsel these days to ensure that the checks and balances are in place to make sure that the data is as secure as it can possibly be.  Blockchains are supported by strong and complex cryptography, so they are less vulnerable to the actions of hackers.

Data can always be modified, but using blockchain technology enables that data to be signed with a digital signature and that digital signature, which is called a "hash" can then be stored on the blockchain ledger and therefore is incapable of being altered. This is something that's going to come in over the course of the next couple of years I think, in terms of how companies are looking at the issues they have with cyber and how they protect themselves more with the use of blockchain technology.

Regulatory compliance follows on the heels of that, especially around the KYC process. New regulations have come in since the 2008 financial crisis to ensure that a company's approach to reporting and risk data is structured and well defined and tasks that are often associated with KYC in a business day-to-day are repetitive, resulting in duplicate processes and inconsistent information and the security and the immutability of blockchain is something that is going to really be useful in the future to make the lives of in-house counsel a lot more straightforward when it comes to running their compliance teams.

Michael: There are clearly a number of growing trends that you've covered there. Looking at how blockchain is actually working in practice, what are some of the most successful examples you've seen, David, of its application within different types of businesses?

David: So Michael to answer that, we probably have to look to the bigger businesses around the world who have had the resources to take forward the blockchain technology and have been successful with adapting and adopting it. To give you some examples, BTL Group, which is a public listed company, has built a back office Interbit platform which has allowed a consortium of oil and gas supermajors and energy traders to deliver gas trading reconciliation. It is built on a blockchain platform which has really simplified the way that those energy companies can send and control the data.

Everledger is a company which specialises in supply chain and provenance, and to look back at what Jody mentioned earlier in terms of diamonds, it's actually possible now to track the diamond from the mine all the way to the jeweller's shop by ensuring that the record of the diamond is stored on the blockchain. Therefore there can be no issues around it being called into question that that diamond is not the diamond that it says it is. If we think about the onward implications of that around the insurance industry, just imagine what impact that could have on insurance premiums if the issues around fraud can be reduced.

Michael: There are lots of ideas and practices here that we can take away and consider. However, are there any myths you may wish to debunk about blockchain? One for you, Jody.

Jody: Yes, definitely and it's very important to understand that there are a few myths out there. I always mention the number one in my list - bitcoin is not blockchain. It's important to understand that bitcoin is just an application on the blockchain that it can be used for and also Blockchain is better than a traditional database. Blockchain has a very specific use case and in most cases this is because there are multiple parties involved that don't really trust each other and want to keep that as secure as possible.

We talked about blockchain being immutable and tamper proof. It is not 100% tamper proof, especially when you become the private blockchain with more than 51% of the 'hashing power', as that is a term in the blockchain, you can re-write the information.

Is blockchain 100% secure? No, especially for that reason I just mentioned before. You can tamper with it and you can put wrong information in the blockchain to start off with, so the information that you put in needs to be accurate, because otherwise you have a tamper proof false information.

And, the blockchain is a truth machine. It is not, again... for the information has to be right that's put in it.

Michael: And finally, what would you sum up as the key takeaways for boardroom conversations on this subject David?

David: I think there are a couple of things that would come to mind, Michael. The first point I would make is that there's a first mover advantage here. Do not be left behind. It's very easy to look at the hype around blockchain technology and think that it is just hype, but the number of businesses around the world that are adopting this technology, that are looking into what this technology might mean for them, makes it very clear that it's something that should be looked at and considered at board level.

The other thing I would say is don't think that as a business you have to jump in with both feet. This does not necessarily require a large investment in terms of capital and business risk. There are applications out there and there are companies out there that actually offer blockchain as a service and very similar to our cloud hosting services that exist at the moment. Amazon, IBM and others actually provide a platform for businesses to use as a springboard, so for companies perhaps dabbling with blockchain - boards, perhaps, interested in wanting to look at it a little bit more closely - this could be an option for general counsel to look at. It's a much easier way to have a look at Blockchain technology and certainly means that you don't have to approach the risks and indeed the capital injection that one would expect if you were building your own platform.

Michael: Thank you both, David and Jody. That has really helped bring blockchain a bit more to life for us all and provided food for thought.

We hope you found today's podcast useful and, of course, if you would like any further information on this or indeed any other of our ThinkHouse topics, please visit our ThinkHouse page on Gowling WLG or contact a member of the team.

Read the original article on

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions