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IDX panelists discuss regulation, tech and the future of digital assets

Digital assets and regulatory changes were hot topics at the Futures Indsutry Association's International Derivatives Expo

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FinanceModern Money

Photo credit: Nicole Garcia Merida

Digital assets and regulatory changes were the main items on the agenda Tuesday at the Futures Indsutry Association’s International Derivatives Expo in London. 

FIA President and CEO Walt Lukken kicked off the conference by touching on themes the market is familiar with but still adapting to. Despite troubling headlines eminating from hot spots around the world, Lukken highlighted several reasons to be positive about the current health of markets. 

“We may not like the heightened political tensions right now, but our markets were built for this moment,” Lukken said. “During these times of volatility, our products help investors and institutions manage risk and reduce the economic fallout from this turmoil.”

Lukken noted that volumes of futures and options traded on exchanges worldwide hit a record 137.3 billion contracts in 2023, reflecting a 64% increase over the year before. Lukken also cited increased competition and exciting technological innovations as reasons to feel positive about the industry in Europe and beyond.


A report released by FIA today in partnership with market intelligence firm Acuiti was very topical, as it touched on many of the themes that were discussed by panelists. 

A survey of over 100 individuals at several firms in Europe, including trading firms, clearing brokers and asset managers, found that the industry is optimistic about growth and innovation in Europe, but that they recognize other parts of the world might have better growth prospects. Additionally, respondents reported a high level of concern about regulations and the ongoing effects of Brexit. 

The key themes the report identified were: 

  • Global ambitions
  • Regulatory burdens
  • The after effects of Brexit
  • Cyber-attack risks 
  • Growth opportunities 
  • And efficiency versus innovation. 



Digital assets, in all their shapes and sizes, were also discussed by panelists in detail. The topic has been trending for years but its evolution remains critical for growth in the industry. 

The panel was moderated by Allison Lurton, chief legal officer and general counsel at FIA. Panelists discussed how tokenization is key to T-0, but added a number of elements need to com together in order to make it happen. “We’ve seen great proof of concept but to scale beyond that it’s key to start with business use cases and market participant cases and bring it side by side with the tech and policy experts,” said Helen Hartwell, Global Head of Exchange Traded Derivatives Client Consulting, UBS. “The coming together of expertise is going to be key,” she added. 

Sandeep Sasikumar, Vice President at BlackRock, was also part of the panel. BlackRock’s tokenized fund was used as a successful case study example of tokenizing different products. 

Panelists also reinforced the importance of knowing the difference between crypto and tokenization. 


Journalist and presenter Matt Frei gave a riveting and highly entertaining account of his first encounter with Donald Trump – including asking to touch his hair – as a way to speak to the importance of this election year and why democracy feels at stake. Frei touched on the importance of European elections, and the change they are bound to bring with them. 


Artificial intelligence was crowned as the technology that will have the biggest impact on operational efficiency in an audience survey. AI took 60% of the vote, while Cloud took 21% and low code/no code/self-service solutions came third with just 19% of the vote. 

Participants also voted on the main areas of post-trade processing where technology investment is necessary to improve efficiency. 

Data standardization and lineage took the top spot, with 55% of the vote. Trade processing came in a close second with 53% of the vote, and reconciliation and position transfers followed with 38% and 23% of the vote. 


When it came to the future of digital assets, participants voted on how they would prefer to trade crypto assets. It’ll come as no surprise given the audience that cash-settled exchanged traded derivatives took 55% of the vote. ETFs/ETns took 31% of the vote while physical and OTC bilateral took 7%. 

Perpetual swaps took 0% of the vote. This shows that “there’s product evolution that is happening here… it could be the perp comes into a CFTC form,” said Steve Humenik, SVP, Global Head of Capital Markets, Legal & Head of Clearing at 

Regulation, trust, risk, collateral and uncertainty where the key words used to describe the major roadblocks that audience participants were facing related to crypto market evolution. 

As for what needs to change, said Duncan Trenholme, Managing Director, Global Co-Head of Digital Assets, TP ICAP, the industry needs to perfect its elevator pitch.

“Bitcoin is well understood and has a place in a portfolio, I think if you like trading volatility you can apply it to crypto the asset class,” he said. “But people are still unsure in a short, snappy way how to explain Ether to traditional finance… So I think that’s what the industry needs to do better. It’s not necessarily products or access or ways to get in the market… it’s about what’s the kick that gets traditional finance to want to get into the asset class.”