Financial services panelists at London Blockchain Week anticipate that the deployment of distributed ledgers in trading markets will follow a similar cautious path to that of cloud computing, as big banks tread carefully around the regulatory and policy implications of the technology.
Anthony Woolley, head of innovation, UK at Société Générale, highlighted that while his team had been aware of blockchain from an intellectual point of view, in 2015 the bank decided to leverage increased “interest in smart contracts, crypto assets, securities and derivatives.”
However, as Woolley explained, the problem with emerging technology is that “everyone projects forward really fast,” but this is where the bank started their blockchain journey, joined the R3 consortium and began to adapt the technology to work in financial services.
Kuhan Tharmananthar, senior venture architect at Consensys, on the other hand, stated that blockchain had not made a significant impact in this area. “The impact is minimal to date in the OTC fixed income derivatives market, but it will come eventually. In electronic markets, we will start seeing conflation between execution and settlement and it could change bank infrastructure because of the multi-consortia working together, if it is ensured that they are not exposing themselves to credit risk. This is where blockchain can play a real part.”
He went on to say that technology is still evolving, and this is part of the problem. “Four years ago, banks were still talking about cloud computing, but this is because big investment banks take their data seriously and cloud was something that they were still evolving towards.”
Founder and CEO of Applied Blockchain, Adi Ben-Ari, added that it is the bank's multinational customers that are taking an interest in blockchain, so it is not the technology itself that is hindering innovation and evolution of infrastructure.
All three panelists concluded that for blockchain to work in financial services, strong use cases and business cases need to be established, with Woolley drawing attention to the fact that blockchain can transform the entire supply chain, not just the trade finance space.