Citi backs foreign exchange blockchain startup Cobalt DL

LONDON — Citi has made an undisclosed investment in Cobalt DL, a London startup aiming to use the technology behind bitcoin to simplify foreign exchange trading.

Cobalt DL, founded by two veteran bankers, aims to apply distributed ledger technology, also known as blockchain, to the foreign exchange trading market. Currently, when banks trade currencies with each other there are multiple different records of the transaction held by the buyer, seller, broker, clearer, and other third parties, all of which have to be reconciled. This slows the process down and adds to costs.

The company aims to create a single, shared view of each transaction by using blockchain technology, which uses complex cryptography to allow people to safely view and edit shared ledgers. The technology was first developed to underpin cryptocurrency bitcoin, doing away with the need for a central bank.

James Bindler, Global Head of G10 FX at Citi, says in an emailed statement: “We have been impressed with the way Cobalt DL is redesigning the post-trade FX infrastructure with its practical implementation of distributed ledger technology.¬†

“The Cobalt DL solution has the potential to significantly improve post-trade services by cutting costs and reducing risk for our industry.”

Cobalt DL is currently in the early stages of testing its network and plans to launch it in 2017. 15 institutions are taking part in the testing, including Citi. Cobalt DL estimates its technology could cut trading costs by up to 80%.

The company was founded last year by a veteran Andy Coyne, a veteran of Citi and Deutsche Bank, and Adrian Patten, a former foreign exchange dealer.

Coyne says in an emailed statement: “We have set out to radically improve the FX post-trade landscape by removing inefficiencies, duplicative legacy infrastructure and processes, as well as reducing significant costs and risks.”

Banks and startups like Cobalt DL are pouring millions of pounds and hundreds of hours into applying blockchain technology to all manner of financial markets in a bid to drive efficiency and cut costs.

Cobalt DL also announced that Charlotte Crosswell, the former CEO of Nasdaq’s derivatives trading market NLX, is becoming a strategic advisor to the company.

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