The technology that is out to disrupt Wall Street has been overhyped

Nightclub clubbing dance concertShutterstockAre we too early to the party?

Don’t believe everything you hear about the benefits of blockchain technology.

That’s the message from Bob Garrison, the chief information officer at Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC).

The blockchain, a kind of distributed ledger,
promises to improve security, lower costs and increase the speed of transaction settlement. You can read a fuller explanation here.

Wall Street is abuzz with the potential benefits of blockchain adoption.

Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld has said his company needs to be a “rapid applier” of the technology. Autonomous Research has called the technology a “game changer.” Goldman Sachs has said the use of blockchain technology in stock trading could result in $6 billion in industry cost savings globally.

But in a video posted on the DTCC website, Garrison was measured in his enthusiasm for the technology, pointing out that the adoption of blockchain still faces a number of challenges.

Asked if blockchain technology could live up to the hype, he said: “Maybe. That is what we’re going to find out.”

That’s not to say that the blockchain doesn’t have potential. The DTCC has been experimenting and testing the technology, completing a successful test with credit default swaps in April. It is just that the financial services industry is a complex one.

Here’s Garrison (emphasis ours):

I think we’re going to learn a lot over the next few years. One of the things that we have to be concerned about though is how that innovation in distributed ledger technology melds with what we’ve had for the last 40 years, which has

been a very stable, efficient, processing platform for the industry. While its not as optimised as it could be, it runs every day, it’s very efficient. That’s what we need to maintain going forward as we try to build bridges and also leverage the technology that distributed ledger has the potential to bring to the industry.

Most of the people from outside of the industry that are making claims about just how disruptive it can be probably don’t understand the inner workings and challenges the industry faces. From not only the 40 years plus of what we’ve built but also the regulatory environment that we have to operate in to make sure the assets, the clients and the investments are safe and secure and are most importantly processing every day.

This tallies with similar comments from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Basically, the widespread rollout of this kind of technology is years away. Here is Morgan Stanley:

We expect the financial institutions and their customers will adopt blockchain technologies asset class by asset class for validated proof of concepts (POC) efforts over the next 2-5 years in an iterative process that will likely last decades.

In other words, take some of the more outlandish claims about blockchain with a pinch of salt.

You can see a second video from the DTCC on the blockchain here.

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