New Money Review podcast
The new financial investigators
As a framework for transferring value, cryptocurrencies work in a radically different way to the banking system.
Anyone with a bank account has an IBAN number, an identifier that provides the country, bank code, branch code and account number of the account holder. Your bank will retain additional identity information, such as your address and phone number.
Cryptocurrency networks are the polar opposite: individual cryptocurrency ‘addresses’ have no inherent link to any specific identity. Any cryptocurrency user can generate millions of addresses.
The contrast between the banking system and cryptocurrencies extends to financial transactions.
Details of bank account transactions stay within the banking system, and in a hierarchical way. As a bank client, you can look up your own activity, but no one else’s. Each bank can only see its own and its clients’ transactions.
But in cryptocurrency networks all transactions, past and present, are visible to anyone, via the linked set of blocks of data that we call the ‘blockchain’.
The public nature of blockchain activity, together with the challenge involved in linking that activity to real-world entities, have spawned a new type of financial investigative work.
Philip Gradwell, our guest on the latest New Money Review podcast, is chief economist at Chainalysis, one of several firms making a living out of tracking and analysing blockchain activity.
Chainalysis, founded in 2014, has raised $54m in five funding rounds. Its clients are cryptocurrency businesses, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies.