A Barclays executive who helped lead the bank’s efforts on blockchain, the hot tech behind bitcoin, is leaving the bank to join startup fintech consultancy 11:FS.
Simon Taylor leaves the bank on June 24 and will become a cofounder of 11:FS, taking a stake in the new venture.
He joins David M. Brear, Gartner’s former head of global digital banking, Jason Bates, a cofounder of app-only banking startup Mondo, and Chris Skinner, the chair of the Financial Services Club networking forum across Europe and author of The Digital Bank.
Taylor likened the group to the “fintech avengers” and, mixing his superhero metaphors, told BI: “When the bat signal went up, I was like, guys, I want to be a part of this.”
Barclays declined to comment but confirmed to Business Insider that Taylor is leaving.
Taylor has been at Barclays for 3 years, most recently serving as Vice President for Entrepreneurial Partnerships. He helped set up Barclays’ Techstars Accelerator, which been rebranded Rise, and more recently spearheaded the bank’s research and development around blockchain, the new database protocol underpinning bitcoin.
Blockchain could potentially cut huge amounts of cost out of things like international payments and commodities trading, speeding things up in the process.
Barclays is a member of industry-wide blockchain consortium R3 and last year partnered with Swedish startup Safello to experiment with blockchain internally. The bank also has two blockchain “labs” in London and is looking at 45 potential use cases for the technology according to former chief design officer Derek White. It has also partnered with blockchain payments app Circle.
Taylor says: “We were able to quietly work on a lot of exciting things, especially internally where some people are cynical that there’s a silver bullet coming down the line.”
He points to one proof of concept experiment carried out with R3, which cut the settlement time on securities contracts from 90 hours to 3 minutes.
Taylor says: “I would have execs regularly say you have the best job in the company and I’d think ‘I really do.'”
But he adds: “You get to a certain point when you realise that you need a network effect for this stuff.”
Blockchain is based around the idea of lots of identical records shared across a network and updated simultaneously, as opposed to lots of separate databases that each have to be independently updated and then checked against each other to make sure they’re all correct.
In essence, blockchain helps to automate a lot of paperwork that doing things like trading shares currently involves. It has the potential to make markets more efficient and do things cheaper and faster than current systems. But if you’re just noodling around with it internally it’s a bit like having a phone with no one to ring.
11:FS plans will allow Taylor to be the “voice at the middle of it all,” he says. As well as offering fintech consultancy services, the startup is raising a $50 million blockchain fund, with $5 million seed funding firm Singapore venture capital fund Life.SREDA.
Taylor says: “We’ll help guide you because there aren’t a lot of people who have spent time seeing bank execs react to this but also talking to governments, regulators and startups.”
“There’s a lot of ships in the fog. We want to help you separate this stuff, we’re going to be the good shepherds.”
While the original blockchain underpins bitcoin, banks are keen to create a similar network that can help it do things that settlement and international payments. Other possible uses include registering ownership of assets and securities on the shared network.
Taylor says you could “securitise oil as it’s travelling around the world so that the barrels know who owns it and how much it’s worth.” He also points to trade finance, transferring mortgages and pensions, and the gold market — all as examples of markets that could benefit from blockchain technology.