IBM is continuing its blockchain push

IBM Watson. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

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Tech giant IBM has been working on making itself a global leader in developing blockchain use cases for financial services, and on Wednesday, it announced yet another project.

IBM will develop a blockchain-based supply chain finance solution with Mahindra Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates, according to Bezinga.

The new platform will use a permissioned blockchain and be designed to optimize processes involved in supply chain finance, with particular emphasis on invoice discounting.

Supply chain financing is typically laborious. Many transactions between suppliers, buyers, and any financing parties involve paper invoices that have to be mailed and require the manual inputting of documents into each participant’s respective system. This greatly increases processing times and the risk of human error.

Blockchain technology is well placed to help mitigate both issues as it can be used to create a shared, immutable ledger that each participant can update instantly, while also limiting each party’s access to the parts of the contract related to them. This can reduce human error and operating costs, as well as ensure transparency and the protection of sensitive data.

IBM has long been upping its blockchain offerings. It’s been particularly focused on producing real-world applications for the technology — including in the areas of financial services and trade finance. IBM has made open-source contributions to the Hyperledger Fabric, and in April, it made blockchain services available to its IBM Bluemix cloud users so they could build and test blockchain-based solutions.

We think it likely that its real-world approach will give IBM an edge over groups or consortiums working on blockchain technology. In addition, its structure is less fractious, which may make it easier for the firm to specialize and focus on particular use cases.

Blockchain technology, which is best known for powering Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is gaining steam among finance firms because of its potential to streamline processes and increase efficiency. The technology could cut costs by up to $20 billion annually by 2022, according to Santander.

That’s because blockchain, which operates as a distributed ledger, has the ability to allow multiple parties to transfer and store sensitive information in a space that’s secure, permanent, anonymous, and easily accessible. That could simplify paper-heavy, expensive, or logistically complicated financial systems, like remittances and cross-border transfer, shareholder management and ownership exchange, and securities trading, to name a few. And outside of finance, governments and the music industry are investigating the technology’s potential to simplify record-keeping.

As a result, venture capital firms and financial institutions alike are pouring investment into finding, developing, and testing blockchain use cases. Over 50 major financial institutions are involved with collaborative blockchain startups, have begun researching the technology in-house, or have helped fund startups with products rooted in blockchain.

Jaime Toplin, research associate for BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on blockchain technology that explains how blockchain works, why it has the potential to provide a watershed moment for the financial industry, and the different ways it could be put into practice in the coming years.

Blockchain Report CoverBII

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Spending on capital markets applications of blockchain is expected to grow at a 52% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2019, according to Aite Group, to reach $400 million that year.
  • Banks and major financial institutions are working both collaboratively and independently to develop blockchain tech. Over 50 major financial institutions are involved with collaborative blockchain startups, like R3 CEV or Chain. And many are investing in the technology on their own as well.
  • Putting blockchain to use for real-world transactions is likely not that far off. If working groups’ tests are successful, firms could be using it to transact real value as early as the end of this year and we could see widespread industry application within the next few years.

In full, the report:

  • Examines the funding increases that are pouring into blockchain
  • Assesses why blockchain is becoming so popular and what factors are driving up increased research and development
  • Explains in full how blockchain technology work and what assets make it valuable and vulnerable
  • Identifies pain points in the financial industry and profiles how various firms are using blockchain to solve them
  • Demonstrates the challenges to mainstream adoption and their potential solutions

To get your copy of this invaluable guide, choose one of these options:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT

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