As part of our mentor interview series, we talked to Pietro Lanza, General Manager of Intesa (an IBM subsidiary) and Blockchain Director of IBM Italia.
Your role at Intesa and IBM focuses primarily on enterprise DLT and blockchain usage. Can you tell us more about the projects you’re working on?
We are observing a rapidly increasing curve in the adoption of blockchain into enterprise processes. IBM is currently working on over 1,000 projects and developing global platforms for Maersk, Walmart, governments, and central banks, for example. The culture of blockchain and DLT adoption is becoming mainstream for mid to large enterprises.
Read more about IBM’s blockchain use-cases here, from coordinating disaster recovery efforts to enabling regulatory compliance and data access.
While there is an increasing number of use-cases where we find real value, I'm not a believer in blockchain for anything and everything. About 50% of the requests we receive from large and mid-sized corporates come to the conclusion that blockchain doesn’t add value for that particular use-case. So we spend a lot of time in the initial ecosystem design and business case in order to understand what technology to leverage.
How do you go about implementing these solutions? What platforms are you working with?
IBM develops solutions on Hyperledger Fabric by The Linux Foundation and the IBM Blockchain Platform, a governance layer we developed. We primarily work on these, but we have teams exploring other protocols and companies working in this space. One trend we expect to see in the future is the interoperability of different blockchains and DLTs.
For example, IBM’s acquisition of enterprise open source solutions provider, Red Hat, last year equipped us with more Ethereum expertise. We also just announced a working roundtable with R3’s Corda to explore interconnecting our platforms, especially in financial services.
On the other side, we also promote the founding and development of blockchain-based startups. We provide startups with resources to leverage our technologies and develop their ideas, including up to €120,000 in credits per year.
What are you hoping to see from your involvement in the Algorand Europe Accelerator program?
I was following Algorand's founder, Silvio Micali, as one of the most respected innovators in this space worldwide and was put in touch with an early Algorand investor, Eterna Capital. I decided to dedicate some time as a mentor to understand how we can contribute and collaborate.
It's very interesting for us to include Algorand in our open platform as part of our mission to help startups in the development of new technologies in various areas from supply chain to AI, and blockchain to digital identities. We are already working closely with startups in a number of different industries and verticals and supporting their routes-to-market, given that Intesa is providing services to the top 1,000 companies in Italy, and globally through IBM.
What advice would you give to startups trying to partner with large organizations like Intesa and IBM?
The first thing we assess is the business use-case of the idea, which we can get a sense of relatively quickly. Apart from that, we are quite open. For some industries, we often leverage our competence centre in legal and compliance expertise because they may potentially be good ideas, but are disconnected from certain regulations in financial services or other frameworks.
How do you navigate developments in regulation?
We are actively participating in shaping them. In Italy, we are part of a group of experts supporting the government in developing regulations, such as defining the legal validity of smart contracts and similar topics. Some of these regulations have already been issued at different levels, from CONSOB (the entity regulating the Italian financial market) to the central bank or the government itself.
Another way we address this is through sandbox concepts with regulators around the table. We have one in progress to develop a concept for portable KYC with 20 representatives participating from some of the largest banks, insurance, telecom and utility companies. The sandbox framework gives us the possibility to get them involved from the start, ensuring the design is already compliant at the idea stage, or will soon be once regulations are formalised.
What are you most excited to see in the next 5 - 10 years?
With exponential technologies like blockchain, I believe there will be adoption on a large scale for business processes where the final user doesn't necessarily have to understand the underlying technology to experience the benefits. As with the web more than 20 years ago, the end-user does not have to know all the workings to experience the business benefits from new web-related services and platforms.
I don't think blockchain alone is going to change the word but it certainly will be in the loop of paradigms and technologies that will create disruption. It will likely be in conjunction with a mix of technologies as we're seeing in our projects, combining IoT, AI, and blockchain. Very often, it is about a patchwork of new exponential technologies combined with older ones like the web itself.
About Pietro Lanza
Pietro Lanza is General Manager of Intesa IBM and Blockchain Director for IBM Italy. He leads the evolution of the company's product and service portfolio, promoting the development of new solutions and accelerating digital transformation powered by blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and IoT technologies.
Before IBM, Pietro held several positions of increasing responsibility in the development and implementation of digital transformation solutions with focus on financial, insurance, telco and utilities sectors. He spent the first decade of his career in finance, working for leading Italian and international banks such as Banca Sella, Credem Banca, Nordea Banking Group, Fineco Bank and Banca Mediolanum.