CryptoNews Podcast

#15: Benjamin Arama on the World's Most Popular Hardware Wallet

May 12, 2021 cryptonews.com Episode 15
CryptoNews Podcast
#15: Benjamin Arama on the World's Most Popular Hardware Wallet
Show Notes Transcript

Benjamin Arama is the Head of Product for Ledger Live, the one-stop shop for your crypto. Ledger are the makers of the world's most popular hardware wallet.

In this episode, we discuss:
- Cold wallet best practices
- Ledger hardware wallets
- Cold storage for DeFi and NFTs
- Ledger Live software
- How Ledger Live grows its user base without tracking user data 
- Crypto in Paris, France

Ledger:
- Twitter: @Ledger
- Website: ledger.com/ledger-live
- Instagram: @ledger

Benjamin
- Twitter: @Ben_arama

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Matt Zahab:

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Benjamin Arama:

Thank you very much for this intro and thank you for having me. forgot one thing in the intro is to cheese. French doesn't leave cheese. Yeah, of course. So yeah, French is love, baguette, wine and cheese.

Matt Zahab:

The absolute best you guys have the quality of life. They're just bananas. I was there I want to say two three years ago. And just again like growing up in Toronto, you buy a bottle of Bordeaux here it's you know, 50 60 Canadian, and it's five euros, and France and then the cheese the baguette in the morning and the pastries. Oh my goodness what's your go to crypto dining spot? Any go to's in Paris?

Benjamin Arama:

Well, a lot of spots in Paris. That's how that's a tricky question because like I have a full list of 200 restaurants that I love to go to in Paris. I have a small Italian restaurant. That is not very well known but its excellent. It's called Sardinia tabula. It's from a small Italian Island. And they have like the best pasta you're gonna have. So yeah, that's maybe my go to restaurant.

Matt Zahab:

I love that the good life.

Benjamin Arama:

And yeah, a French guy that do a DCT for Italian food. I know that's not normal that we love Italian food.

Matt Zahab:

I know it's hard not to Ben, really appreciate you jumping on this podcast. It means a lot. And I know you are going on a little vacation to Mexico next week. Much deserved. That is absolutely incredible. And hopefully we'll see you in Miami a couple weeks later, at the at the Bitcoin conference, you're going to be there?

Benjamin Arama:

No, I won't be there. But we might have some people from the company that's going to join. It's not set in. But yeah, with the pandemic, it's really hard to be to make sure that we are going to have someone there, since we have like the American brothers are close to the French people. So it's hard to make sure that's got to be there. Right?

Matt Zahab:

Very well. Good point there, very well said, Before we get into the bread and butter being ledger and ledger live and very excited for this one. As you know, everyone and their cousins does use a ledger indeed, but tell our guests how you got into the crypto space.

Benjamin Arama:

So I was like, in 2016, I was looking for investment, I did a bit of like usual trading on the stock market. And I was looking into gold and silver and was like, yeah, that's kind of the profit is a bit mad. And I was looking for something new. And I've read an article about a guy, I think it was a Norwegian guy or something like that, that had the did studies in 2011 or something like that about Bitcoin and he did his thesis about the Bitcoin and a few years later, you heard about like the fact that Bitcoin was $1,000 and at the time it was $1,000. Like I did my thesis for that and I built a Bitcoin. And he came back, he found back his hard drive, and so that he had like $800,000 on the hard drive. Well, so Bitcoin with a very, very small investment. Like, yeah, that's the kind of investment I want. So yeah, greed, made me come to true to crypto, so I had to look at Bitcoin and then I had to look I was like, yeah, okay, that's a bit expensive. And yeah, again, $1,000 I thought I was expensive at the time. So that's not expensive at all. But at the time it for me, I was a bit younger so it was a bit expensive for me and I discovered Ethereum. And that's how I got into crypto. I discovered everything that you could do his area of research, it was like a kind of revolution. And that's how I got interested into crypto. I spent like few months, looking at everything around crypto, and I did my first investment into Ethereum. And that's how I began. And then at some point, I bought the ledger. And I was a customer before being an employee of ledger. The day I discovered that there was an opening for the product manager or position for Ledger live. Like, there is not many products that you use that you can be a product manager of and I applied and well, here I am today.

Matt Zahab:

And the rest is history. It's funny how you brought up the greed part, fear and greed move mountains. And that's how a lot of people got in the crypto industry. So I'm not surprised. That's how I got and that's what most people got, and you see an opportunity to truly pad your pockets and and grow your wallet, you know, tenfold. So why wouldn't you? And then of course, there's the other aspects of transforming an industry and really trailblazing the new world. But let's get into ledger and ledger live. My first question and when we asked a couple of our friends on Twitter, what questions would you like to ask Ben? The most common one was what is the difference between ledger and ledger live? I think that's a great way to kick off this conversation.

Benjamin Arama:

So first ledger is the company. Ledger is the company and in this company, we have two main businesses. We have a b2c where we sell hardware wallets. And we have the software, which is ledger live. Those are the main parts we have as a part within it. But those are the main parts of the b2c. And on the other side, we also have a b2b division, where we sell the product that is called ledger vault, which is kind of the same than a hardware wallet, but it's aimed for institutional and more like templates. So ledger as a world, that's what it is. Then I'm pretty sure if I understand well, the question, we are going to focus on the b2c because that's a bit more my specialty. But ledger sells hardware wallets. So the ledger, nano s n x are the hardware wallet that are sold by ledger. And in those other wallets, you secure the seed. The seed is the secret that's gonna let you sign transaction on the blockchain. And you can use the hardware wallet with ledger live, which I recommend. But if you don't like ledger live, which is a surprise for me, or maybe a disappointment for me, but in that I didn't do my job well, you can still use the nano with a platform that are compatible with it. So ledger, hardware wallet is where you secure it when you do to say the security when you secure the secret the seed and the live, it is the platform where you're going to be able to manage assets, and we are going to be able also to manage your device, you're going to be also able to do some exchanges to buy to sell stake land, all the features that we integrated in the past few years in ledger live. That's more than the asset management part. So on one side you have security and on the other side asset management that are secured by the device.

Matt Zahab:

So if I was a crypto newbie, and I was just getting the space, you have the hot part with ledger live, you have the cold part with the ledger wallet, which is the bread and butter, of course, what else you need? Walk me through this as if I'm a five year old and I'm just coming into the crypto space. I obviously need a fiat to crypto onboarding ramp. Can I do that and lead your live?

Benjamin Arama:

Yeah, so maybe to make it a bit more clear, you can't use ledger live without our wallet. We want to make sure that you have the best security on the market and the only way to secure your assets on crypto is with a hardware wallet. So if you're beginner and you're interested into crypto and you want the interpreter, you're gonna have to buy a hardware wallet, you received your wallet, you done the ledger live, you follow the onboarding to do the configuration. And then once you're done, then you're going to be able to buy crypto with the ledger live and it's going to be secured directly by your nano. So of course the assets aren't going to be on the other wallet, the assets on the blockchain but the nano is going to be, the hardware wallet is going to be the only way to do a transaction on the blockchain. If you don't have the seed, then you can't do a transaction. So if no one else has the seed, then no one else that new can do the transaction.

Matt Zahab:

Gotcha. Makes sense. Thank you for that. Thank you for that intro there. So on ledger live, there are tons of really cool features, and you can safely send and receive, I believe it's 27 coins and over 1500 tokens directly with your smartphone or desktop, using ledger live, very simple. You onboard, do the quick KYC and you're dancing. Tell me what are the next steps for ledger live? What do you have in the pipeline? And what are the things that customers have asked for the most that you guys can deliver.

Benjamin Arama:

So what we are working on is provide more services to our users when we know that our users appreciate our services but they all they want more, they want more providers, they want to be able to buy more different asset to manage more different assets. So what we are going to do next is that we are going to change the way we do integration within ledger live. And it's going to be quicker to integrate more partners and to integrate more features. So that's the first big step that's going to arrive. And we are going to work also on DeFi because we think that it's very important. And we are going to work on NFTs also, because that's a big trend currently. So it's going to be a mix between what is the trend right now, what is the future of crypto, but also what our users told us. So those are the big integrations and we are also going to bring very soon, our futures to more markets. Because we know that for example, the swap isn't available in the US, which is a big problem, because a lot of our users are in this region. And we are going to have also we are going to improve the buy feature also for the American users, etc, etc. So yeah, a lot of new things that are going to come and that's going to arrive very soon.

Matt Zahab:

You brought up NFTs. A lot of people have asked what does the future of storing NFTs look like? Right now, most people, you know, whether that's open see Rarible, it's really tough to decide where you want to buy, store and keep your NFTs within a central ecosystem. You know, there's a lot of cool projects coming out right now that are really trying to tackle this problem, as it is definitely a huge one that a lot of people have, how is ledger live handling this or ledger? How are both of you guys handling the NFT storage and ecosystem aspect.

Benjamin Arama:

So we hired very recently someone called Parker Brooks, and he is going to be in charge. He is the VP of NFT at Ledger. And he is right now working on our strategy in order to have the best NFTs integration at ledger, but also in ledger live. So we are thinking about how we are going to really duration, I can't really reveal how it's going to be done because it's a work in progress. But you can make sure that we are not going to forget it and that's going to be something that's going to be at the heart of ledger strategy. What I can tell you is that it's very important to be able to claim the ownership of your NFTs and to secure them with other wallets the same way you secure your crypto with a hardware wallet, you have to be able to secure your NFTs with your hardware wallet. That's something that is very important. And when you buy, let's say an NFT on software of open sea or any other platform that sells NFTs you have choose secure them on your hardware wallet. The bad thing right now and I'll be honest, is that you are not able to see your NFTs on ledger live that's work in progress too.

Matt Zahab:

Love that. That's a tough one. Speaking of actually, quickly DeFi. You also brought up DeFi. Does ledger live have any plans to allow the users to stake and earn some interest wrap up that API excuse me, is that in the books?

Benjamin Arama:

So far, the staking. We already give the possibility to our users to do staking on Tron on Cosmos on lango Rand and on tezos and polkadot, so I think I'm not messing any of those up. I said that we should call the staking. So staking is already available on the live on the lending side, you're able to lend stable coins through compound smart contracts within $1. That's just the beginning and way more is gonna come soon. And I can't reveal what but you won't have to be very patient to see what's going to happen. It's going to rise very very quickly and you're going to be able to have a very good insight of what's going to be the future of Ledger live.

Matt Zahab:

You can't give me any tips, nothing?

Benjamin Arama:

I'm not allowed to. And I'm really sorry about that. I would love love to be able to talk about it, but you're going to be able to see that very, very soon.

Matt Zahab:

Okay, amazing. So that covers the NFTs and DeFi aspect, which a lot of people are really intrigued by at the moment. You also talked about seeing the NFTs, the vision of the NFTs. I want to talk about the next steps of the physical wallet, which again, has a lot of room to grow. It is the creme de la creme right now, I believe it is the most popular hardware wallet in the world. But when are users going to be able to include some bells and whistles, maybe some different color schemes, some add ons, some toys to go with it, you name it, perhaps a touchscreen. Talking about that what's in the pipeline for all that?

Benjamin Arama:

Again, that's something that is going to be hard to talk about, because there are a lot of secrets and we don't talk about what we are working on. But I can tell you that we are working on very, very exciting stuff and very cool stuff. And yeah, that's there's gonna be new hardware wallets, you can make sure that's going to happen, but I can't tell you more.

Matt Zahab:

Okay, no worries. We appreciate the candor. In regards to storage best practices. Go online, you can google this experts will tell you many, many different things. From inception from when someone finally buys an onboard some fear to crypto, grab some crypto stores it via ledger live also has the ledger wallet then starts to trade starts to accumulate a nice looking bag, the bag grows and grows. What are the best practices? I know this is a very contextual question. But what are the best practices for a rookie getting into the space to store trade and manage the crypto assets within the ledger ecosystem.

Benjamin Arama:

So when you buy a hardware wallet, with especially ledger hardware wallet, you're gonna have when you can do the configuration and the onboarding of your device, you're gonna have to write down 24 words, those 24 words are the representation of your seeder. And that's the secret that gives you access to your assets. You have to be, you have to make sure that you and only you have access to those 24 words. If you lose them, if you get them to someone, if you take a picture of it, if you write down the 24 words on your phone, consider that you are already been, you've been axed already. There is a reason why the 24 words and the seed are in the hardware wallet, it's because it's offline and that it's secured in a secure element. If you take the 24 words and put them on your phone, well basically, you completely ruined the whole interest of having a hardware wallet. So my big advice is that when you do the configuration of your hardware wallet and write down those 24 words, do it in when you're all alone, when you have all the time, don't do that in subway between like two meetings, don't do that, because you're going to be in a hurry, and you're going to do a mistake. So write down carefully those 24 words and find a place where you can hide those because if someone finds them, while this person is going to have access to your tools to your crypto. And also you have to be careful because if your house burns down, for example, and that the nano and the 24 goes down, you don't have access to your crypto anymore. So you have to be very careful with that. Then, once you have the basic knowledge about this kind of security, then you have to do trading. And of course, right now you can do some exchanges, within ledger live within the live and very much you can do underripe within the ledger environment. But if you want to experience trading, because well, that's normal, you want to discover new stuff, you want to do some trading that you can do within the ledger environment that happens and I agree, totally agree with that. Then you have to find a good exchange, an exchange that you can trust, you're going to send your assets from ledger live to this exchange, you're going to do these trading. But if you have a big bag and if there is money that you're not going to touch soon, then I advise is to send those assets back to the hardware wallets so that if there is an issue with the exchange, then you're safe. Because let's say for example, that the exchange has an issue in terms of regulation that you don't have access to your assets anymore because of this new regulation or if the exchange get hacked, and your money is lost. So you have to make sure that the assets that you're not going to play with on the market, you should take care of them on the hardware wallet so that would be in short my advice is for someone that is new in crypto and that would like to play with their assets. You can do whatever you want with them and I'll be honest, I have some assets on the hardware, wallet and some assets on exchanges. But everything that is on the exchange is the hot part. Every single day is cold that I don't plan to touch it, its the cold part.

Matt Zahab:

What about cold storage practices? Do you recommend having it in a safe, tucked away in a drawer? You throw it on the bed? Do you hire some company to make a secret, you know, back library door kind of thing, push the wall and boom, you're in a whole separate room? Like, how do you go about doing that?

Benjamin Arama:

For myself, there's going to be complicated because I test a lot of hardware wallets. So I have like plenty of them. So it's gonna be hard to hide them. So I'm not the best example. But for someone that would be more regular, I'd say there is no big risk of having having a hardware wallet that is visible to everyone. I mean, of course, it means that you're going to yell the bit that you have crypto and someone's going to tell you okay, give me your PIN code, or I'm going to kill you. That's the worst case scenario. Yeah, that's. So you don't have to be paranoid about it because otherwise you're never sleep, but just like put it in a drawer and just like forget about it, that's it. Just get it out when you need it and when you need to do a transaction. But otherwise, I don't think you need to be paranoid. The only thing that you have to be kind of paranoid with is the 24 words, you have to hide it very well. And you have to make it, put it in a safe environment. And if you want to make it safer, if you're afraid of floods, or if you're afraid of fire, well, we sell the crypto steel on the ledger website. And it's you can put your 24 words in choose to where you can put your your 24 words, and that's going to be fire and flood resistant. So with that you can make sure that at least it's safe from elements. After that, you have to hide it well, because it's it has to be safe also from being stolen.

Matt Zahab:

Does Leger have a program that enables the user to recover their seed phrase or a sort of a backdoor route into the ledger ecosystem, if they lose their seed phrase, or if they lose their wallet or any of the like.

Benjamin Arama:

Nope, we don't have the end on the assets of the user at all. I don't know what the user has, I don't know who they are, I don't know they their name, I don't know anything about them. And ledger company isn't a custodian. We don't have any access to the assets of the user, the users are the only one to have the access to their assets to good. A good example, a good comparison that can be done is that in regular life, I sell you a wallet, like the one where you put your notes in. When I sell you the wallet, and I don't have the access to the to the notes that you're going to put in it anymore. I mean, you went you left with the wallet, and then you put the notes in it. And I don't have access to those to those notes. Well, that's kind of the same, except that you don't put notes because the notes are on the blockchain. But it's kind of the same. We don't have access to those to those assets. We don't have access at all to the seeder, the seeder is only on the hardware wallet and nowhere else. So it's offline basically, and we don't have access to it. And if you give us ,you come to us and you tell us okay, well here my is my nano, I forgot my PIN code, I need to get my access back access to my seed back, do something for me, we're going to tell you well now there is nothing we can do. I'm sorry about that. But there is nothing we can do for you. It's secured on a secure element. So yeah, we can't help you for that. That's the kind of thing that you have to know with with hardware wallets is that you become your own banker, you have the ownership you get you gain, financial freedom. But you have also to make sure that you understand that you have the responsibility of the banker. You are the bankers, you have kind of the responsibilities of the banker. So freedom comes with a responsibility.

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Benjamin Arama:

Well, I'll be honest with you, I'm not the most qualified one to talk about the data leak that happened at ledger, I don't work at all on the ecommerce part where the data leak happened. What I can tell you is that none of the data of ledger live is leaked at all. We have, we are very careful about privacy on ledger live. And I'll be honest, I as a product manager, that's kind of an issue for me, because I don't have much data about my users. I know how many devices connect to the live every day. But I don't know who those people are, I don't have any login, I don't have any email address, I don't have they don't give me any personal information, the only place where you can give us information is during the KYC for the shed on rent. But this data doesn't even go to ledger live, it goes straight to our partner. And we don't even see this data. So we are very, very privacy focused on ledger live. If there is something that leaks from ledger live, that's gonna be something that is very, that doesn't mean anything. And we will make sure that the leaks are not going to happen at all. That's, we learned our lessons on the topic. But yeah, the data on the live is something that is very sensitive. And now we have a policy that says basically, on the live, at least, if it's an issue in terms of privacy, then we don't do it. If it has an impact on the privacy of the user, then we don't do it. So there's always going to be the possibility for the user to use ledger live without identifying himself. After that, of course, there might be some internal identification needed in some countries. That's something that we can do nothing about because the regulation evolves. But in the end on our side, on the live side, we don't know much about our users. And we tend to continue like that.

Matt Zahab:

Very well said, and I appreciate you answering that question. The ledger live is really blown up over the last couple months and you're significantly, what is one of the biggest catalysts for growth? And like what sort of KPIs do you and your team try to track and manage to see how quickly ledger live is growing?

Benjamin Arama:

Well, first is the number of devices that connect everyday to live, we know that that's something that went through the roof recently, we are very happy about the fact that we have more and more users that come every day to our platform. We also follow the usage of our features, whether they are transactional or not. We follow a lot of the flows of our users in order to see if they understand it. Well, if there is an issue with it, just to make sure it's well understood. We don't do screen recording, and we don't have heat maps of the behavior of the users because that could be a privacy issue. So just to make to make it more clear, this is not the kind of thing that we know, we just like for the users that accept it, we follow the events that happen. And so we know that our user got lost or not within our flow and so that we can improve this flow. So this is the kind of KPI that we follow. And what else that we can see. In order to grow what we want to highlight is that we want to reach for a broader audience. We want to target new countries we want to have, we want to give the possibility to countries that don't have the possibility to have a ledger hardware wallet or to use ledger live to be able to do so. So that's one thing that we want to work on.

Matt Zahab:

What's the future of the ledger ecosystem? Maybe not so much the ledger in general, but what does the future of the cold and hot storage ecosystem look like? Are we gonna have cold wallets with crazy touchscreens and 3d animations that are extremely customizable? Are we going to have, you know, are we going to have on chain platforms like ledger live that are, you know, visible in a pair of oculus glasses through virtual reality like in your company's roadmap, what are the next steps? And what does that future look like?

Benjamin Arama:

Well, we have lots of idea within the company, how the future could be made, it's really hard to to define the future of crypto because basically crypto changes every hour, like every hour that there is a new concept that comes up and you have to adapt. So having the possibility to define what's going to be in more than one or two years is kind of hard. It's not impossible, and we have plans on our side. Again, I can't really reveal what we are working on for the future. But yeah, there is at some point I guess that's just a personal opinion but I guess cold wallets are going to evolve and it's going to be maybe an hybrid between cold and on chain or something like that. That's that could be my personal bet but again, that's just my personal bet I think on chain has a crazy future, I think, DeFi has a crazy future. And that's really the future of Finance. That's something that I'm probably the most sure of I might be wrong again, but I think DeFi as the biggest future in crypto.

Matt Zahab:

Nice. Love that. Let's get into a couple rapid fire questions before we wrap up here. Ben, I'm gonna start off with the classic question that I asked which has now been changed because the original question was, what will happen first Ethereum at 5k or Bitcoin at 100k and that's when Bitcoin was hovering around 50 and Ethereum was hovering just under two so they almost had those, you know, 100% growth to achieve those goals. Bitcoin is still around 55k 60k as we speak, and Ethereum is you know, already at four so it's almost a shoo in barring any crazy setbacks for aetherium however, start with Bitcoin. Will Bitcoin hit 100k in 2021,

Benjamin Arama:

I'm going to give you just a warning before that I'm a terrible trader, so don't follow my advices. Now, if I had to place a bet, yeah, I'd say that's possible.Yes. I'd say yes.

Matt Zahab:

That is Rapid Fire question Numero Uno. Number two, which isn't so much rapid fire, but I'm curious about the crypto scene in Paris. Are there any crazy meetups? Are there any huge organizations maybe something that everyone follows like PSG, Paris Saint Germain or something of the like that that could incorporate crypto and help really skyrocket that mass adoption or anything like that within the city.

Benjamin Arama:

So in the past year, it's been kind of hard because of the pandemic. We had a lot of events that has been canceled. But yeah, the crypto scene is growing. We have quite a few evidence we have Paris blockchain week, that supposed to happen every year. We have ETHCC, which is the biggest French Eth meetup. There is big discord that is DeFi France that is everything about DeFi where you'll be able to find all the big French companies that work within in crypto or DeFi like task swap and you'll find people from ledger too. So yeah, there is a there is a kind of a community that is growing, but France isn't the biggest crypto place in the world. Let's be honest. And yeah, there are other places in the world but yeah, it's growing. It's still growing nice.

Matt Zahab:

And tell me who runs the ledger Twitter account? Whoever he or she is definitely deserves a raise. They have been absolutely tearing it up. The memes are on point. All the time. You have the Dogecoin meme, the Elon musk memes, you name it. It's all there. Who is that?

Benjamin Arama:

So her name is Sam and she's the community manager. And yeah, she's in charge. I'll pass the message to her. But yeah, there is a whole marketing team that is great, that is really really working hard on giving a new image of of the company. Changing kind of the way people see ledger. We have a history of being a security company and we are still in our DNA, a security company but we want to evolve and they are working really hard in order to make people understand what's the importance of ownership of financial freedom of what true crypto is what the true decentralized crypto is. And they make it, they try to make it not too seriously because money is serious. But if you're too serious, then people are going to be bored by you. So yeah, I think they do a great work in order to explain and make crypto a little bit less boring that what finance is.

Matt Zahab:

Love that. Ben really appreciate your time. This has been an absolute treat and first Parisian on the show love to see that. Tell me where can our guests find you on social and where can they find ledger on socials.

Benjamin Arama:

So you can find ledger on Twitter on Instagram On Facebook. I'm pretty sure we are going to work also on tik tok. And you can find me on I'm ledger live pm on Reddit. You can also find us on Reddit to the subreddit for ledger is ledger wallet. I think if I remember well, and for myself, you can find me on Twitter. I'm not very, very open. I mean, I don't talk a lot on Twitter that you can find me at Ben underscore arama. So ben underscore Arama. And yeah, that's and yeah, so Twitter and Reddit.

Matt Zahab:

Ben, thank you so much for jumping on. Had a blast learned a lot. Leger, one of the creme de la creme companies in the crypto space. You guys have done such incredible work and we all love you for that, folks is the crypto news podcast. We hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. If you did, it would mean the world if you could give us a subscribe and listen to a couple more. We're releasing episodes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays all in the morning. We drop at around two to 3am EST or EDT and it is live for our friends on the other side of the world on that same day and once we wake up in the morning, it is ready to go as well. It's a cryptonews podcast. You can find us on Spotify, Apple and all of the podcast players. Ben, thanks again. Our team thank you so much Justace our amazing soun guy, you're the man. Everyone o the team who helped set up thi episode and all other couldn' do without you guys. Love yo guys. Ben. Thanks again fo coming on, folks. Hope yo enjoyed listening

Benjamin Arama:

Thanks for having me.

Matt Zahab:

Thanks for coming on. It was a treat and folks have a great day and we will keep in touch all the best