Bitcoin or not, blockchain is here to stay

Israeli companies on board with cryptocurrency technology that has helped revamp archaic banking systems.

Bitcoin (virtual currency) coins placed on Dollar banknotes (photo credit: REUTERS/ DADO RUVIC)
Bitcoin (virtual currency) coins placed on Dollar banknotes
(photo credit: REUTERS/ DADO RUVIC)
While Bitcoin continues to grab the headlines and ask the difficult question of what might have been for those who decided to pass up the bubble phenomenon that has made many investors millionaires, the real deal is the blockchain technology that governments and institutions are looking to embed into the day to day processes within financial institutions and corporations that will be considered a game changer.
Current systems within the banking industry, in particular, are certainly archaic and in need of a significant revamp. Bitcoin’s success which based on the blockchain technology could not have come at a better time, with an introduction into the corporate world a more than needed upgrade to what has been a slow burn since the global financial crisis.
Sentiment towards cryptocurrencies remains mixed, the biggest US financial institutions showing significant differences of opinion on Bitcoin’s future, while the one commonality is the sentiment towards blockchain and what it has to offer.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer springs to mind as a number of investment banks look to provide a Bitcoin trading platform, but as always there is more than meets the eye as leading global financial institutions not only looking to reap the rewards of cryptocurrency trading but also looking to take a closer look at the behind the scenes support and programming that has created the biggest fad since the era.
Banks are already on the bandwagon with a number of the big cats speaking their mind on the technology that many believe will become an integral part of the financial world tomorrow.
As things stand, we have two camps, those in support of blockchain and those buying into the entire Bitcoin story. The growing number appear to be siding with blockchain evidenced by sentiment towards the future of Bitcoin that continues to be mixed. After all, what goes up must come down and Bitcoin has certainly soared.
So, who’s on the blockchain bandwagon?
Bank CEO’s who have been vocally in favor of blockchain technology with a view to incorporate the technology into the banking systems include UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, with UBS having already entered into a partnership with IBM to use blockchain technology for global trade transactions.
Ermotti has said that he believes that there is a future for blockchain technology and that it will play a big role in changing and reshaping the industry. Other banks that have also joined the partnership include Commerzbank, Bank of Montreal, CaixaBank and Erste Group according to IBM.
More banks recently joined the IBM project named Batavia and blockchain technology. The project is expected to completely transform trade finance, which to this day continues to be largely paper-based, resulting in significant lag times for receipt of goods and payment.
Batavia is not the only project that IBM is involved in as other financial institutions beginning to explore the opportunities that blockchain delivers and then there’s BBVA, who have initiated testing the use of blockchain for the process of FX trade matching. Looking ahead, the days of 100 strong back-office teams to piece together banking transactions may be coming to an end…
Comments from the UBS CEO comes just as the dust settles from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s comments on Bitcoin that had certainly caused a stir, Dimon saying ‘If you’re stupid enough to buy Bitcoin, you’ll pay the price one day,’ the comments coming after having called Bitcoin a fraud last month. While Dimon’s view on Bitcoin is particularly negative, sentiment towards blockchain is an altogether different story, with JPMorgan Chase & Co, has just recently announced a pilot program to explore the use of blockchain for cross-border payments through the delivery of faster and more secure interbank transactions, which could see the end of SWIFT. RBC and ANZ have joined the program and JPMorgan anticipates more to join in the coming months.
It’s not just the financial institutions who are moving into the blockchain world, with central banks also exploring the technology.
News hit the wires at the end of last week as the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission beginning to test the technology and how it can be used to provide greater oversight over the OTC markets. The Central Bank’s Chair, Demetra Kalogirou said that blockchain technology is already being used by investment services companies that carry out OTC transactions.
Startups have also jumped in, looking to remove the paper trail and take advantage of the technology, with EssDocs and Wave of Israel embracing the new world. Wave of Israel and Barclays laid claim to the first blockchain tech trade finance transaction last September.
In an interview to FXEmpire, EssDocs CEO Alex Goulandris’s said: “Blockchain provides a technology for securely sharing data with all permissions parties in a supply chain or port ecosystem simultaneously. This single version of the truth offers the ability to increase efficiency and visibility by replacing paperwork with immutable data.”
There’s a cause for the increased amount of airtime that blockchain tech is receiving when considering the benefits and the increasing number of companies from outside of the finance industry that is also onboard, with the launch of Greeneum by Israel’s SolarCoin team is one of the latest projects. The project is expected to facilitate and track energy trades worldwide, while also using artificial intelligence to validate data and assist in forecasting, with the project anticipated to be completed by the middle of next year.
What was once an unknown quantity will likely to be considered as one of the greatest developments in technology since the creation of the World Wide Web and it looks more than likely to outlive Bitcoin and any of the other cryptocurrencies that are grabbing the headlines today.