Anders Grevstad, VP at DNB, on the Purpose of Emerging Technology

After participating on the AI and blockchain panel, Anders Grevstad, a vice president at DNB, strolled into the room for his interview to continue his discussion on emerging technologies and their potential applications in the financial world. It was immediately evident that Mr. Grevstad was incredibly poised, both able to and looking forward to speaking well on a topic that is very familiar to him but not yet truly familiar to the rest of the global population. How? While the rest of us are still trying to understand what blockchain really is, he was able to lightly laugh and suggest that blockchain is ever-so-slightly “overhyped.”

Born and raised in Norway, and now working for Norway’s largest financial services group, Mr. Grevstad has held a variety of different positions within its various banking sectors: corporate, relationship, and now transaction. He has used his extensive years of experience to provide the best possible service to corporate clients; additionally, he spoke frequently to the goal of connecting DNB with global initiatives and other countries. His motivation is reasonable as the DNB is prominent in the shipping sector as well as the energy sector; also, generally, globalization and technology have made it more possible to connect the service sector. Ultimately, this initiative was deeply indicative of Mr. Grevstad’s and the bank’s desire to leverage the world’s newest resources to provide the most effective and best possible services to its clients.

Perhaps this driving goal - to provide excellent service to clients - is not only the reason by which Mr. Grevstad is fascinated by blockchain technology, but also why he is able to prevent himself from getting too overinvested and caught up in the glamor that this buzzword has received over the last several months in the news media.

Essentially, blockchain is an incredible technology. Because of its decentralized nature, it is extremely secure; furthermore, it allows for extreme precision and a high volume of trade. It has the opportunity to dramatically enhance the financial sector - and indeed, that is exactly what the DNB is banking on (no pun intended). DNB recently made a bet on the Marco Polo initiative, a certain blockchain network specifically intended to transform trade finance. Mr. Grevstad additionally pointed out that this type of technology could also be used in energy, shipping, forex, and more.

However, despite all of these excellent benefits, Mr. Grevstad pointed out why he hasn’t fully fallen for the glamor of blockchain, and his perspective has thoroughly changed mine, in terms of how I view new technology. Mr. Grevstad thoroughly admitted to all of these potential benefits, and he is excited to see how trade finance and more are changed by this new technology, despite the difficulties of its implementation. That being said, Mr. Grevstad ultimately argues that the entire purpose of a technology is not just to make already existing processes easier. No, a truly valuable technology must be revolutionary. It mustn’t improve what we already do, but radically change it: disrupt it.

Mr. Grevstad laughs only when we students and attendees get so caught up in the glamor of a term that we forget what it is ultimately supposed to be used for, and that is, disruption. A technology is not useful if it is merely interesting, exciting, or cool, and it is especially nothing more than mechanical if all it does is simply enhance. When I asked him where he expects to see technology in the future, he paused and concluded that he expects to see it everywhere. He could not think of a single place that cannot be improved with technological innovation. But no, he couldn’t detail what he expects to see in the future - in five years, in ten. If he could, what would be the point? Technology is meant to be disruptive. We shouldn’t be able to guess what will be brought about; we should just be ready to eagerly embrace the disruption when it does finally arrive.

It was admittedly daunting to speak to such a poised and intelligent figure, especially knowing his deep understanding of a topic that is still so new to everyone else who isn’t familiar with it. However, seeing his passion not for blockchain as a stand-alone object, but for the transformative power of technology, was an incredibly valuable reminder of what technology as a whole should actually be. This conversation prompted a reminder to think about substance and to challenge our understanding of what role technology should serve in our lives. That is to say, it was a reminder that we shouldn’t be able to know at all. That’s where the true significance arrives.