03.29.2016
By Rob Daly

Wall Street Wrestles with Blockchain Use Case

The financial-services industry may want blockchain, but it still has not figured out what to do with the Bitcoin-enabling technology, according attendees of the Blockchain Symposium hosted by the the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. in midtown Manhattan.

When DTCC CEO emeritus Donald Donahue, now president and CEO of Miranda Partners, polled the approximate 450 attendees, 32% of the respondents cited business case and integration costs as the largest show stopper in terms of blockchain adoption. Legal and regulatory issues concerns was the next most important issue, followed by blockchain’s scalability (21%) and data privacy (12%).

Several panelist repeated the observation that blockchain’s greatest benefit for the industry is to reduce ‘friction’ in clearing and settlement processes.

Patrick Byrne, CEO of blockchain vendor T0cas well as CEO of online retailer Overstock.com estimated that the technology could reduce settlement friction as much as 80%.

However, that savings truly depends on the instrument in question, added Robert Palatnick, managing director, chief technology architect at the DTCC.

“The financial industry is not unique in creating a lot of different steps in a process and then connecting that process to multiple siloed technologies,” he said. “If you look at something like equity trade-settlement and clearing, it’s already pretty well-wired. I don’t think that there would be that much savings.”

There are other asset classes that have not migrated to electronic record keeping, which might benefit the most from blockchain’s friction-reduction capabilities, Palatnick added. “Some of them can takes weeks, if not months, to settle.”

In a separate audience poll, the largest plurality (38%) predicted that it would be three to four years before they expected to see a blockchain-based industry solution used by a de minimis amount of participants. A more pessimistic 14% answered that it would take more than six years while only 7% estimated it would take between six months and a year to have a platform up and running in the industry.

Featured image via Natalia Merzlyakova/Dollar Photo Club

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