26 April 2018. The seminar room of the Werner Siemens MLE House was filled to capacity. Professor Thomas Ankenbrand from the Institute of Financial Services in Zug opened the event with an open-ended question: "Who among you owns bitcoins?" Some students held up their hands in a self-conscious manner. "Then you’ve probably seen happier times than now," said Professor Ankenbrand with a grin, referring to the decreasing exchange rate of the last few months. There was laughter among the audience. Even though a large majority of the students present were lawyers, the blockchain issue was of great relevance to them, as the high level of interest in this event confirmed.
Interface between law, business administration and economics
The idea of an integrative event about blockchain had come from Professor Beat Brändli from the Institute of Public Finance, Fiscal Law and Law and Economics of the University of St.Gallen, Dr. Oliver Bartholet, Professor Markus Ruffner, Professor Urs Schenker and Fabian Mauchle. In the Master’s programme in Law and Economics, these integrative seminars take place in the last semester of the degree course. In the context of these seminars, three joint events are organised. One of these is the integrative event, which is devoted to a specific topic. When choosing this topic, faculty let themselves be inspired by current issues at the interface between law, business administration and economics. Blockchain was chosen this year because of its topicality and the growing significance of digitisation.
Cryptocurrencies as an alternative investment option
The highlight of the event was the panel discussion on cryptocurrencies as an alternative investment option with Dr Lewin Boehnke, Head of Research of Crypto Finance AG, and Klaus Fuchs, Director of Cryptocurrency & Blockchain Assets AG. Klaus Fuchs regards cryptocurrencies and blockchain as far more than a mere investment option: "In the course of time, blockchain was first a hobby, then a passion, and has now become my job." Dr Lewin Boehnke does not consider cryptocurrencies to be a classic investment option: "Only invest in cryptocurrencies if you’re also interested in the technology and not only in the money."
The integrative event on the topic of blockchain was a success across the board. The debate focused on both current events and future developments, and later there was even an exchange of contact data between experts and students. Participation in these practice-oriented events does not only enable students at the end of their education at the University of St.Gallen to extend their knowledge, but also to expand their professional network, which makes it easier for them to enter the world of work.
Niels Niemann is a student member of staff in the Communication Department of the University of St.Gallen and is studying Business Administration in the fourth semester.
Photo: Fotolia / Sashkin