Blockchain technology will fundamentally alter the way financial institutions do business, according to a report from the World Economic Forum.
However, the effects will be hidden, coming from new processes and architecture based on blockchain that simplify back-end processes, making them cheaper, more secure and more accessible, rather than radical fintech innovation or new currencies such as bitcoin, says the WEF.
Based on 12 months of research and interviews with more than 200 industry players, the 130 page report explores how distributed ledger technology will affect insurance, payments, market provisioning, investment management, capital raising, and depositing and lending.
Among the main areas ready for disruption are international payments and wire transfers, rehypothecation, or the repackaging of mortgages, and compliance reporting of banks to regulators.
The report also highlights the potential for an inter-bank, blockchain-based fiat currency to streamline the arduous process for transferring money, an innovation which would "cause blockchain technology to enter the finance bloodstream".
"Rather than stay at the margins of the finance industry, blockchain will become the beating heart of it," says Giancarlo Bruno, head, financial services industries, World Economic Forum. "It will help build innovative solutions across the industry, becoming ever more integrated into the structure of financial services, as mainframes, messaging services and electronic trading did before it."
The report notes that there are risks, including design errors, malicious behaviour and security gaps. In addition, FS firms will have to cooperate while a clear regulatory and legal environment is also needed.
Rob Galaski, partner, Deloitte, says: "While there is no doubting the transformative potential of blockchain technology, it is not a blanket cure for inefficiency in financial services.
"At this stage of evolution, the critical task is knowing where to focus your efforts. Blockchain will have the greatest impact when applied to business problems involving a shared repository of information, multiple writers, minimal trust, the presence of intermediaries and interdependencies between transactions. Without these conditions, blockchain may not be the answer."
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