Forking Finance: How Bitcoin is changing the financial industry Bit by Bit

Arianne Yoshi Nolan

Student thesis: Master thesis


I analyse qualitative interviews with key players along with news articles and industry reports to argue that cryptocurrency technology contributes to decentralization in the financial industry by gradually transforming key industry institutions. I draw on institutional theory to point out that institutional change takes many forms and does not happen overnight, and I mobilize the theory of forking to argue why cryptocurrency has not provided as radical an alternative to conventional currencies as many have claimed. This is because cryptocurrency has instead replicated and altered key elements and structures in ways that incrementally alter the path of the financial industry into the future. To make this argument I contribute the distinction between internal and external decentralisation within the financial industry. I apply sociotechnical theory and the theory of proto-institutions to outline how cryptocurrency technology increases internal decentralisation in the financial industry by introducing and normalizing new practices internally within industry players. I apply the theory of robust action strategies and legitimisation to explain how new practices are established between industry players to shape players’ external environment. I do this by showing how cryptocurrency technology presents itself as a superior product which can replace middlemen and establish new relationships between the remaining players. By identifying these two types of decentralisation, I highlight ways in which cryptocurrency technology has increased decentralisation in the financial industry which are frequently overlooked. I show that cryptocurrency impacts both in different ways but in both cases works on and redefines the key institutions of the financial industry.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages92
SupervisorsEric Guthey