40 top banks have trialled trading fixed income products over 5 separate blockchains — cryptographically secure networks inspired by the technology underpinning digital currency bitcoin.
R3, the industry-wide body trying to bring blockchain technology to finance, announced on Thursday that its members had experimented with issuing, trading, and redeeming short-term commercial paper — a sort of IOU issued by companies to secure financing — across 5 different blockchains.
The blockchains were built by Chain, Eris Industries, Ethereum, IBM and Intel.
R3 says the conditions across the 5 blockchains were identical so that those trialing the technology could evaluate which was best for them. The experiment follows mock trading between 11 banks on a single blockchain in January.
In the release announcing the fixed income experiment, R3 says: “The trial marked an unprecedented scale of institutional collaboration between the financial and technology communities exploring how distributed ledgers can be applied to global financial markets.”
David Rutter, CEO of R3, says in an email announcing the project:
This development further supports R3’s belief that close collaboration among global financial institutions and technology providers will create significant momentum behind the adoption of distributed ledger solutions across the industry.
These technologies represent a new frontier of innovation and will dramatically improve the way the financial services industry operates, in much the same way as the advent of electronic trading decades ago delivered huge advancements in efficiency, transparency, scalability and security.
Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technology, was developed as part of cryptocurrency bitcoin as a way for it to circumvent central banks.
The technology uses complex cryptography and the wisdom of the “crowd” to verify transactions, rather than a traditional middleman. Records are shared across multiple servers and must be checked against each other, rather than a central ledger.
It essentially allows cash transactions on the web — rather than telling your bank to put money in your friends bank account, you just deal directly with your friend.
Ironically, while bitcoin was developed by anarcho-libertarian developers who wanted to circumvent traditional finance, big investment banks are now going crazy for the technology.
Just like people, banks still have to go through “trusted middlemen” when dealing with each other. Settlement and clearing houses make sure everyone gets paid the right amount and no one is screwed over.
But blockchain’s technology and its inbuilt security and trust checks mean they can cut out this process and deal directly. This, in turn, cuts down costs. Santander estimated last year that the technology could save banks as much as $20 billion.
R3 is leading the way in encouraging adoption of the technology across the financial services industry, with a particular focus on banks.
Launched last year by David Rutter, the former CEO of ICAP Electronic Broking and a 32-year veteran of Wall Street, R3 has signed up 42 of the world’s leading banks to collaborate on blockchain experiments. Members include Barclays, Santander, Bank of America, Citi, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC.
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