2015: The Year of Blockchain in Review
Throughout 2015, established financial institutions invested into the FinTech space and some of the world’s largest banks divulged they were studying the blockchain. Here are some of the headlines and highlights showing the blockchain’s emergence as one of the year’s most important trends.
In March, Goldman Sachs published a report that included Bitcoin and the blockchain as technology trends that could shape the future global finance and payments landscape. According to Managing Director Heath Terry, “We’re first pitch, first inning in terms of seeing how companies are going to use the technology.” Terry also said that blockchain technology would likely change asset ownership.
Also in March, blockchain startups Safello and Atlas Card were selected for a Barclay’s accelerator program. In early April, UBS revealed it would research blockchain technologies in its London FinTech accelerator, Level39.
On May 7, the Isle of Man announced a government-run blockchain initiative to create a register of the island’s cryptocurrency companies. This made the Isle of Man the first government to use the blockchain for data storage.
“It just demonstrates our bona fides,” Brian Donegan, an Isle of Man representative who helped present the idea before the Department of Economic Development, said of the blockchain pilot. “But it also signals that we have a balance between the importance of regulation and being open for business.”
On September 1, the UK government wrote in a blog post that it had been analyzing blockchain technology to improve record keeping. It also became public in September that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had explored an in-house cryptocurrency.
In early September, blockchain startup Chain raised $30 million in venture funding from Capital One, Visa, telecom conglomerate Orange SA and others. On September 17, Bank of America’s 2014 patent application was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), seeking to patent a payment system using blockchain technology.
Also early in October, BNY Mellon released a report stating that blockchain technology could “transform payments.” In mid-October, RBS announced its plan to unveil a blockchain-oriented proof-of-concept early in 2016.
“Like most people, we’re in the ‘learn and explore’ phase with blockchain,’ John Lyons, head of strategy and commercial services for RBS’s payment business, told Computer Weekly.
In late October, the Australian Securities Exchange reportedly considered replacing CHESS clearing and settlement system with blockchain technology. Nasdaq unveiled blockchain-based platform for share transfers and sales on its market. In the same month, Visa and DocuSign debuted a proof-of-concept for car leasing.
“This particular proof of concept is just one of the several projects our two organizations are collaborating on,” said DocuSign in a blog post.
On November 5, The Financial Times reported the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, made statements at a New York conference that the blockchain is an “unbelievable technology” and urged the audience to imagine “how incredibly convenient it will be to actually generate trust and identify players and whatever pseudo they decide to use.”
On November 9, the US Justice Department (DoJ) held the Blockchain Summit in San Francisco with the goal of learning from the private sector about cybercrime and emerging technologies.
On November 12, Visa Europe announced its proof-of-concept for a remittance service based on the blockchain. In mid-November, Financial News reported that the London Stock Exchange, LCH, Clearnet, Societe Generale, CME Group, UBS and Euroclear were holding discussions and had appointed a steering committee to explore blockchain possibilities.
Throughout 2015, the role of private blockchains (permissioned blockchains developed and maintained by a corporation) developed by financial institutions, and how they could interact with public blockchains, gave technologists and bankers much to discuss and debate.