With Blockchain, It’s Time For Less Talking, More Doing


ATB Financial just completed the sending of a payment from its home base of Canada to a bank in Germany in 20 seconds via blockchain. Admittedly, most consumers, says SAP Senior Principal of Financial Services Kris Hansen, would simply shrug at this accomplishment.

But, he said, they’re missing the point.

The bank first announced the payment last week, an effort completed with the collaboration between ATB Financial, SAP and blockchain fintech company Ripple. SAP lent its HANA Cloud Platform and its Payment Engine application, ultimately resulting in the development of a prototype mobile app to send the payment.

Hansen recently spoke with PYMNTS about what this development means on both the micro and macro level for the financial services world — beyond simply the speed with which the payment was made.

First off, there are implications of a successful, near-instant global payment completed via blockchain for corporate payments, because the transaction completed did not solely involve the movement of money. It included the movement of information, too.

Those people that may be unimpressed with a 20-second transaction aren’t thinking about the “full settlement lifecycle” of the transaction Hansen explained.

“It’s not what you see in the glass, but it’s what’s behind that payment — all of the other activities that were also done in 20 seconds,” he said, “from settlement to reconciliation and the other things that typically take three to seven days.”

Corporations have higher demands than consumers when it comes to payments, including the need for information to be sent along with that payment regarding things like transaction type or data from associated invoices in order for them to complete their own settlement and reconciliation.

In the instance of ATB’s transaction, Hansen said, what it decided would be included with the payment is a list of email addresses to notify the appropriate people when the payment was complete. But the executive said the potential to send information via blockchain, along with actual money, goes much further.

“In traditional payment networks, this would be a challenging thing to do,” he said. “But this is what’s kind of the new world, that the additional information you include about that payment is almost unbounded. You can throw more information in there about the products the payment pertains to, more information on the invoices this is associated with and maybe a link to some information about the transaction. It’s all possible.”

The implications of the successful blockchain-based payment go even further, though, according to Hansen.

For one, it could be a shifting point in the way skeptics view the potential of blockchain.

The morning Hansen spoke with PYMNTS, he said he had a phone discussion with one of these doubters, wondering whether blockchain was unrealistic and simply a technology made for the labs — not real-world applications.

“Blockchain can be something that we look at in a way that’s really not feasible in the near-to-mid term, but there are things we can do with blockchain today — to implement solutions today,” Hansen stated. “It’s quite possible for us to take that technology and look at what we can do and implement that almost immediately.”

He said it’s about taking a closer look and reducing the scale at which the world views the blockchain.

“What happens with blockchain is that a lot of people get overwhelmed by the sort of disruptive element of some of the principles blockchain brings to the table,” he explained. “They really are profound and radical. But it’s important that they don’t get scared off by that.”

In a sense, he said, ATB’s payment turns all of the discussion, theories and potential around blockchain into a reality. And that, Hansen added, is where an even broader implication of the transaction may arise: It signals that the market may be ready to stop simply talking about blockchain and start actually doing.

“I’ve had my share of meetings and diagrams, and now, I want to do some real things in a tangible way,” Hansen stated about the constant chatter surrounding blockchain technology. “Let’s take it out of the blueprints, and let’s actually implement some things right now. Let’s see what happens.”