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Bank of Canada says DLT not ready for interbank payment system

25 May 2017  |  15954 views  |  1 toronto

Following a year-long experiment, the Bank of Canada says that distributed ledger technology is not ready to act as the backbone of a wholesale interbank payment system.

Last summer, the central bank revealed it is working with the country's biggest banks, Payments Canada and the R3 consortium on a DLT experiment called Jasper that uses a digital fiat currency dubbed Cad-Coin.

Now, in an article for the Globe and Mail, Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor at the Bank of Canada, and Gerry Gaetz, president of Payments Canada write: "Could DLT underpin an entire wholesale payment system? The answer is maybe one day, but there remain many hurdles to overcome."

These hurdles include the need for privacy and scalability, which mean that "the bottom line is that a stand-alone DLT wholesale system is unlikely to match the efficiency and net benefits of a centralized system. In fact, at its heart, there exists a fundamental inconsistency or tension between a centralized wholesale interbank payment system, as we have now, and the decentralization inherent in DLT.

"At the end of the day, interbank systems must be safe, secure, efficient and resilient, and they must meet all international standards. DLT-based platforms are just not there yet."

Despite the conclusions, Wilkins and Gaetz insist that the Jasper experiment has offered valuable insight into both DLT and the value of public-private sector collaboration, adding: "Our present view is that the biggest net benefits, if any, would likely lie in the interaction of a DLT-based wholesale payments system with broader financial market infrastructure."

In the short term, though, the Canadian financial industry will be sticking to its current payments modernisation roadmap - including the adoption of the ISO20022 message standard and a new core clearing and settlement system - without distributed ledgers.

The bank has also posted a more detailed paper on the project, which you can read here:

» Download the document now 177.8 kb (Chrome HTML Document)

Comments: (1)

Enrico Camerinelli
Enrico Camerinelli - Aite Group - Boston 26 May, 2017, 13:15

This article does not add anything new to the behavior banks are adopting in analyzing DLT solutions. Banking consortia like R3 and Swift have made clear their concerns about the readiness of blockchain-based applications to serve the needs of interbank transactions.

I very much welcome the attention dedicated to analyzing the shortcomings of the technology and look forward to deeper analysis and involvement of all parties in the value chain, corporations included.


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