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Community

Big Banks Flirt with Blockchain

Revain | 06.12| 112

By Elise Leise

If you’ve followed the blockchain saga this far, you probably know that any time it starts to seep into the mainstream all we hear about is disruption. Now, you might expect that narrative from people working in the blockchain trenches — the developers, engineers, and founders who are stirring up a decentralised maelstrom. But much of the disruption “hype” is coming from established figures in statements such as the following, from International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde:

“… Distributed ledger technology, whether you call it crypto assets, currencies or whatever — and it’s far from the Bitcoins we used to talk about a year ago — is clearly shaking the system.”

It doesn’t take the head of the IMF to figure that one out, c’mon. Blockchain is literally designed to eliminate central authorities and middlemen. That’s why senior banking officials initially reacted with denial, anger, and dismissal. As JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon claimed back in 2017, blockchain is “a fraud,” and any employee trading Bitcoin deserved to be fired for being downright “stupid.”

If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ‘Em

Yet once the concept of blockchain matured past its rebellious years of black market trading and sketchy money laundering schemes, these very same banking officials subjected it to further examination. This is what they realised:

Blockchain technologies can reduce banking infrastructure costs by $15 to 20 billion USD per year by 2022. What’s more, it instantly pinpoints malicious tampering with data, reduces the extreme outlay (in excess of $377 million USD annually!) currently spent on Know Your Customer (KYC) and customer due diligence (CDD) requests, and provides zero-downtime service to customers who now expect nothing less.

The Current State of the Bank-Sanctioned Blockchain

In Asia, Mitsubishi UFJ (Japan’s largest bank) is planning to issue their own cryptocurrency before the year is out; The Shenzhen Fintech Research Institute, set up by the People’s Bank of China, is seeking blockchain development engineers, architects, and technical experts. Hell, you’ve even got 14 Thai banks collaborating to launch letters of guarantee (LGs) on the blockchain.

Spin the globe and shift to Europe, and you find the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (IATBA), a “first-of-a-kind blockchain association” which aims to bring together some major banks and is officially set to gain legal authorisation in the first quarter of 2019. From Barclays and BBVA to Deutsche Boerse and Swift, this means that more than 100 cross-industry organisations are now aboard the blockchain train. In fact, according to an exclusive Reuters report, some of those same financiers are said to be raising around $50 million USD to launch an entity called Finality that will use blockchain to expedite digital cash transactions.

In the Middle East, Ripple is making serious waves. More than 50 financial institutions have admitted that they’re interested in Ripple’s xRapid and XRP technologies to handle their international remittance services — about $73 billion to India alone in 2018 — and even the Financial Services Regulatory Authority at Abu Dhabi Global Market wants in on the action.

Shall we continue? South Africa’s Standard Bank aims to launch a permissioned cloud-based DLT platform for foreign exchange payments and Canada and the Bank of Singapore are launching blockchain transactions, but, for the sake of time (and your sanity), we’ll stop there.

You get the picture. It isn’t 2017 anymore, and big banks aren’t just flirting with blockchain — they’re basically planning out their future house, car, and children with it.

Hold On! Isn’t This Corrupting the Concept?

When global banks, the central pillars of capitalism, start fooling around with an inherently decentralised system, it’s hard to view it as anything other than a ploy to retain power in the midst of a financial revolution. They’re certainly not averse to corrupting pure decentralisation with permissioned blockchains. In fact, they could care less about transparency and equity. What they want is the efficiency and cost savings that blockchain can deliver.

Global Capitalism on the Blockchain

To play devil’s advocate here, why not let the Barclays and BBVAs of the world have their blockchain? It isn’t a bad idea to have some of the brightest minds in finance take a hard look at the “blockchain trilemma” of security, stability, and decentralisation. (Forget potential evil motives!) Blockchain is simply a damn good way to move assets around in an international economy, reduce overhead costs, and comply with stringent government regulations.

That is why almost all big banks are experimenting with blockchain — regardless of the slander they may have heaped upon it in years past. Remember Jamie Dimon and his rapid dismissal of blockchain back in 2017? Ahh, yes: “fraud” and “stupidity.

Ironically yet fittingly, his JP Morgan is perhaps the best example of the change-of-heart taking place in the financial industry. The bank is now pioneering the first use of cryptocurrency by a major U.S. bank with their “JPM” stablecoin and, according to CNBC:

“[They are] preparing for a future in which parts of the essential underpinning of global capitalism, from cross-border payments to corporate debt issuance, move to the blockchain.”

Flirting? Nope, that’s amore. Elope and get engaged already, JP.

For those of you interested in carrying on your own crypto tryst, you can head over to the Revain review page to evaluate the world’s best cryptocards. Do you like to carefully weigh security, anonymity, and the quality of customer service? Good news: reviewers on our platform rate each factor individually, meaning that it’s easy for you to evaluate cards based on what’s important to you. We’ll also make sure you know how much you need to open your card, what you’ll be paying monthly, and if there are any nasty ATM or overseas fees in your future.

Otherwise, if you’re interested in wedding invites, the future of big banks and crypto, or simply want to be the first to know when the blockchain trilemma gets solved, bookmark our Medium blog (yes, this one!), and keep coming back for more.

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Big Banks Flirt with Blockchain was originally published in Revain on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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