Preston Fischer is a digital risk management and innovation expert with a focus on blockchain and digital asset advisory. He recently joined FTI Technology’s Blockchain & Digital Assets practice as a Managing Director, bringing more than 20 years of experience in e-discovery, investigations and digital risk management across consultancies, technology companies and public affairs. In this Q&A, he discusses his view of the key trends and opportunities shaping the field of blockchain and digital assets.
Preston, what’s your career background and how did you land in blockchain and digital assets?
I’m very focused on data innovation and digital risk management. There’s tremendous opportunity to innovate with blockchain and cryptocurrency in order to drive supply chain resiliency, operational efficiency, data trust and transparency, ESG improvements and new financial systems. At the same time, there is a critical need to address risk across these sectors and uses.
One of my first hands-on opportunities to solve complex digital risk challenges was earlier in my career working as a consultant with the FDIC in the wake of the financial crisis. When the economy began to stabilize and funds started flowing back to the FDIC, it was inundated with data and struggled to handle it. I worked with a team to determine how to sort the data, manage the risk of what was on hold, set parameters for what needed to be retained and disposed of and build the underlying processes and procedures to support that.
More recently I was Vice President of Cyber Solutions at Aon (another role that was highly focused on addressing data risk) and Managing Director at the Alnair Group, where I specialized in creating the strategies, capabilities and roadmaps necessary to deliver complex solutions. These experiences introduced me to blockchain and digital assets and I’ve since become very focused on how to leverage blockchain technology to develop transformative solutions that support digital risk management in addition to enabling untapped efficiencies and novel operating models.
What are some of the use cases and opportunities around blockchain, cryptocurrency, digital assets, etc.?
I believe the use cases that have come to fruition in recent years are just scratching the surface of what’s to come. Innovation on this front is something every organization should be thinking about. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have held numerous briefings and hearings discussing the risks and opportunities around digital assets, and in March, President Biden signed an Executive Order outlining a “national policy for digital assets across six key priorities: consumer and investor protection; financial stability; illicit finance; U.S. leadership in the global financial system and economic competitiveness; financial inclusion; and responsible innovation.” Other global jurisdictions are also introducing or discussing regulations and guidelines.
The EO brings the industry a step closer to a set of defined guidelines and rules for how digital assets will be handled in the U.S. economy. There’s still a great deal of uncertainty though, as well as a widespread need for better education as to how these ecosystems operate and impact existing financial and business systems.
In terms of specific use cases, cryptocurrencies and digital assets may support a new standard for operational and economic efficiency for financial services, transactions and payments, in which money can be sent between customers and across borders faster and at a lower cost than traditional wire transfers. There are also opportunities for digital assets to be used to provide equitable financial solutions to unbanked and underbanked individuals that have been left out of the traditional financial ecosystem.
When looking at blockchain technology more broadly, again there are countless potential applications. For example, on the supply chain side, blockchain systems can provide tracking, secure data sharing, transparency and efficiency as products move between vendors, suppliers, customers, auditors and other involved parties. These mechanisms are already being used to improve quality control, reduce costs, improve trust, monitor for ESG benchmarks and more.
What are some common challenges clients should be aware of when entering this space?
As the technology gains momentum in the mainstream, disputes and investigations will inevitably arise, simply due to the volume and speed of adoption. Facing and grappling with unexpected risks and/or disputes around cryptocurrency, digital assets and blockchain platforms will be natural growing pains as use cases and implementations mature.
Innovating while managing risk and leaning into this digital space while remaining good stewards of data protection, privacy and compliance, will be a critical balance for organizations to strike.
What about FTI Technology appealed to you?
I’m drawn to organizations where the team has a great reputation for thought leadership as well as execution and delivery. FTI Technology specifically demonstrates clear thought leadership that is innovative and compelling and at the same time advises and enables clients as they step into the next iterations of technological transformation. In other words, at FTI Technology we have a proven ability to provide expert guidance, but more importantly, fully deliver on it.
I also wanted to join a team with a deep breadth of tenured professionals. The average tenure of the executive team at FTI Technology is uniquely high. I want a home for my practice that will extend many years, and admirably, that’s the precedent and standard here.
Do you have any hidden talents or personal fun facts you’d like to share?
I’m a DJ and moonlight as an electronic dance music creator with my son. I’ve performed at a wedding, a homecoming dance, graduation parties, and house parties and did live streams during pandemic lockdowns. Some of my son’s music and our collaborations can be heard by searching Patrick Fischer on Spotify.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.