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Bitcoin Champion Bows Out, But For The Wrong Reasons

One of the leading advocates for blockchain adoption has announced his retirement from the space. Angus Champion de Crespigny, who led Ernst & Young’s blockchain efforts for the Financial Services Office in the Americas, says that mass adoption is still too far away for serious consideration.  But is his reasoning sound?


Once A Champion, Now A Pragmatist

Angus Champion de Crespigny first encountered Bitcoin in 2013, and later spent three years in a full-time role at Ernst & Young as the Americas FSO Blockchain Leader, which he left in August, 2018.*

In a series of tweets last week, Champion de Crespigny outlined his reasons for leaving the space and pursuing other endeavors. They revolve around the long time horizon he sees blockchain requiring before it can emerge as a significant technology in industry:

I also found that institutions were not going to be onboarding bitcoin as a financial product as quickly as I had thought they would from my discussions over the years. Institutionalization has happened, but not as much as I’d expected and enough for me to build a business on it. — Angus Champion de Crespigny (@anguschampion) April 19, 2019

Finally, I have believed for the past few years that there would be a ‘great cleansing’, where over a period of a year or two, people would slowly withdraw from all the useless blockchain projects going on. I’m losing confidence the market will become rational any time soon. — Angus Champion de Crespigny (@anguschampion) April 19, 2019


Champion de Crespigny’s Position Was Always More Nuanced Than Thought

As one of Ernst & Young’s blockchain advocates, Champion de Crespigny told Institutional Investor in late 2016 that he was bullish on the’s potential to see more industry engagement with blockchain technology, especially in the banking sector.

“Is blockchain dead because one bank leaves a consortium? Not at all.” Angus Champion de Crespigny, cited in Institutional Investor

A year later, he remained optimistic about crypto and blockchain, telling Forbes:

“Announcements such as the release of bitcoin futures are leading long term cryptocurrency industry players to anticipate greater institutional adoption such as providing it to their clients or even purchasing themselves.”Angus Champion de Crespigny, cited in Forbes

The one-time evangelists’ tone has since begun to change. Late last year, with crypto markets in the grip of a long winter and adoption moving at a snails’ pace, Champion de Crespigny told Barron’s that decentralization was actually a problem:

“In reality the process to get there is just incredibly, incredibly complicated. Typically, as it evolves, you end up having to coordinate everyone. And if you can coordinate everyone, then there is often a better technology to use than a blockchain.”Angus Champion de Crespigny

A week later he explained to Bloomberg’s Odd Lots podcast that blockchain technology was pointless for corporations.

Yet, despite his departure from the blockchain industry, he still believes in bitcoin:

I’m as confident in Bitcoin’s ability to radically transform the world as I ever have been. However I believe the time horizon to do that is very long, and I believe my best bet in the industry is to simply buy and hold. — Angus Champion de Crespigny (@anguschampion) April 19, 2019


When The Going Gets Tough…

Nobody complained that it was difficult to find an Uber driver or get their Netflix streaming quickly enough in the early days of the internet. By losing patience with the slow pace of blockchain technology, Champion de Crespigny may have become a victim of his own hype.

Good technology takes time to mature, and use cases require patience to reveal themselves. Industry professionals need to be at the forefront, advocating for the technology and determining what those use cases are and how best to propel them.

Throughout 2018, crypto’s loudest proponents only got louder. Despite a tumble in mainstream interest, truly invested figures such as Tim Draper, Mike Novogratz, and Andreas Antonopoulos continued to espouse the virtues of the revolution.

In that sense, Champion de Crespigny is a pioneer, becoming the first serious exponent of blockchain technology to walk away. Ironically, he does so at the same time that  JPMorgan and CEO Jamie Dimon are starting to embrace it.

Champion de Crespigny’s decision to change course has been met with well-wishes from fellow blockchain pioneers. Clovyr co-founder Amber Baldet tweeted:

Good thread, hope to still see you at accidental tech meetups. 🙂 — Amber ☘️ (@AmberBaldet) April 19, 2019

One suspects Baldet’s hopes are likely to pan out. The things that draw people into distributed ledger technology tend to have a lot to do with a personal beliefs, such as personal freedom and the allure of decentralization.

These are values from which it is hard to walk away. 

*Correction: an earlier version of this article misstated Angus Champion de Crespigny’s role at Ernst & Young. He was the Americas FSO Blockchain Leader, not the Blockchain Strategy Leader. 

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