Art & Design

Financial Technology – The Present and the Future of Virtual Currencies. Do they herald a new era?

1 November 2017, London

We increasingly hear references to ‘FinTech’ in our everyday. No longer solely a topic of interest to the financial or computing media, it is frequently the subject of lifestyle and news stories. Through a series of linked seminars, the Japan Society is celebrating this new phase in the UK-Japan relationship, which sees many Japanese individuals and companies active within London’s technology hubs.


For this our fourth seminar, we are delighted to welcome Dr Robert Learney and Mr Yuichiro Kawasaki, to introduce this important topic. Dr Learney was formerly Associate Director of the Imperial College Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and now leads the Blockchain work at the Digital Catapult in London. Rob will discuss the current status of digital currencies and their future potential. Yuichiro Kawasaki is head of Global Innovation Team for EMEA region at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and will introduce MUFG’s showcase model of digital currency in Japan.


Virtual currencies have attracted considerable attention in recent years, with bitcoin being the most familiar. What lies behind this is the increasing use of virtual currencies in a wide range of situations and services, including their acceptance by big companies in commercial transactions and their use by individuals for speculation purposes.


It is in fact only relatively recently that the merits of bitcoin as a currency for making payments have begun to be recognised. Originally developed as a currency for professional investors, the stability of bitcoin as an object of speculation has meant that it is highly valued. Moreover, with major coffee chains and family restaurants accepting payment in bitcoin, the perception that it is a currency which can also be used for shopping has gained traction. Although a transaction fee applies when using bitcoin for payment services, this fee is much lower than that for similar payments by credit card, which has further encouraged the increased use of bitcoin in commercial transactions.


However, on the other hand, virtual currencies, being “invisible” money, also have a number of shortcomings. The most significant of these is the lack of official recognition by governments, which can make them a double-edged sword in terms of guaranteeing transactions.


In this session, we will discuss the present and the future of virtual currencies and introduce a case study of the current developments of cryptocurrencies by Japanese financial institutions.


Following an open session for questions and discussion, the evening will conclude with an informal networking reception.


We are extremely grateful to Mitsubishi Corporation for generously hosting this seminar.


Dr. Robert M. Learney is a practicing medical doctor with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and is an Associate Director of Imperial College’s Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering. He has tutored students and guided projects in the field of blockchain technology for over 3 years now, some of which have gone on to form startup companies in this exciting new area. He has been invited to speak on behalf of the Centre at the European Parliament, at the Impact16 Fintech conference in Poland, and at NHS Expo 2016. He is also an active member of the UK Government’s specialist round-table in this subject.


Yuichiro Kawasaki is the head of Global Innovation Team for EMEA region at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), one of the largest financial institutions in Japan. Yuichiro is responsible for scouting start up FinTech companies in EMEA to form potential partnerships with MUFG to develop the digital business strategy in Asia. Yuichiro has over a decade of experience in e-Business and IT area and has led the development team with a wide variety of products, such as electronic money charge system in Japan and an app-based mobile banking service. He has a BA from Hitotsubashi University and an MBA from Manchester Business School.


This seminar forms part of a series which has been running since July this year. The final seminar will be led by Makoto Fukuhara, Managing Director of Skwile on 14 November. Each session has focused on a different application of financial technology.


To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email


Admission Free but Booking essential

1 November 2017

Mitsubishi Corporation International (Europe) Plc, Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6BA

The Japan Society, Mitsubishi Corporation International (Europe) Plc