Culture and Talent
People you should know: The blockchain whizzes in banking
- Blockchain technology can allow for faster, cheaper and more secure transactions, applications that could change banking.
- Although the technology is still maturing, bankers are exploring how it can transform back office processes, payments and securities trading.
Much has been said blockchain's ability to transform finance -- particularly its potential to allow for faster, cheaper and more secure transactions. The ability for participants to transact without the need for an intermediary offers many efficiencies for financial services companies, with applications in payments, securities trading and insurance. The technology is still maturing, and banks are treading carefully. A recent survey from Accenture found that nine in ten bank executives are exploring the use of blockchain, but it also highlights that banks still need to build the infrastructure -- and to make it work collaboration is important: "We all need to agree what a transaction should look like for the plumbing to do its job efficiently," said one executive quoted in the study. Still, bankers are are actively working on blockchain solutions, particularly in back-office areas. Here's who you need to know. Amber Baldet heads up JPMorgan's Blockchain Center of Excellence, which works with different business lines to create solutions that use distributed ledger technology. The team is working to "both drive down costs and create next-generation marketplaces for digital assets," said Baldet. She helped set up the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), a consortium of tech and financial services companies working on blockchain, and is leading the development of Quorum, the bank's smart contract platform. Lior Glass is a principal blockchain business expert at BNY Mellon’s Emerging Business & Technology Group. He works on predicting and managing the impact of blockchain technologies on BNY Mellon businesses as a result of the change in how custody is defined and executed in the age of distributed ledger technology. Hadley Stern is responsible for running Fidelity’s Bitcoin, Blockchain and Digital Currency Incubator, with a focus on creating new disruptive products and services. Fidelity has built proofs of concept for bitcoin micro transactions, set up a small bitcoin and ethereum mining operation in the spirit of learning. It's partnered with bitcoin wallet Coinbase to allow clients to contribute bitcoin to there donor advised funds accounts. Peter Stephens is head of blockchain and UK Innovation at UBS. "This appointment will ensure consistency of our blockchain strategy and a smooth transition in the approach of the next phase of our blockchain based business development activity," the bank said in a statement following his appointment last November. Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer at U.S. Bank, is looking at future solutions enabled by blockchain. One banking area he sees could be he sees as a good fit for blockchain is syndicated loans, due to the volume of data, contract and approvals that haven't been have not been automated, he told Banking Exchange last year. Though encouraged by blockchain's possibilities, he suggested in the same interview that it probably won't solve all of bankers' pain points. “It’s difficult to see how a technology, by itself, replaces all of the functions provided by banks." Julio Faura is head of research and development at Santander's innovation division. He leads Santander's activities around crypto-currencies, blockchain and distributed ledgers. He implements blockchain platforms for real time-international payments, capital markets, digital identity, and others. "In banks, it's very difficult to innovate," he told an audience at MIT Sloan School of Management. "Now we have a way to represent money on a distributed ledger. It’s like a natural extension of the core banking system but suddenly very cheap. Also it’s safe because of cryptography. It’s a big thing.” Bruno d'Illiers is COO of BNP Paribas North America. He oversees the company's innovation lab in New York, a 5,000-square-foot facility that includes blockchain technology as one of its focus areas. He told American Banker last year that he believes distributed ledgers will "shape the future of the banking industry. BNP Paribas has been active in testing the technology's application to banking, including blockchain-powered securities platform and payment processing systems.