In December, Ryan Rugg, who previously ran several major industry sectors at R3, started working at IBM Blockchain Services where she’s responsible for the consulting practice, solutions across Industry Groups, and overall unit performance for the Americas. On the face of it, this appears to be a huge loss to R3. But in reality, it may turn out to be a win-win for both parties.
After spending four and a half years at R3, a big draw for Rugg was the range of services that IBM brings to the party as well as the mix of software, hardware and services.
“As projects move towards production, there’s so much more involved than just the blockchain protocol,” said Rugg. “There’s the integration with databases, security, AI, IoT and more. Having the ability to draw on specialist teams in all these areas is a significant advantage.”
Back in 2018, Rugg’s responsibility at R3 was insurance. Ironically, she and her team steered both of the major insurance consortia RiskStream and B3i away from Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum and towards R3’s Corda. At a blockchain insurance conference at the time, one of the attendees even suggested that the conference’s name be updated to ‘DLT for Insurance’ as a nod to Corda’s adoption, which is technically not a blockchain.
Given her success at R3, Rugg was given global responsibility for several more sectors, including trade finance where R3 has a big footprint. The others were the rest of trade and supply chain, healthcare, telecoms and energy.
Rugg told Ledger Insights that she received the IBM approach around the time that IBM and R3 announced they would be working together on two fronts, including a new R3 Center of Excellence within IBM. The other collaboration area is the ability for R3’s clients to take advantage of IBM LinuxONE across hybrid cloud and on-premises.
When Rugg received the offer, she confided in R3’s CEO David Rutter whom she regards as a mentor. The CEO supported Rugg’s move, noting that having someone familiar with R3 and Corda could help establish the R3 Center of Excellence and move it forward.
However, Rugg’s role is not limited to Corda and she emphasized that the group will choose whatever technology is most appropriate for the project.
Her role is broader than at R3 because of general management and practice development responsibilities to accelerate Blockchain Services across multiple areas. While her background is established in financial services, given she’s a former investment banker (Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Lehman), Rugg will be looking across all of the segments where IBM is established, including healthcare/life sciences, insurance, communications, high tech, industrials, and distribution/consumer goods.
IBM’s move towards broader technology ecosystems and integrating technologies isn’t a new one. It has previously dabbled with Stellar and is on the governing council of Hedera. In terms of hosting, IBM was early to embrace cross-cloud deployment for blockchain, which meant working with cloud competitors Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. As IBM’s Jerry Cuomo told Ledger Insights in December, there were “34 billion reasons to go with the multi-cloud approach,” with the Red Hat acquisition.” That multi-cloud approach has paid off handsomely, and the multi-technology most likely will as well.