EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DR. RALF WINTERGERST GROUP CEO OF INTERNATIONAL TECHNOLOGY GROUP GIESECKE+DEVRIENT
- Digital central bank currencies dominated the news in 2021. Why is there such a surge of interest in this field?
Digital currencies are indeed gaining momentum in interest and popularity with the recent figures showing 9 out of ten central banks currently engaged in studies or pilot schemes for the development of CBDCs. Actually, there has been a dramatic shift within a year – from questions whether a country will, to which countries won’t be exploring a CBDC. At the core this development is a reaction to the rising amount of crypto-assets. Almost all central banks worldwide have recognized that crypto assets are fundamentally flawed and not suitable as a payment option because they are volatile and not legally backed. At the same time our lives become more and more digital. So, we need a digital form of public currency that fits the needs of the consumer for easy and fast payments – this is CBDC.
CBDC solutions, like our product G+D Filia, are enabling central banks to provide secure public currency for the digital age. By the way, many GCC central banks are currently testing CBDC’s and are conducting pilots to determine the features required for their specific jurisdiction.
- How do you rate the UAE’s digital transformation in comparison to advanced economies such as Germany?
In a way, both countries have a complementary setup and similar challenges: Germany is well known for its broad business ecosystem with a strong manufacturing and automotive industry. It has a healthy ecosystem of large conglomerates, small and medium sized global leaders, but also a growing and vibrant start-up scene. The UAE also has a very strong foundation, acting as a regional hub, a strong financial center and an increasingly diversified location for industries. Germany and the UAE share many similarities, when it comes to digital transformation and they both recognize the great opportunities for their economies. Moreover, they also cope with similar challenges such as post-Covid recovery or the ongoing search for digital talents. What I find intriguing is the speed with which Gulf countries are adopting digitalization; especially as the UAE have a very youthful population that is digitally savvy. This younger segment shows in a very high acceptance rate of next generation technologies.
- How does the company intend to address the issue of digital-led disruptions? Would you say this is the most serious threat to your company?
We don´t see digitalization as a threat to our business but as a tremendous opportunity for new business development and growth. And this can be quite disruptive: Let me tackle an example of a completely different business. We invented the physical SIM some 30 years ago – this technology still exists but is being replaced by embedded SIM technology (eSIM), freeing up precious space in smartphones. We were the forerunners in the SIM technology and we repeated this with the eSIM technology a few years back. Now we are having leading market positions in this new and fully digital space, too.
The same applies to our payment business: To answer the requirements of a digital currency, G+D developed a digital sibling to cash. Our CBDC solution is designed to exist in parallel with today’s cash cycle and offers central banks the opportunity to address the challenging requirements of CBDCs.
- What are the main advantages of eSIM?
IoT is a megatrend that will become the biggest, most powerful machine that mankind has ever built. To make massive IoT successful and beneficial for societies and economies, three fundamental ingredients are key: data authenticity, privacy, and security. For more than three decades the traditional SIM card has been used as the trusted, tamper-proof element for secure authentication of users and mobile devices to cellular networks across the world. Now, emerging eSIM technology is adding its enormous potential to the IoT. eSIM technology can offer all mission-critical propositions – from remote manageability to safeguarding the integrity of any device and any data transferred.
In addition, there is a sustainability aspect. eSIM technology helps to reduce the carbon footprint. Not only is plastic waste minimized, but also the entire production process, from plastic sourcing to distribution, is eliminated.
- In the aftermath of digital transformation and widespread use of plastic money, what role will cash play in the future?
We are convinced that cash keeps playing a vital role in the variety of payment methods despite the ongoing digitalization of the payment landscape: It’s simple, it’s easily accessible to everyone and universally accepted. Cash has even been on the rise during the Covid pandemic – as it always is in times of uncertainty. At the same time, however, consumers’ demands and expectations towards digital payment options are rising. And this is where we can perfectly combine our experience from the analog world with our digital expertise. A clear win-win situation.
Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) is a global security technology group headquartered in Munich. As a trusted partner to customers with the highest demands, G+D secures the essential values of the world with its solutions. The company develops technology with passion and precision in four major playing fields: payment, connectivity, identities and digital infrastructures.
G+D was founded in 1852. In the fiscal year 2021, the company generated a turnover of 2.38 billion euros with around 11,800 employees. G+D is represented by 89 subsidiaries and joint ventures in 33 countries. Further information: www.gi-de.com