Digital Asset Holdings, the blockchain startup helmed by former JP Morgan luminary Blythe Masters, has raised more than $50 million in a funding round joined by some of the biggest names in financial services, including Citi, Deutsche Börse and Santander InnoVentures. One of the investors, the ASX, has also handed Digital Asset a contract to design a post-trade settlement system using distributed ledger technology.
The round was joined by 13 firms from all corners of the financial services ecosystem, including ABN Amro, BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Chase and PNC Financial Services Group; exchange operator fund CME Ventures; tech firms Accenture and Broadridge; and Icap and the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.
Says Masters: "Our strategic investors have come together from across the financial services industry to help drive global adoption of transformative solutions which enhance the vital services that they provide."
Launched last year, Digital Asset says that it has a "mission" to improve efficiency, security, compliance and settlement speed in the FS industry while reducing costs through the implementation of distributed ledger technology.
The firm has been making waves in the blockchain space, acquiring Hyperledger, Bits of Proof and Blockstack.io, as it bids to build out its portfolio, while hiring a number of high profile people from the banking world. Last week it revealed plans to set up a London office.
One of its first major challenges will be helping Australian exchange operator ASX design a new post-trade system that could provide clearing and settlement for the cash equities market. The partners will work on a system that could replace the current Chess clearing system before a financial decision in 2017.
Elmer Funke Kupper, ASX CEO, says: "There has been very little innovation in the post-trade services that operate around the world for the better part of 20 years. Rather than replace Chess with a new version that is based on the same legacy processes that operate in the market today, we should aim to re-engineer and simplify those processes to deliver significant benefits to the users of the market.
"The initial phase of work is designed to bring the benefits to life and to test if Distributed Ledger Technology can work at the scale of the Australian equity market. By building a solution alongside the existing CHESS system, all stakeholders can participate fully in the innovation process and have confidence in the clearing and settlement processes that underpin one of the top 10 equity markets in the world."
Despite rumblings at the end of last year that Masters was struggling to put together funding, the company has raised considerably more than the $35 million it was understood to be seeking. Representatives from BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bourse, JP Morgan and the DTCC will join an expanded nine member board.
Sanoke Viswanathan, chief administrative officer, JP Morgan’s corporate and investment bank, and new Digital Asset board member, says: "Distributed Ledger Technology has the potential to transform the way our industry does business, and we believe Digital Asset has the right talent and technology to make it a reality."