Explore Tech 2022: Digital assets in the economy

The digital transition has been underway for nearly two decades. Yet the global crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation – with the success of many businesses contingent on how quickly and effectively they can implement new technology.  

With this in mind – and following the success of last year’s event – Natixis Corporate and Investment Banking’s Explore Tech has returned for 2022, this time with a focus on digital assets and where they stand in the current economy.  

This year’s study analyses the feedback of two key audiences. First, we surveyed a group of 300 business leaders from 11 countries across Europe (excluding France), the Middle East, Asia and the US. This group contained businesses from a diverse range of sectors and of a variety of sizes. Second, 125 leaders more familiar with technology investments from a range of French companies answered our on-line questionnaire.  

Video: overview of the global survey presented
at Explore Tech event on the 18th October 2022


Below, we summarise the key takeaways from the report:  

1: Appetite for tech investment strong, but dependent on size and location 

Technology has become an essential investment priority for companies across the globe. Indeed, almost 50% of companies surveyed have invested in some form of new technology, though this varies greatly from business to business.  

Investments are still largely conducted through traditional, direct channels, such as research and development (R&D) – which represents more than half of direct investments carried out to date.  Meanwhile, new approaches – such as the creation of new companies or teams – are now more common, as is investment via venture capital (VC).  

The likelihood that a company will invest in new technology is largely tied to its size, and more specifically, its turnover. Indeed, more than 60% of businesses with an annual turnover in excess of EUR 500 million have made investments in this area, in contrast to just 34% of those with a turnover of less than EUR 100 million.  

It is also worth mentioning that 25% of companies worldwide are attracted by the start-up model when it comes to new technological projects. This is especially the case in the Middle East, where this percentage exceeds 35%. 

2: Regulation and recruitment present obstacles to innovation 

While the survey indicates that businesses are open to new tech projects, a number of obstacles persist, with more than three quarters of companies surveyed reporting that they encountered difficulties when developing or implementing new technology. Of these, compliance and change management were cited by a third of leaders, and these issues took precedence regardless of jurisdiction. 

These obstacles do, however, vary in prominence according to the size of the company. For those with a turnover of less than EUR 100 million, regulatory obstacles – such as ethics and the use and storage of user data – presented the main hindrance, while for companies with a turnover of between EUR 100 million and EUR 500 million, which have better-structured legal and compliance teams, change management presented a more significant hurdle. For companies sized between EUR 500 million and EUR 2 billion, financing was the primary setback. Finally, for companies with a turnover in excess of EUR 2 billion, the key difficulty was attracting talent – a finding that was corroborated by our Tech Benchmark sample.  

3: Businesses lack familiarity with digital assets 

Among the sample of businesses surveyed in the study, when it came to the most developed digital assets on the market today – including cryptocurrency, tokenised assets, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and stablecoins – and their associated technologies, between 12% and 20% of managers were unable to provide an opinion.  

Among these, cryptocurrencies and asset tokenisation were the most recognised, and only tokenisation and blockchain benefitted from a majority favourable judgement. 

While there was a much more favourable perception of digital assets within the Tech Benchmark sample, tokenisation and blockchain technologies still received the most favourable results. These were followed, to a lesser extent, by the metaverse – particularly within the retail, health and energy sectors.  

4: Cryptocurrency holds international appeal  

Despite their mixed perception among the sample group, cryptocurrencies aroused the most interest internationally. Indeed, while 45% of those polled within the global group hold a negative view of cryptocurrencies (vs 43% positive), 17% of managers surveyed have either already invested, or plan to invest, in this asset class.  

This is because popular cryptocurrencies are seen as a means to streamline transactions and attract new customers. This viewpoint applies across regions, though differences are driven more by industry than location. For instance, more than 60% respondents from the energy, transportation, and metals sectors see cryptocurrencies as a way to simplify payments with customers and suppliers.  

Meanwhile, respondents from the finance, tourism and retail sectors all agree that accepting cryptocurrencies is a way to attract new customers that are likely to use crypto as a form of payment.  

5: Companies’ technological maturity influences their approach to digital assets 

When it comes to the adoption of technologies such as the metaverse and NFTs, there is significant disparity depending on the technological maturity of the company being surveyed.  

For the majority of respondents, the metaverse, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) present an opportunity to acquire new customers, notably via videogames. Yet for those that are more technologically advanced, these technologies are firstly viewed as a tool to optimise operations and the maintenance of processes – in particular, through the use of digital twins. These are crucial to the implementation of predictive maintenance strategies and can also help identify potential areas of weakness within production and logistics chains.  

Similarly, interest in NFTs varied considerably among respondents. While 11% plan to issue or invest in NFTs, 80% of those surveyed have no plans to enter the market in the immediate future. With regard to their applications, of the global group of companies surveyed, most are interested in NFTs as they provide opportunities to attract new customers. However, when it comes to companies which are bigger or more familiar with technology, the focus changes to reflect their ability to combat fraud, reflecting the blockchain's traceability features. 

The findings of the report were presented at Natixis Corporate and Investment Banking’s Explore Tech event on the 18th October. You can read the full version of the study here:

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